From Mav: Well, it’s been a week. If you’re in America (or probably if you’ve simply bothered to watch the news at all anywhere else in the world), you know that in addition to the now standard “we shut down the world for a global pandemic,” we’ve also been dealing with “and then we went to war over systemic racism.” And as you can imagine … as I’m sure many of you have been noticing. It’s a lot. It’s really … a LOT! And honestly, I like to imagine that listeners of our show don’t really need us to explain that racism still exists… and certainly don’t need us to explain that it is bad. We don’t need to do a show on that. If you’ve listened to like two minutes of the show ever, then you can pretty much guess where all of the hosts are going to fall on that issue. So it probably wouldn’t surprise you that all of us, to some extent or another, have been spending the last week arguing with people that indeed #BlackLivesMatter. I imagine a lot of you have been doing the same. I’m tired. I imagine a lot of you are too.
If you follow my blog (which you should, since I plug it every week on the show), you may have seen me post an article I wrote last week about the effectiveness of riots and the misunderstandings of Martin Luther King’s historic place in the civil rights movement. I talk a great deal about MLK’s feelings on violence and quote his famous “Other America” speech and break it down. I was quite happy to get a lot of positive feedback. But of course, as you might expect, I also got a significant amount of negative feedback. Most of this comes from MAGA Trump supporter types, but quite a bit of it comes from more liberal folks too. People who refuse to believe me when I talk to the historic and cultural significance of violence because “violence is always bad and riots never accomplished anything.” You know, as though I made the whole thing up and hadn’t been studying it for literal decades. Most of this is because people confuse their own personal ideology and morality with fact. They don’t like violence, so it must be bad. They don’t see something, so it must not be there. In this way MAGAheads, neoconservatives, neoliberals, and progressives can all be pretty much the same. It’s not really about political leaning here. It’s about whitewashing of history as we are uncomfortable with facts that make us look bad as humans.
I had a white person pay me a great compliment the other day. They posted something on Facebook to the effect of: “I have been arguing with idiots about racism since yesterday and I’m exhausted. How the hell does Mav do this all the time?” And well, yes. They’re right. It’s exhausting. I’m tired! I mean, do I have to do it? No, not really. But it also kinda sucks to live in a world where people who look like me get systemically killed by the police… or just regularly oppressed in other ways. So I do what I can. I’m smart, I’m educated, I’m a good writer, and I’m blessed with at least something of a following and platform. So yeah, it sucks having to do this all the time… to have the same conversations over and over… but at least this version of sucking helps people. Something about great power and great responsibility. I think I read that somewhere.
Honestly, for me personally , the most annoying part of “being black on the internet” isn’t having to argue… it’s the internet, arguing is it’s main purpose. I mean, sure, I’d rather be arguing about movies, sports, comic books, hot celebrities or… I dunno what’s the best text editor to be used on a VT100 terminal (the answer is emacs and if you disagree, you’re wrong). But this is more important. I get that. No, the most irritating part is having to have the same stupid arguments over and over with people who think that they can show me up with a meme, a questionable stat they yanked from a headline from FoxNews, Breitbart or QanonBobsPatriotBlog without even bothering to read the poorly written article, or a video of nonsense bullshit conspiracy theory, bad science and poor quoting of history from PragerU. I’ve literally had dozens of conversations in the last week with people whose arguments are basically “No Mav, you’re wrong. MLK stood for respecting the law as you can see from this meme I got from the Blue Lives Matter facebook group that has this totally accurate and in no way taken out of context or just blatantly made up quote from him.” And again, this isn’t just MAGA people. Liberals, you’re not off the hook. While I might agree with you more from an ideological point of view, plenty of you (especially white people, you know who you are) have done this same basic thing. Repeatedly… usually in an effort to show that “you are totally not racist, because you know this quote. But MLK wouldn’t do this because….” And honestly, it’s essentially the exact same thing that the MAGA guys are doing. It really is. So, to anyone thinking this… remember… I’ve been doing cultural studies on some level or another since 1992. I’ve been black since 1974. I assure you. I am well acquainted with the writings and thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr. If you’re arguing with me and I am referring to “Other America”, “Letters From the Birmingham Jail” or A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman (never even heard of it, have you?!?!), and you think that you’re going to zing me with a gotcha by pasting meme of the only two lines from “I Have a Dream” that literally everyone knows — and which usually ignores the line in-between them about vicious racists with words of interposition and nullification — just.. seriously… think this through for more than two seconds. I grew up black. I’ve heard it. I’m ready for it.
Why is it always MLK? I posted a silly tweet about it the other day (and yeah, I plug my twitter: @chrismaverick on every show too, so you should be following me there) where I said:
And sure… I was being silly. But I’m also serious. No matter, what your political position, if you are basing your opinion on protests, riots, racism or even simple morality, on nothing more than a nebulous understanding of MLKjr… then READ MORE! He did not fight the entire civil rights movement on his own. He was one man — an important man, sure — but he was still just one guy with one specific outlook who was ultimately only a small piece of the entire civil rights fight. He was not a god. He was not always right. He was not alone. And ultimately his beliefs and methods got him killed. In invoking his name as some sort of mic drop, what you’re ultimately trying to do is silence other opinions by saying “I’ve decided that the God of Blackness agreed with me so you should STFU!” Even if your MLK quote is accurate… that doesn’t change anything because I AM NOT MARTIN LUTHER KING. And I don’t want to be. If you really think that it’s a good idea to ask a black person WWMLKD? Then I think from now on my response is going to be to ask white people WWJFKD? It makes just as much sense.
And there are similar things that come up. People quote stats to me that are misleading at best… as though I somehow got to this point in life … a career in software design… all the academic degrees… without learning how to google stuff. And more importantly… this isn’t just me. This is all of your black friends on the Internet. We’ve been doing this for years… hell, if you take it off the internet, we’ve been doing it for our entire lives! I’m tired… your black friends are tired!
So yes. We don’t really need to do an episode on racism being bad. But I have seen several white people ask in the last couple days “what do I do to really be an ally?” I’ve seen several black people in the last couple days say “and there they go again…” and give the exact same rant I just made about “please… stop trying to use MLK against me.” I’ve watched people unfriend and block each other… sometimes over big things… sometimes over little ones. And I’ve watched a lot of people pretend to be trying to learn but really just trying to silence voices. AND… it turns out that I have this nice handy little platform here. We may not be the biggest show on the internet, but we can do whatever we want. So what we’re going to do is get some outspoken black voices together. And we’re going to talk about what our experience has been like constantly discussing racism online… and then taking that up to the tenth power this last week.
So… as always, I want to know… What do you want to know? What do you want us to talk about? Are you a white person who wants to know how to handle a certain thing? Are you a black person who wants to let people know about one of your pet peeves in discussing race online? Are you some non-black, non-white person who just has all kinds of conflicting thoughts as to where you fit in here? What are the things you hear over and over again? What are the things you are sick of? What are your thoughts in general? Let us know so we can talk about them on the next show.