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To Engage or Not Engage: Feminism, Politics and Race on Social Media

To Engage or Not Engage: Feminism, Politics and Race on Social Media

I love social media. Like many people, I use it to keep up with current events and discuss my favorite things with great people all over the world. Occasionally I have some fun slapping down trolls, but for the most part I keep it light. I try to stay away from dipping my nose is juicy threads about things like race, feminism, or politics because it’s really hard to engage in the nuanced discussion that these topics deserve in 280 characters. But sometimes a good ole’ verbal spar about a controversial idea or position shouldn’t be side stepped. Case in point: Black women voters and the special election for the Alabama Senate seat that was held on December 12th.

A little background to the special election. Jeff Sessions, our current Attorney General, vacated the Alabama seat when he became a part of the Trump Administration. Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones faced off to fill the seat on December 12th.  Roy Moore, a former judge and district attorney, had recently been accused of sexual assault and child molestation by at least eight different women. On the other side of the aisle there was Doug Jones- an attorney that worked to prosecute members of the KKK in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls in 1963 and currently no allegations of sexual abuse are being thrown his way.  Hard choice, right?

We all know that coalitions of voters  propel politicians to victory, but targeting of voters and analyzing voter turn out patterns of certain citizens in nothing new in politics. In fact, the ever interesting Trump voter has been media fodder for the better part of two years.  Even as we enter 2018, these voters are still being profiled in several high profile publications.  So why is there such back lash when black women voters are given a shred of attention for a news cycle or two?

A few days after the election, I was minding my own business reading gleefully about the loss of the alleged pervert when I ran across these tweets:

Don’t see why black women are getting so much press. They didn’t do anything except vote.

It took a pedophile to mobilize them.

What do they want? A cookie? Well here you go. Make sure to vote next time too.

Tired of the black girl magic talk. White women also helped win this race- his victims.

I was getting ready for work as I read them, which is one of the worst times to get fired up by incendiary tweets by the way. I was so angry that I could barely get my panty hose on. I had to take a deep breath and decide if it was really worth it to enter the discussion.  I decided that it was- not just to take a swipe some trolls, but to find out if the people writing these tweets really didn’t understand the harm in what they were saying.

By trying to move the conversation away from the importance of black women voters in the special election, they were doing what the “All Lives Matter” proponents have done-erase our value. Everyone should know that all lives matter, just as they should know that all votes are sacred in an election.

The fact that people have to say “Black Lives Matter” or carve out some time to talk specifically about black women voters is the problem. We have to yell really, really loudly to be heard. We have to put black qualifiers in front of things because without them we are invisible. Yet, when we do we are selfish and not giving credit to everyone that deserves it.

Black women yelled especially loudly in the special election- 98% percent of them voted for Democrat Doug Jones, while only 35% of white women did. To point out this data is not to negate what those white women did in the election; it is to draw attention to the inescapable fact that black women overwhelmingly supported the candidate that was not an accused pedophile- not to mention Moore is also someone who has referred to Asian people as yellow and Native Americans as reds but that’s talk for another day. Armed with mere facts, I tried to engage in an intelligent conversation. Seeking some understanding, I fired back with some questions:

Why is it that when black women finally get coverage for their voting power we are excluding what others did to help? Rural and working class white voters have sucked the oxygen out of every media story since 2015. How is pointing out black women’s votes propelled Jones to victory forgetting his victims when they have been the topic of the race incessantly for the past month?

I engaged in a back and forth for some time with one female Twitter user almost ripping my hosiery in the process.  I tried to disengage gracefully by pointing out that I agreed “all” women defeated Roy Moore so why couldn’t we just take with ‘W’ and move on?  That’s when my counterpart decided to go ghost and delete her tweets, but not before sending some bigoted tweets for good measure; I’ve noticed that irrational people often do this when logic and truth become too overwhelming.

This person said some things about black girl magic being bullshit and white women being a bigger percentage of the population so more of them voted for Doug Jones (I actually laughed hysterically at that) and for the final insult, this person said black women should be more gracious and sarcastically thanked me for the black women who “finally got off of their asses to vote”.

At that point, I was still angry, but I was disappointed too.  When #MeToo is flooding every part of our consciousness, feminism couldn’t win the day.  And because one group of women was seemingly getting more attention for their contributions to the senate race than another, some women came apart at the seams.

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For a fleeting moment in the 24 hour news environment, the media paid black women a little attention. How fucking dare they say we were responsible for defeating Roy Moore and back that up with voting data? How dare they profile southern black women to find out why they organized and came out for Doug Jones in numbers reminiscent of a presidential election? How dare anyone care about what moves black women voters at all?

The thoughts and cares of women of color are routinely dismissed but no one really bats an eye because it’s par for the course.  When people talk about feminism, are they really including all women because sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. At times it feels like some women’s voices, needs, contributions, and rights are more important than others. Sometimes it feels like when some women stand up to be counted, people try a little harder to put them back in their place.

This feeling I have haunts me and makes it hard to turn my head when I see its filthy roots spring up on social media.  I want to engage. I want to learn. I want to teach, but sometimes I just want to yell because we are rarely heard when we whisper. If that yelling means saying Black Lives Matter (Too) or having  more news spots profiling the black woman voter then so be it.

And if I feel the need to engage on social media, I will. I will just be sure to do it when I’m putting on socks.

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