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Stop Tying the Worth of Marginalized Groups to Their Cultural Contributions

“Don’t watch listen to K-pop and ignore Asian hate crimes” is the wrong message.

4/26/2021 6:05:00 PM

'The world moves fast but real change does not, and the test of how much we truly believe in these movements is in how patient we can be.' More from GetachewSS ⤵️

“Don’t watch listen to K-pop and ignore Asian hate crimes” is the wrong message.

.Haste compromises quality, veracity, and strategy; another posting cycle runs its course; and we find ourselves back at the beginning, facing successive tragedies with little to no change. I’d argue that well-intentioned but thoughtless action is worse than no action at all; it causes disorientation, disorganization, and cheapens the integrity of a movement. It can even undermine its own intentions, and contribute to the dehumanization it attempts to subvert.

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"If you listen to hip hop, you need to be standing up for Black lives." "Don’t watch anime or listen to K-pop and ignore Asian hate crimes." "Black trans women led the fight for queer liberation so we have to fight for them now." Viral posts repeating messages like these are shared without a second thought, often with good intentions, but they fail to acknowledge that the most marginalized among us shouldn't have to earn their right to dignity and protection through their art, their culture, or their activism — they deserve that right merely because they are human.

Social media is consumeristic by nature; the accounts and creators that churn out content the fastest are rewarded with greater visibility and engagement, which is then monetized by social media companies and corporate sponsors. The content that performs the best in the social media arena is concise, simple, easy to understand, ideally catchy, and more often than not it sells a product. headtopics.com

In this arena, identities, community, and humanity must be represented by a product or service in order to justify their worth and provoke empathy and attention. Asian lives must be represented by K-pop, anime, traditional food and clothing to captivate the attention of their would be-advocates; Black lives must be represented by labor, contributions to pop culture, fashion and music to prove their value. In this arena, Black trans women must be evaluated by their service to the greater LGBTQ community, sometimes directly quantified in statistics emblazoned on infographics, in order to prove themselves worth fighting for.

What if Asian culture had little to no impact on American pop culture? What if Black musical artists did not dominate the music industry? What if Black trans women as a demographic had done comparatively very little to advance the rights of the greater LGBTQ community? Would their lives mean any less? Would we be any less obligated to fight for them?

In citing consumption of Asian culture as the reason for outrage at hateful attacks, we are implying that the consumability of culture is the currency of humanity. However well intentioned these posts and cardboard signs may be, they frame justice as something transactional, that is exchanged between marginalized groups like a finite resource and that must be properly budgeted in order to achieve complete liberation. Attempts to humanize become dehumanizing when executed this poorly.

Forcing the emotional energy that people feel against hateful killings and systemic injustice through an inherently consumeristic avenue necessitates the commodification of those issues. This is reflected even in the appearance of social justice infographics, many of which are headtopics.com

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formatted to resemble advertisements for products.We are attempting to speak about concepts that require nuance on platforms and through mediums that strip them of nuance. The very nature of social media is instantaneous and oversimplified; we create depictions of our lives that are inaccurate and embellished, consume narratives that are edited and spliced down to their most bare-bones 15 second summary or 10-slide infographic. In some ways, we are undertaking an endeavor that we were destined to fail.

The world moves fast but real change does not, and the test of how much we truly believe in these movements is in how patient we can be. The greatest luxury is time, and we have to be willing to sacrifice more of it for what we believe in: time to learn, time to think, time to organize, and most importantly, time to be thoughtful and intentional. Sometimes that means posting on social media. But more often than not, it means taking a step back.

Read more: Teen Vogue »

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