San Francisco, California

Confronting yourself

Here’s something distasteful I've noticed over the past few weeks: instead of folks saying “I am learning and growing”—being honest with their mistakes—a large number of people are just shouting constantly into the void of social media hell, desperately trying to prove that they're on the right side of history, that they’re fighting for the cause. From where I’m standing though, some part of it looks like people are trying to make themselves the hero. They’re not really confronting their own behavior.

But I reckon that this is the same for both BLM and the quarantine; ignoring our own mistakes seems like it only makes things worse.

So, I’ll go first: I’ve done and said racist things, I ignored the mask advice at the early stages, I got real mad about folks at the beach (even when the evidence suggests it’s one of the better activities we can do), I didn’t say “black lives matter” soon enough, I’ve not done enough for social justice causes, I didn’t read enough, I’ve not been paying enough attention in general. I didn’t write about it, I didn’t confront myself, and I certainly haven’t donated as much as I ought to.

I need to do oh-so-better in every way imaginable but I guess public apologies are somewhat grandstanding, too. Perhaps as I write this I’m contributing to the social media hell. But at the very least it’s honest and somewhat vulnerable to admit that screenshotting choice quotes is not as important as being critical of my own behavior. My own mistakes.

This is what establishes TikTok in my mind as the most important political platform right now (which is odd given that it’s a state-run social network). That’s because it feels like there’s some actual work being done over there. Folks are talking about their mistakes and talking about the fight for social injustice that feels so damn good—their phones pointing at themselves reflected in the bathroom mirror whilst they rant in a spoken-voice-honest-to-goodness-blogging sort of way. From everything I’ve seen so far in the TikTok community (god that makes me sound old), there’s this vulnerability that just isn’t present on any other platform. And it’s shocking that I’ve learnt more about this movement through TikTok than I have through Twitter or Instagram.

Perhaps this is all just a problem with who I’ve let into my feed though. I sort of bailed from Twitter and Instagram for weeks because of this, because White people specifically were in this battle for attention with each other—not with who can be the kindest or most critical of themselves, or sharing resources about how they’re learning about how best to support BLM. But instead they all want to be the fucking hero. Every White person suddenly acted as if they’d been involved with this fight since the beginning, as if they themselves founded the movement. And I’m sure I made that mistake, too. But now it feels like without recognizing my own mistakes that I’m co-opting a movement briefly for social clout. Or to appease my guilt.

That lack of self awareness is so distasteful to me. But maybe I’m wrong—maybe everything is helping and I’m just being critical when I shouldn’t be. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. But I think that humbling yourself before this thing is vital. I think it gives us the space to do the work; to become better people, to see the broken system we’re a part of and also benefit from, and to finally care for everyone in the ways that we should.