What I Learned From Tweeting With A Black Woman’s Avatar For #RaceSwapExp

Two weeks ago, after writer and activist Suey Park sparked a wave of protest and dude-bro angst with her response to the Colbert Report’s racist tweet, I heeded Suey’s call and began to tweet about why Colbert’s work did not qualify as satire, did nothing to improve the lived experiences of people of color and was often racist and transmisogynist. Some of my tweets were included in the first half dozen or so pieces about the trending hashtag and the conversation it ignited. For me, the experience was thought provoking and empowering; it was also rather easy. How? I was tweeting as a white man. Everything I said was accepted, supported, re-tweeted or (at worst) ignored.

That was in stark contrast to the countless rape/death threats leveled at Suey and many other women. Not to mention the myriad bro-pundits—Huffington Post’s Josh Zepps and Slate’s Dave Weigel are obvious examples—desperate to derail and silence Park by calling her opinions “stupid” and using phrases like “weaponized hashtags.” This flurry of dude-bro logic and mansplaining led to something unexpected in my timeline, as many women of color and black women began to switch their avatars to those of white men. The result? A dramatic decrease in the number of trolls and the severity of said trolls. Fed-Up Hipster wrote a great piece about why she’s had a bearded white hipster’s avi since last fall.

Mikki Kendall—who launched #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, among others—inspired other women of color and black women to offer up photographs of themselves for white people who wanted to participate in #RaceSwapExp for the week. Shortly thereafter, I expressed my interest in participating and Feminista Jones was gracious enough to allow me to use a picture of her for the next five days. I’ll admit I was hesitant: How would people respond? Would the content of my tweets change or be received differently? The basic requirement for #RaceSwapExp was that you couldn’t change how or what you tweeted—and you had to obtain permission from the person whose avatar you used. I learned a few lessons about white supremacy and misogyny while tweeting as “Christine” with a picture of Feminista Jones as my avi.

1. My follower count went up by about 65. The vast majority of these were social justice-minded people; many (not all) were women of color. I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m thrilled.

2. My troll count went from a handful per week to many more, overnight. I was blocking/reporting around 15 to 25 of them per day. Many were eggs, some were white liberals, some were right-wingers and others were just dudes of unknown political origin.

3. The level of hateful tweets went from zero to off the charts. With many of these trolls, I would respond once and then block them, or just block them. One such troll, @vincentBrook666, tweeted the following to me in all caps.

(This was a manual RT response to the original tweet, as @vincentBrook666 deleted the original tweet.)

That type of language was fairly typical and nothing like I had ever experienced before. I was simultaneously horrified and not surprised. Though this language makes you feel uncomfortable (as it should), people are spoken to this way on a daily basis.

4. I didn’t change the tone or content of my tweets; however, I did tell at least one troll to jump off a cliff. I called another troll “white boy,” which in hindsight was probably provocative. I was very frustrated. Would I have tweeted that with my regular avatar? I believe so. I’d called out Dave Weigel’s ahistorical and white dude-bro coverage of #CancelColbert—with my regular avi—and he responded by blocking me. Were both of my responses perceived differently with a black woman’s avi? Definitely. Is this perception because of racist assumptions about black women and women of color? Of course.

5. Before switching my avatar, I’d been labeled a white hipster and called a faggot. One troll said that I was only defending women of color because I wanted to sleep with them. Because it’s somehow impossible for a man to just respect the humanity of black women?

6. The mansplaining came from all directions—self-proclaimed liberals, far-right conservatives and libertarians. A gay white journalist who I know in real life explained that I don’t understand satire.

For me, #RaceSwapExp was eye-opening because it allowed me, for one week, to experience a little bit of what black women and women of color deal with 24/7/365 in all online spaces: endless trolling, racist and misogynistic hate, tactics that silence and derail, demeaning assaults on their humanity. Even so, no matter what happened to me, it was just an experiment. I was (and am) privileged—I knew that in a few days I could go back to the safety of my regular avi. For the brilliant women of color that I follow, that’s not an option. If nothing else, this experience has given a new urgency to my personal resolve: I will work to dismantle white supremacy, decenter whiteness and center the voices of black people in my work and my life. TC mark

By  CHRISTOPHER CARBONE for Thought Catalogue

What to Watch: “The Geography of Small Talk”

How you start a conversation with a stranger depends on where you live. We survey the diverse geography of American greetings—from Honolulu to Hays, Kansas, from Anchorage to Appleton, Wisconsin, from New Orleans to New York.
Based on research and writing by Deborah Fallows.

16 Children And Their Bedrooms From Across The World

Some kids grow up in poverty, lacking food and sanitation, while others are born in countries where basic necessities are taken for granted.  Photographer James Mollison came up with the project when he thought about his own childhood bedroom and how it reflected who he was. Where Children Sleep – a collection of stories about children from around the world told through portraits of their bedrooms – stemmed from his ideas.

Alex, 9, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Indira, 7, Kathmandu, Nepal

Anonymous, 9, Ivory Coast

View the entire photo collection here.

What to Watch: Chinese on the Inside

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage.

Documenting the Coughs gave me reason to reflect on my own thoughts concerning cultural identity. Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California, the only Chinese I’d only ever known were first-generation immigrants and their children, like my family. Catie and Kimberly are simultaneously first- and fifth-generation immigrants in their adoptive family.

Barbara and Marilyn were married in Maine last June, shortly after I completed this piece. Their nontraditional household has challenged my understanding of the contemporary Chinese-American family — a reminder that this construct can take many forms.

The population in Maine is more than 95 percent white. There are few cultural resources for Asian-Americans; one notable exception is the nonprofit Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine, which sponsors a Chinese school where the girls take classes.

The couple’s effort to expose their children to Chinese culture is markedly different from that of many Chinese-American families, like my own: For Barbara and Marilyn, their challenge is to pass on a culture that they appreciate, but have not lived firsthand. Meanwhile, their daughters will need to determine how much they want to affiliate with a culture they come from — one that they’ve been taught to appreciate, but to which they have little daily connection.

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Countdown to 2042 with Camille Joseph of Native LA

2042 (MMXLII pronounced MIXLY) is the estimated year where there will be no single ethnic majority in the United States. In this episode of Countdown to 2042, MIXLY sat down with Camille Joseph, co-owner of NATIVE LA accessories and vintage to discuss the challenges young female entrepreneurs face and what the future will be like for  women with different racial backgrounds who own a successful business together.

Check out previous episodes of Countdown to 2042 with Casey Veggies, The Internet and Riff Raff on YouTube

What to Watch: The Tanning of America One Nation Under Hip-Hop [Documentary]

VH1’s The Tanning of America will explore hip-hop’s influence and debuts today.

Over the past 40 years, a cultural shift, marked most recently and vividly by the election ofPresident Obama, has been underway. Hip-hop culture, and its luminaries including Fab 5 Freddy,Dr. Dre, Diddy and Russell Simmons, has been the driving catalyst and laid the foundation for the development of this new generation.

Entrepreneur, advertising and record executive Steve Stoute has had a front-row seat and been an active participant while this transformation has taken place, distinctly conveying those thoughts in his 2011 best-seller The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy.

“Tanning” is not simply the process of hip-hop culture being accepted by mainstream culture. Rather, it’s the creation of an entirely new culture. “It’s an entire new language, [and] an entire new approach that comes from an openness to borrow and learn and share cultural data,” Stoute says. “People are now hopefully willing to visit, accept, deal with and participate in other cultures. You’re seeing a generation that has adopted that to their lifestyle. That’s the reason why I go back to [saying], ‘You can’t just predetermine someone’s cultural values,’ because we are all borrowing from each other’s culture. There’s so much cultural sharing and tanning happening, that you have to be able to really deal with somebody for who they are. You can’t just hedge on anything because of the amount of sharing and the amount of information that’s being transferred.”

Stoute joined forces with VH1 and filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman for a four-part documentary series, The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip-Hop, based on his book. Life+Times caught up with Stoute to discuss his ideas about recent tanning moments, and the documentary, which is set to air on VH1 February 24-27.

Read Life+Time’s interview with Steve Stoute here

What It’s Like Being A Black Student At A Mostly White College

A group of black students at the UCLA School of Law create this video called “33,” a reference to the total number of black students in the school’s 1,100-member student body. The purpose of the video is to “raise awareness of the disturbing emotional toll placed upon students of color” in predominantly white institutions.

Black students make up 3% of the law school student body, as compared to 13% of the nation.

“When you talk about diversity on campus, it turns into a political or ideological debate. You forget who it’s really about, you forget the people, you forget what it’s like on the ground and no one pays attention to the 33.”

 

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FlashbackFriday: A Candid Discussion About Racism on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992

“Brown eyed people are responsible for the fact that you have electricity. Many of the components for generating and transmitting electricity were invented by brown eyed people.

Brown eyed people gave us our alphabet. Brown eyed people gave us our numeration system. Brown eyed people gave us the paper on which we write these anonymous letters to me that tell me that brown eyed people are inferior.

Brown eyed people are the originators, the ones who founded every major religion on Earth. No white people have ever founded a major religion.

Now you need to realize the contributions that have been made to society, to civilization by brown eyed people, by PEOPLE OF COLOR.

I’m talking about people of color here folks. And most of us are not aware of those things because we live in a racist society.

And because we are educated by a racist school system that only teaches us about white contributions.”

– Jane Elliot on the Oprah Winfrey Show panel on racism in 1992.

 

[Final Episode] Pack Your Bags: You’re Going to Shanghai

In this final episode of Pack Your Bags: You’re Going to Shanghai, college students Ryan Bunma and Tarik Ross, Jr. recount their once in a lifetime trip to Shanghai, China. MMXLII also caught up with them four months after their return to the US to see how the Pack Your Bags experience has impacted their lives.

 

 

Watch previous episodes of Pack Your Bags: You’re Going to Shanghai below.

Dove Short Film Embraces ‘Selfies’ to Redefine How We Perceive Beauty

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change”

Dove is debuting at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Monday a short film that explores how social media is shaping the way the we perceive beauty.

The 7-minute short film called Selfie follows a series of teenagers and their mothers who are asked to take self-images that highlight their insecurities about the way they look. In an experiment reminiscent of Dove’s viral “beauty sketches” ad, the participants learn some of their disliked attributes are what others consider to be the most beautiful.

At the backbone of Selfie is research conducted by Dove which revealed 63% of women believe social media is influencing today’s definition of beauty more than print media, film and music. The film, directed by documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese, aims to empower women to redefine the traditional perception of beauty found in glossy magazines and movies.

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change,” Wade said. “Now, we have the ability to photograph the beauty we see in our friends and ourselves. When we share these diverse images on our social networks, we are taking personal ownership and truly redefining beauty.”

Overall, the film encourages women to pick up their mobile devices, capture who they are and influence the conversation around natural beauty. That’s right: Dove wants you to embrace the selfie.