As many of you know, I’ve been a super-fan, promoter and cheerleader for the blogger-turned-author and influencer, Luvvie Ajayi ,aka Awesomely Luvvie, who rose to great fame and popularity doing ROFL recaps of “Scandal.” She built that into a golden platform, nabbed a book deal that shot to a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been picked up by “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes for a TV series.
All through this process, I’ve gleefully shared Luvvie’s posts, witticisms and news of her awesome ascension to the big time. All of which led me to this, a post I really wish I didn’t have to write.
Last night, Luvvie shared a FB post that was not only far less coherent and eloquent than her normal style, but overflowing with passive-aggressive hateration towards quasi-identified but unnamed Black and Mixed-race activists. Here’s her post:
Some of us are fighting for freedom, while others don’t want freedom, because if we have it, then they will no longer have anything to make them the center of attention. Those people are the ones who wear oppression like coats they refuse to take off, and the very act of being marginalized is what defines them. It is what gives them purpose.
There are some digital activists who tend to profit on the pain of Black and brown people, and they use that as a business model. As in, EVERYTHING is a battle, almost strategically. If they aren’t in the middle of “I just got oppressed” chaos, then they aren’t in their element. When everything is a battle, what war are you trying to win? When you sit in a 24-hour cycle of outrage, it’s easy to become the person who cried “INJUSTICE” wolf.
And here’s the thing. We tend to call out white folks who are out of line when it comes to activism and call out culture, but what about our skinfolks who do the most with the least? Folks who are trading on white liberal guilt in the oppression olympics, and surrounding themselves with peanut galleries of people who assign them genius-ship PURELY because they’re loud and Black-identifying. And then they send these people to fight their battles. One of these people even has fake ID numbers for her group, and sends them on eMissions. Or had. She blocked me when I once asked her (on her wall) if she could stop tagging me to every post she writes, since she says she doesn’t like when people force “trauma” down her throat even though everything she wrote was traumatic and she’d tag 50 people to it.
I’m talking about the ones who will literally ask for “reparations” via PayPal when a white person asks them a question (that shit is weird AF). The folks who give ZERO grace to folks who are actually trying to understand this fucked up web of oppression they benefit from (not to be confused with the white folks who just wanna cry whiny tears of victimhood). The ones who are quick to yell “I’ve been harmed” when they publicly harm people they know in REAL LIFE every week (you got my phone number, B. You don’t have to start a hashtag against me). The people who tell allies who actually want to help dismantle the system that they need to shut up PURELY because they’re white and their voices are automatically trashed. And they do shut up, and clam up, and stay home, because they’ve been told that the fight is not theirs.
These fauxtivists are a problem. Cuz what they do is perpetuate the same cycle they say they’re fighting against. And unfortunately, for us to get free, white folks gotta do this work too. OTHERWISE if it was for US to fix by ourselves, we woulda BEEN done it. It’s not about wanting white gaze, or about begging for white friends or wanting white folks to love us. You ain’t gotta love my black ass, but you can’t say you want justice and MY life is in jeopardy every time I walk down the street.
It’s about building bridges that can lead to real progress. What are we fighting for if we want to turn right around and silence folks the way WE’VE been silenced? What is the goal here?
And what’s interesting is, a lot of the most CAPS CAPS CAPSing “activists” out here are of mixed race descent. I just wanna tell them that they can chill. You don’t have to make up for the lack of melanin in your skin by always using your outside voice, even in situations that don’t warrant it. Tuck in your overcompensation. It’s like they’re performing Blackness based on anger, which is insulting.
Can we have this conversation? And how can we build bridges in the call out culture, that teaches with grace but also holds people accountable.
It’s not my normal style to respond to such highly personal snark. But I owe it to all of my social media fam since I’ve been such a consistent booster of Luvvie and her work for many years now. I’ve fused my brand and my credibility to hers. And now that she’s chosen to take another route, it’s time for me to un-fuse. So that you’ll fully understand my change of heart, here’s what I need to share with YOU about her post:
- As a self-described “wacky wordsmith” and “pop culture prima dona,” her strength is cleverly hilarious pop culture writing. To be honest, because I’m a Boomer, I cherry-pick her posts since many are skewed to younger generations. But I maintain a good overview. And while she reportedly has a non-profit project to raise awareness of women fighting HIV/AIDS, she is a hugely successful pop culture influencer, but by no means an in-the-trenches, doin’-it-for-the-people activist in any corner of Black America. She is a digital entertainer. So the fact that she’s passively-aggressively calling various activists out rather than womaning up and contacting them one-on-one to discuss her grievances lets us know immediately that she’s more interested in click-bait haterade than anybody’s progress.
- As y’all know, I’m an old-school Boomer activist, raised up by the Black Panther Party, the movement to end South African apartheid and etc. I was born illegal, integrated a bunch of White schools and have been working for change in both Black and Mixed-race identity spaces for several decades now. First rule of any movement for social change is to know how to prioritize your differences with others working towards the same or compatible goals and how to leave those at the door in the name of unity and solidarity. What Luvvie’s done here is behave like she’s so beside herself at getting a seat in the Big House that her first move is to turn around and burn all bridges to any form of Black person she fears might follow her in to love up on Miz Anne. There is nothing remotely new or unique about this dynamic; she’s not the first and she damn sho won’t be the last. We recognize these movement disrupters for what they are: agent provocateurs. They stir up brief flurries of hype and emotion, but never contribute a single thing to actual change.
- Luvvie is also displaying a dynamic with which many African Americans are familiar: the Diasporic national assuming a stance of both natural and inherent superiority, and a better understanding of our situations than we could possibly possess. In other words, her form of blackness gives her license to shit on ours.
- Y’all are well aware that I am a HUGE friend and colleague of Dr. Stacey Patton, who has devoted her life to making life better for Black children. And there is a section of Luvvie’s rant that is directed at Stacey–in fact, she has seemingly devoted an entire paragraph to Stacey who, like me, has never done anything except support and promote Luvvie’s work to her huge and diverse audience. Like me and the folks I roll with, Stacey is about the work–beyond 24/7–and her record requires no receipts. She is about changing lives for the better, a serious academic; an acclaimed journalist; an impeccable historian and a woman who will not compromise in her commitment. So Luvvie’s comments about Stacey and other front-line activists simply highlight how she views the landscape from her newly-privileged pop culture perch. If you know Dr. Stacey, she has books of receipts to roll out, so trust that she responded to Luvvie in her classy, eloquent way, and then jumped back into the trenches of of improving and saving lives. But I will share two receipts: her amazing new book, Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America, and her substantive, resource-rich website, www.sparethekids.com.
- In particular (and y’all knew this was the part I’d have to go in about), when she wrote: “activists” out here are of mixed race descent. I just wanna tell them that they can chill. You don’t have to make up for the lack of melanin in your skin by always using your outside voice, even in situations that don’t warrant it. Tuck in your overcompensation. It’s like they’re performing Blackness based on anger, which is insulting. Many folks knew that she was focusing primarily on Shaun King, who writes a column for the New York Daily and does some pretty serious activist work. While many folks trash King for being Biracial and light-skinned and thus not “woke” or real, I’ve been impressed with his policy-driven activism and the tone of his writings. But Luvvie has deemed herself qualified to call out ALL “activists” of Mixed-race descent, trying to crack on our “lack of melanin” and what she considers our “over-compensation,” as if she knows the first thing about being Mixed-Black in the USA. So I guess she’s including anti-slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass, footballer/activist Colin Kaepernick, and actor/activists Jesse Williams, Amandla Stenberg and Yara Shahidi. And, while I’m in no way famous or in any way on her radar screen, I take it to mean that she includes me and other Mixed-race activists who aren’t household names but are still putting in the work every day. The question is: why is she coming for us? Perhaps she’s not confident enough in her straight-from-the-Motherland melanin to believe that there’s more than enough room for all of us to co-exist, thrive and even collaborate when working towards our seemingly common goals.
- Pause: as some of us Mixies said in response to her Mixed-race “” comment, there are many conversations to be had about our roles as activists in Black and Mixed-race spaces, the dynamics of privilege, rejection, identity politics and all that. But, needless to say, such a flaccid attempt at the blacker-than-thou racial dozens serves no purpose beyond a round of ego masturbation at others’ expense.
- Now one of the first lessons one must learn first to survive and retain any measure of sanity as a Person of Color in a racist, White Supremacist context, is to separate the personal from the political. We all have personal preferences, prejudices and biases–these are human nature and will never go away. What MATTERS however is racism–systemic, institutionalized, strategically planned and executed in every aspect of our communities, our nation and our planet–that some of us have committed our lives to fighting in varied and diverse ways. Luvvie seems to have merged whatever her political stance is with an upchuck of personal snark, petty-wopping folks in a back-handed way. What a waste of talent and, more importantly, a huge and influential platform. This woman has fame up the yin-yang and look how she chooses to use it. Take heed: How people behave when they have access to power and money always reveals their true character and priorities. I’m a huge believer in what Mama Maya Angelou taught us: WHEN PEOPLE SHOW YOU WHO THEY ARE, BELIEVE THEM. And given enough time and opportunity, everybody shows themselves sooner or later. I mean, Luvvie’s book is titled I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual.” And as she states on her blog, “It’s basically a book where I tell everyone to get their shit together and you should order it.” Not surprisingly, while I’ve done everything possible to will myself to want to read it, I’ve simply had no interest. Now we know why.
So what I believe is that Luvvie will either thrive or flame out now that she’s hit the big time. She’s articulated all I need to know about her racial politics in her FB post (to which she turned off the comments, BTW). I believe that every word she wrote accurately reflects where she’s coming from, and that’s her prerogative. I understand how she feels about the activists I respect, support and work with, and how she feels about folks like me. Y’all know I don’t waste precious time, talent or energy with clapbacks, arguments or debates–those are for young’uns who think they have all the time in the world and no understanding of what it will really take to work for significant, sustainable change to challenge any aspect of systemic racism.
As always, I am striving to achieve the unity we will need to make this nation and this world a better place. I have no patience for anything that encourages divisiveness. If you agree, please visit my TeamUnity Facebook page and help build the movement to come together despite our various differences. Let’s be about some serious solidarity and join hands to move forward in our quest for racial progress and evolution.