Monday, January 16, 2017

Being White on MLK Day

Today Rob Schneider, who is responsible for so many terrible movies, had the truly terrible idea to take to Twitter with this:

Oof.  It's a tweet so bad it made my stomach hurt a little (probably from laughing).  I think my favorite part is "he won Civil Rights" because it makes it sound like Civil Rights is like a Heisman Trophy, doesn't it? "Martin Luther King won Civil Rights, Rep. Lewis!  If you want them, you're just going to have to listen to Rob Schneider and work a little harder."  This tweet was a true masterpiece of misplaced condescension.

Of course, before we go getting soooooper smug about it....

I'm also doing this thing where I'm an admin on a Facebook group for the Women's March in Chicago - you should come!   It's gonna be LIT (and just like that I've ruined the term "lit" forever). As I checked out folks' Facebook profiles to make sure they weren't bots or trolls, I must have come across this MLK meme about eleventy billion times:

Look. This is a lovely message and in no way near the level of self-unawareness of our boy, Rob Schneider.  But it's also, you know, a little un-self-aware and, oy, so facile. Martin Luther King wasn't some lovebug. He was activist. He was angry. He was out there. He fought! And I die a little every time one of my fellow Nillas co-opts him as some gentle, toothless, avuncular arbiter for white approval.

And, y'all, I am white as hell!  I can only imagine how deeply irritating this must be for Black people.

Let me put it this way: when Martin Luther King Jr. was still alive, he wouldn't have been sitting there nodding gratefully at us just because we went "tsk tsk" as others were screaming the N-word at Ruby Bridges. In fact, it wasn't MLK's job to be grateful to us or to be in charge of our feelings. He was too busy leading a fight for systemic, structural, political change.  The legacy he passed to us white people is that if we believed in him, we fight too.  

This is not touchy feely stuff.  This is visceral.  This is real and it is tangible.

In other words: love is great. Sure. But call your congressperson.  Make yourself heard.  Demand systemic, structural, political change.

I am late to my activism (although my slacktavism has been ON POINT FOR YEARS!).  But join me in it.  One call to your congressperson is worth 800 MLK memes.  I promise you this.