By: T. Olajide
We have to stop celebrating the bare minimum.
Over the years, in certain contexts, I’ve earned the reputation of the stern and unamused friend. When people expect me to cheer the most mundane and expected occurrences, e.g. a white person owning up to racism and accepting the impact of privilege. I often find that I still feel this way when it comes to the world of fiction, case in point, J.K. Rowling. I love J.K, I mean I’m British!
But, do I really need to scream until my eardrums burst because she kerbs racist readers — this is decent human nature, and in the world, we live in, it’s common courtesy at best.
When we begin to award the bare minimum acts of the economically mobile and socially privileged, we send two messages; first that on some level; no matter how minuscule, oppression is permissible and the expected norm and second, that they (whoever you’re lauding) are offering groundbreaking assistances to certain causes. We can start off with debunking the latter. We black, brown, asian, non-gender conforming, LGBTQIA, women, disabled etc. dedicate every waking moment of our very lives to deconstructing systemic oppression and risk our lives in doing so. So, in no way will some uninventive schtick add value or grit to the fight. To touch upon the former, oppression is not permissible and it cannot be dismissed with the wave of a wand — conviction in the truth and honesty are what make any ‘woke’ moment truly actionable. Until you speak up when necessary, turn down honour where it is undue, pay homage to those who inspire you and risk the sanctity of your ‘brand’ as you actively fight for change, then you won’t be getting my praise.
Anyone can tweet, throw lacklustre shad or echo what has already been said.
Now, I turn to you normal person. Refrain from celebrating an act you would not highlight had it come from you, stop giving people scoobie-snacks for what is expected and so easily actionable. Your white boyfriend embracing your culture; your friend not being homophobic; a white celebrity turning down a role made specifically for a person of colour; checking islamophobia; standing against air-strikes etc. do not call for a spontaneous praise celebration.
Everything listed above should be second nature, a reflex, common ground. If you cannot align yourself with any of the above-mentioned things, then something is wrong and in the same vein, if you must muster up the courage of 8 spirit bombs before you can denounce oppressive mechanisms you need a call to Jesus moment.
Everything listed above should be second nature, a reflex, common ground amongst the decent. If you cannot align yourself with any of the above mentioned things, then something is wrong and in the same vein, if you must muster up the courage of 8 spirit bombs before you can denounce oppressive mechanisms you need a call to Jesus moment.
Don’t you ever think that there is something to be said about the fact that a thought is championed when it comes from a certain variety of human, but shut down, dissected or ignored when it comes from others? On this point, when we talk about impact it is important for your action to include and uplift people who have educated you on certain issues, for instance, the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, April Reign is only now getting audience to explain what the hashtag means and hopes to achieve, before this year’s award season there was a lot of discourse around the hashtag but only in the celebrity sphere.
This leads to my next point; why do celebrities have to be spokespeople for every and any issue, even when it doesn’t pertain to them? Viola Davis recently expressed this sentiment after her Oscar win and her statement, albeit short was loaded! What is it with this culture of yoking celebrities [particularly black celebrities] with the burden of being the spokes people for black issues, considering they are actors, musicians, producers etc. and not anthropologists or informed political activists, I mean this is fine in an instance where a celebrities activism is just as important as their work, e.g. Jessie Williams — why is it that one size must fit all? I find it a bit frustrating when people expect Basketball players to be philosopher’s when they don’t subscribe to the same views as they do. In some ways I read this with a note of validation, almost like a celebrity affirming a view of yours makes it more credible? I disagree with this and find this very uncomfortable.
In closing, I think it is incredibly important to hold people — everyone, celebrities, teachers, your parents, your grandparents etc. to the same standard as you would yourself, but in the same vein remember that people are human. Everyone has a journey to social awareness and though this is frustrating to accept, it is the truth. We have to allow people reasonable access to grow and cultivate independent ideas on social issues. One thing we will not do is celebrate what is known and established, we will not do back flips for something we talk about everyday at lunch. We won’t exalt other human beings for regular, decent human shit.
Editor: Han Angus