The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why It's Not Enough To Talk The Talk

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why It's Not Enough To Talk The Talk

Today's Pan-Africanism and the parallels between #BlackLivesMatter and #ThisFlag
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Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Biko and Huey P. Newton. Robert Sobukwe and Malcolm X. African liberation movements and the American civil rights movement, and their corollary of Black Consciousness have mirrored and borrowed from each other for years, forging connections between the US and the continent that most people either aren’t aware of or choose to ignore. Kwame Nkrumah, in his vision for Ghana's independence, borrowed a lot from Marcus Garvey's thoughts on Pan-Africanism, which were in turn taken on by many African countries in their independence movements. Over time, however, Pan-Africanism has been diluted and taken on multiple meanings. Politicians like Thabo Mbeki called for “economic Pan-Africanism,” leaders like Robert Mugabe and the late Muammar Gaddafi sought “political Pan-Africanism” and the proponents of the Negritude movement engaged in what one could call an “intellectual Pan-Africanism.” The point is, ideals of Pan-Africanism have intertwined black people everywhere for a long time, and this has not always been for the better.

In our day, social media has become a platform for the sharing of content, ideas and movements. There’s a new kind of black experience, where we - via Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the like - are connecting with each other, and with this hyper-exposure we’ve been forced to grapple with ideas about what it really means to be black. Siyanda Mohutsiwa in her TedTalk coined the term “social Pan-Africanism” to indicate this sense of interconnectedness, particularly on the interwebs. And although she meant it in a distinctly positive sense, the flip-side is that “Africa” ceases to be a real place with real people, and instead becomes a romanticised, exoticized entity.


We latch onto this new version of Pan-Africanism without stopping to think about its implications. Festivals like Afropunk try to cash in on this new sense of shared identity, and artists like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar embrace it in their music videos and performances, all the while refusing to tour on the continent or really try to gain an understanding of all the symbolism they like to employ. This has often erupted in heated debates, such as the whole debacle aboutBlack Americans appropriating African culture sparked by Zipporah Gene, which tend to spiral unnecessarily into oppression Olympics. Most recently, however, this issue has been apparent in the parallels between the #BlackLivesMatter movement and movements on the continent like #ThisFlag.


#BlackLivesMatter has been a force to be reckoned with for a while now. Sparked by outrage at the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012, the movement has been bringing awareness to and resisting the modern day genocide against black people in the United States. Protests against police brutality and systemic racism have gained so much traction that #BlackLivesMatter has received solidarity from all over the place - including the continent.


Ryan Lenora Brown interviewed South African students for an article in the CS Monitor, and wrote about a student activist who said “We are lamenting the same pain we are feeling with them. We are here to send the message that black lives matter everywhere in the world.” Africans have taken on the Black Lives Matter movement, in the spirit - I would argue - of the social Pan-Africanism that Siyanda Mohutsiwa speaks of. The problem, however, is a profound lack of reciprocity.

The #ThisFlag movement of Zimbabwe was born in much the same way #BlackLivesMatter was - it’s a movement of the people, protesting unjust systems that have been in place for too long. Pastor Evan Mawarire, “through his social media movement... has been backing a stay-away campaign this month to protest about perceived corruption and economic mismanagement” (BBC News). When police arrested him on trumped-up charges and he was likely to disappear mysteriously into the bowels of the judicial system, when police were beating old women in the streets for carrying their flags, when people were assaulted for staying home from work in protest, Zim Twitter’s outrage spilled into the streets and held the justice system accountable for its actions, ultimately resulting in Pastor Evan’s release.


Africans all over the continent, frightened for loved ones and angry at the state of affairs, jumped onto the hashtag, raising a complete ruckus. But there was a blanket of silence from African Americans. In the week of the climax of the #ThisFlag movement, I would scroll through my Twitter TL and nobody outside of people directly affected was talking about it. Ditto with Facebook. Ditto with Tumblr. I was perplexed. Where was this Pan-Africanism that African-Americans were so defensive of in the cultural appropriation conversation? In the Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar conversation? In the Afropunk conversations? In the wake of all the solidarity received for the Black Lives Matter movement, where was the solidarity for Zimbabwe?


Pan-Africanism is about more than just wearing kente headwraps and knowing a couple of words of Swahili. Pan-Africanism is about more than just the intellectual traditions of the 50s and 60s. Pan-Africanism is about more than just lip service. And while it’s spiralled into so many different tributaries and taken on many different meanings that we’re all still trying to figure out, showing up for each other is the first step.

So if you’re willing to talk the talk, please be willing to take the first step with us.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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I Joined A Gym And This Is What Happened

Three weeks ago I made the decision to take better care of myself, for better or for worse.

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Three weeks ago I made the decision to take better care of myself, for better or for worse.

Like many people, I'm notoriously known for jumping on the health and weight loss bandwagon and sticking it out until it gets hard. It would last a few days to a few weeks but never really much more than that. My trips to the gym would dwindle into non-existence. Where was the accountability? What was keeping me going besides a shadow of my high school self?

It's a frustrating, endless cycle that ends only in depreciating my self-esteem.

Three weeks ago, that cycle stopped.

A friend of mine tagged me in a post promising custom meal plans, fun workouts, accountability, and best of all—results. To be honest, this initially sounded like another one of the thousands of gimmicks thrown at consumers every single day. However, my friend went to a consultation, and the more she told me, the more I became hooked.

The gym we joined is a small, family-owned business dedicated to helping people lead healthier, happier lives. They believe in building you up while teaching you to be healthier—in and out of the gym. The price tag almost scared me away, but part of their challenge is that if you reach the weight goal they give you, you either get your money back or can put it towards a gym membership after your six-week challenge.

After speaking with my family and friends, I decided this was the best decision for me right now, despite my current medical conditions. I was tired of the excuses and knew if I wanted results, obstacles would have to be worked around.

Week one was absolute hell.

Everyone was given a custom meal plan that, although straight and simple, is easy to stray from. The plan consists of several food options I would eat anyway when eating healthy, so that wasn't the difficult part. The hard part is everything not on the list. Week one shows you explicitly just how terribly you eat and drink. Week one reminds you of all those days you spent inside instead of exercising.

Week two was easier… and more satisfying. Cravings were still there, but they weren't as strong as the previous week. Even more rewarding, I had lost three pounds! My family could already see a difference in my body. I was performing exercises and eating foods I never expected myself to do or eat.

Week three was a giant curve ball I thought I had prepared for. My family went on a week-long vacation out of town, taking me away from the gym and the environment I had grown used to for this program. I decided I would continue to meal prep and utilize the at-home workouts the gym provided for us. I wanted to stay on top of the game. Things changed, however, when I got sick and was bedridden for the rest of the week. I couldn't eat, and I certainly couldn't move enough to work out. Whatever it was that hit me didn't leave for over a week.

I lost six pounds in four days, which wasn't the way I planned to lose that weight.

Going back to the gym this week was difficult. My morale was lower. Sure, I'd lost more weight, but it wasn't through the work I had signed up to do. I feared gaining it all back after being able to eat again. Working out is shaky at best due to being on a liquid and soup diet, but this time, I'm not giving up.

It's only week three, and I've seen more results in less than a month than I have in the last five years. I've never felt so empowered to treat myself well.

If anything, it's a lesson in challenging yourself. Don't hold yourself back; you may be surprised by the rewards.

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