December 11, 2014
with the recent thing that went down re: Suey Park and her abuse of Yukio Strachan on twitter and the re-airing of darkmatterrage”s anti-Blackness on tumblr, i feel like it is time for a really serious discussion about accountability for non-Black asians with a platform.
i really really want to focus on that last part the ~platform~.
bc there are a lot of different ways to be accountable and accountability is often something that will depend on the ppl ur accountable to (as in, centering what they think is meaningful accountability, not what you think it might be). sometimes, we are left to make decisions for ourselves, though, since the people we”ve harmed may not have any desire to have any further contact with us and our personal accountability is not the responsibility of our victims.
some ppl know that i used to blog/tweet/etc under the username ‘biyuti”. this is actually still me… when i picked my pen name for publishing my books (b. binaohan) that ‘b.” actually stands for ‘biyuti”.
yes. i could”ve just change my username on tumblr as i did on twitter. but. i actually deleted the tumblr after i got called out for doing something anti-Black. i reblogged and commented on a post and spoke over the Black ppl in a conversation about Black people”s experiences. but it was actually the nature of the call out… since i got an anon callout from someone who didn”t want to identify themselves because they didn”t want to open themselves up to abuse from my followers for calling me out. even though i was the person in the wrong.
it is this aspect of the incident that convinced me that i needed to delete/rebuild whatever ~platform~ i had. because…
i”d become to comfortable. too used to thinking that my voice was super important. important enought that, for whatever reason, i felt — despite knowing better — that my voice was more important than Black ppl on their own experiences.
this comfort came from the fact that, in general, there are a few Black ppl who i admire a great deal who (to some extent at least) trust me and think that i am worth listening to. while my ~platform~ has never ever even close to being as large as theirs or as large as dmr”s or suey park”s, thinking about platforms as merely being about the numbers (how many followers i have) and not thinking about influence… is to be disingenuous. ppl with significantly greater number of followers than me do listen to me. and sometimes they amplify my voice, giving it far great reach and influence than can be quantified by my paltry number of followers.
but we live in a capitalist society. an economic structure that is designed around the fungibility of Blackness and the theft of land from Indigenous ppls (inclusive of Black ppl too).
so note the way i”m framing my platform. it should be pretty clear that a great deal of whatever influence i have is actually do to my relationship to certain Black ppl. i”m not a sycophant (lol, which is why they do listen to me occassionally). i don”t tailor my writing/thoughts to please a Black audience (although, i”ve frequently mentioned how deeply influenced i am by Black thinkers).
i also know in the case of suey park too… Black ppl helped her build her platform. a non-trivial portion of her reach and influence is due to her relationship to Blackness and/or Indigeneity. and i”m not just talking about individual Black ppl who”ve boosted her voice and discussed with her… but i”m also talking about the intellectual inheritance that many of us enjoy from Black thinkers throughout the ages, since Black ppl have always been at the forefront of conceptualizing liberation.
so. yes. i do want to ask those of use with ~platforms~, and no matter how small or trivial you think yours might be, to really think about what it means for us to be accountable to the Black ppl we harm with our anti-Blackness when it is Black ppl who helped build these platforms….
for me… this was tearing down my platform and rebuilding.
and… i”m truly embarrassed and ashamed to think of how hard it was for me to make this decision. part of it was practical… i occassionally need to beg for money on the internet. deleting my previous tumblr did mean that begging in the future would be much more difficult…
but then… this is what i mean. my livelihood isn”t tied to my blogging/writing. i”ve been pretty firm in the past that i don”t want to be an activist for money. part of this is because of the way that capitalism corrupts all relationships. if giving up my platform that was beginning to cause real harm to Black ppl was hard for me bc of my occassional financial dependence on it, how much harder if i needed it to regularly pay my rent?
but all this means is that, if you reach this point, where your continued survival requires this platform that was built off of Black and/or Indigenous ppl”s work… this is the point in which your platform starts to exploit those people. also the point where real accountability becomes too costly, since dismantling your own platform of exploitation and oppression might actually be the end of you… this is esp. a dangerous thing when you, as individual, are tied to the platform.
and since there isn”t any real ethical way to participate in capitalism, you might think to yourself ‘well… why not then just hold onto the platform?”. for me the answer is… if your platform is about liberation and oppression, it necessarily needs to be held to a higher standard that, say, working at a fast food restaurant. yes. both are complicit under capitalism and contribute to the exploitation of someone. but… if your whole things is about liberation, you have to live/embody this, not just talk about it.
this means walking away from your 30k followers and nonprofit job if it means that you”ve become so… convinced of your individual worth that you think maintaining an audience, that your voice is so critical that it matters more than the individuals your are directly harming, well…
yes. there are ways to be accountable that don”t require this. but… if you”ve been dodging accountability in the ways that dmr and suey park have been, this is pretty much the only meaningful gesture left to you. bc, so far, all you”ve been doing is talking the talk but… now it”s time to walk it. to actually show that you are willing to live by the principles and things you talk about. and, worse yet, the things that you actually feel other people should be accountable to.
and i do know how hard this decision is… and the difficulty that doing this presents is actually what should give you pause. it is what finally convinced me, sadly (since what should have convinced me is that my platform and anti-Blackness were beginning to do real, direct harm to Black ppl). the difficulty of making this decision represents all the capitliast, anti-Black, bullshit oppressive ideology that i”ve/we”ve internalized.
because it really shouldn”t be so hard to think to yourself
“wow. i have 10,000 ppl who listen to my every tweet and i”ve used this to abuse/oppress a Black person, maybe i need to step away and reconsider my priorities”
this should be the easiest decision in the world to make.