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Hi, I'm Daniela. Welcome to my personal lair on the Internet. This is where I write about storytelling, activism, technology and pop culture. Sometimes I post videos. I update my lair when the mood strikes me. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@dcap).
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The Dangers Of Sharing ‘Struggle Porn’ And How It Can Serve Egos More Than People In Need

You see an article about an injustice; the headline might illicit an emotion and you suddenly feel inspired to share it on your feed (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.). You momentarily feel good that you’ve helped “spread awareness” and move on to the next item in your browser. Do this enough, and you just might convince yourself that sharing struggle porn (trending/viral online content that feature a person(s) being oppressed) online without any real-world action is actually transforming the world … it’s not.

Let me be clear: in this post that you are reading right now, I’m talking to white people (and POC) who identify as “organizers,” “activists” and “healers” in online spaces. I’m talking to people who tie their identity into others perceiving them as “radical” or “influential.” If you don’t identify in this way, you can either stop reading now or continue to read this with an open mind. I dislike that I have to preface this piece with that disclaimer, but I have shared this post in other forms in the past and – without fail – white people comment on the thread assuming I am attacking them personally, or assuming that I have no knowledge about the many ways that white people have been allies to POC in the past.

Bottom line: if this piece speaks to something within you, getting mad at me for writing it is a waste of your time. So, here we go …

If you, as a white person (or POC) identifying as an organizer/activist/healer (who doesn’t have mobility or health issues), spend more time posting on the Internet about POC injustice than actually tangibly helping other people of color ON YOUR OWN BLOCK/in your own neighborhood, you are simply fetishizing our struggle for your news feed.

You are not helping. “Spreading awareness” isn’t enough. It was never enough and it’s not going to be enough in 2015. You are not some one person equivalent of the social media tactics used to support the Arab Spring, sorry. I’ve worked in social media and communications for over ten years; there’s a difference between leveraging social media to support real-world actions and just forwarding a link so you can feel like you’re involved somehow without actually doing anything.

Your commentary alone on/about our struggle isn’t needed and doesn’t change anything in the long run.

Struggle porn for white people (and many POC!) can be a real addiction because it helps people delude themselves into thinking that a click of a button is going to help that person or some faceless mass of oppressed people out there in the world. It’s instant gratification; someone comments on your shared post and you can both go “yeah! this stinks! I don’t agree with this!” and then move on with your day without taking an actual tangible step in your real life to affect change. It’s insidious and addictive. It’s wrong. Break the cycle before you actually convince yourself that you are doing something useful.

Stop simply sharing statistics, i.e. the latest story about a black person being shot; if you really want to make a difference and show that you care, support (WITH IN REAL LIFE ACTION) a local organization or collective of color with your time, resources, $ (if you can spare any), etc. If you claim to be part of a collective or organizing body, participate in accountability processes.

Again, I’m talking to people who identify as organizers/activists/healers: if you are resistant to checking yourself on your struggle porn sharing, you are demonstrating your lack of capacity to support truly effective organizing and community building. If you think being an activist (who doesn’t have mobility or health issues) simply means calling yourself an activist and sharing links online, it’s time to give yourself a reality check.

“But Daniela, I don’t just share links! I do things in my community when I have time! You’re being really judgmental right now!”

Yes, you are right. I am being judgmental, and rightfully so. Many of the same people sharing struggle porn about POC aren’t doing a damn thing to make sure that POC in their own communities know about their events. Too often the same people crying “destroy white supremacy” on their Facebook feed are the same people who don’t notice that their event in a primarily POC neighborhood was attended by mostly white people. What is that about?

I’ll tell you: it’s about apathy. It’s about lack of experience and skills and the resistance to improving both. It’s about being reactive instead of proactive and just “hoping” everything will somehow turn out great without any real effort beyond finding a venue and promoting within the usual channels. It’s about burn-out; it’s about lack of support from you own network of friends/peers and denial about who is really in your corner. It’s about not knowing what friendship really means in practice and struggling with setting boundaries. It’s a lot of things, and it can feel overwhelming, but running from it all won’t fix anything.

But this culture of denial within radical communities needs to stop. As a woman of color, I refuse to play the denial game with “radical” white folks and POC just to be included in things. I want nothing to do with fake, messy bullshit.

Where to begin? To start, make your “social justice” and “healing” events more accessible. There’s so much energy put into organizing events under this nebulous, problematic notion of community — what sort of community are you supporting that ignores what POC are already doing to empower themselves on their own block? Challenge yourself to see how your own privileged realities keep you locked in an ignorant bubble. Yes, it does mean something that you’re calling yourself an anti-racist organizer but your events are mostly attended by white people. I notice it. Other people notice it. I’m sure this might be even embarrassing for you but ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

If I had a dollar for every time I asked a white person (and even POC!) if they reached out to a local organization of color to support POC inclusion at their events and they replied with “no” or “we thought of that but never did it” … I would have a huge fucking pile of dollars.

Yes, I have a very high standard. I expect “radical” people to take 3-5 minutes out of the hours they spend organizing an event to send an email to a local org/collective of color to start a conversation about a community partnership. Yes, that is my standard—I will never apologize for that. If you have time to make a pretty poster for your event, you have time to reach out to local POC to learn how to tangibly be in collaboration. Your priorities are broadcasted through everything you do and don’t do. It doesn’t make you a piece of shit when you make mistakes. It does make you a piece of shit when you refuse to change anything about your process because it would mean having to admit you make mistakes.

As a person of color, I don’t care that you as a white (or POC!), self-proclaimed organizer/activist/healer are “outraged” by racial injustice. Feeling your feelings and sharing them online – alone – isn’t going to change anything. If you enjoy publicly identifying as an organizer/activist/healer, then prove it by not perpetuating colonizing and oppressive behaviors and actually doing something that tangibly supports people of color within the collective you claim an affinity with, as well as ON YOUR OWN BLOCK/in your own city/region/etc.

If you have the privilege of being able to get out and move and engage with people, and like to tell yourself you care about changing the world and eradicating institutional racism, do more than just post links.

Do more than just throwing together an event and hoping POC will show up. Make an effort. I dare you. Don’t repeat the mistakes of your feminist/radical/riot grrrl idols who assumed the revolution was accessible to everyone as long as they made a zine about it. Do better.

Yet Another Disclaimer: If you have health or mobility issues, only you know what you are capable of doing. For some, the only thing they can do is post links. That’s OK. This blog post isn’t about you, trust me.

OK, back to the “organizers/activists/healers”:

Here’s a fact about fighting racial injustice: it’s 99% of the time not “easy” or “fun.” It has never been easy or fun for people of color to deal with white supremacy or institutional racism. Part of white privilege is thinking that everything has to be “fun” in order for you to participate in anti-oppression activities. No, you’re wrong. Being the person who stays to clean or lock up a community space isn’t always fun. Answering emails or canvassing isn’t always fun. Wiping your own ass or eating your vegetables isn’t always fun, but it’s (hopefully) part of a self-care practice, just as sometimes doing “not fun” things is part of being a functional, reliable organizer/healer/activist.

For example: if it’s too “hard” or “inconvenient” to be a part of accountability processes designed to make the collective you claim to be a part of (or in support of more accessible), and/or to tangibly support people of color in your own area, then you should stop calling yourself an organizer, anti-racist, an activist or a healer because you are none of those things.

That’s right: you’re not a real organizer, anti-racist, activist or healer when you resist opportunities to grow and to decolonize. It’s a fluid state of being; you can always work on yourself but at least be honest about that process. No one is expecting you to be perfect – at least, I’m definitely not expecting you to be. But I do expect anyone I organize with (white or POC) to be honest with themselves about their role in things and to be part of (safe) accountability processes.

I totally get not wanting to participate in loaded, harmful interactions under the guise of “accountability” – I’ve rejected interactions like these in the past. But consider how easy it is to read harm into anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes uncomfortable experiences are good for you. As children, it’s hard to wrap our minds around this. But as adults, it’s vital to our growth to understand that growth opportunities are rarely “fun.”

The more you delude yourself into thinking that you don’t have anything to work on – that your “work” is problem-free – the more harm you are doing to POC around you. That’s real.

Actually living (versus debating/discussing) the identity of an organizer/activist/healer involves struggle and constantly challenging yourself to do better – to live more authentically and with accountability.

That’s why it’s so much “easier” for many people to lie to themselves that they are actually making a difference for POC by expressing their white “outrage” over racism online. You don’t always get “likes,” cookies, public accolades or badges for doing the right thing.

True “solidarity” doesn’t work that way. If that’s what you need to care about POC struggles, your narcissism and cluelessness is not welcome in 2015, so please work on that. If you as a white person judge your “activism” for POC rights based primarily on how “good” it makes YOU “feel,” you are doing it wrong. Sometimes doing the right thing is completely thankless and doesn’t put you in the spotlight.

Does any of this post bother you? Too fucking bad, I will not coddle you by hiding the truth. No, your white Internet “outrage” and POC struggle porn link sharing isn’t changing anything -if that’s all you’re doing.

Get over it and make a different choice.

If you, as a white person (and POC!) publicly identifying as an organizer/activist/healer, can’t commit to actually doing something for people of color in your neighborhood in real life, at the very least, stop participating in sharing struggle porn with your white friends while you stroke each other’s egos about how progressive you are. It’s sickening.

The disconnect is loathsome; when self-proclaimed organizers, activists and healers pat themselves on the back on the Internet while not even lifting a finger to support POC doing the hard work in their communities, you are perpetuating harmful systems of oppression.

Are you attending and supporting events organized by POC in your area?  Do you share THEIR links? No?

Then fuck you. You are wearing a mask of solidarity, but behind it you are still the status quo, your hypocrisy rising from you, transmitting through ones and zeros and polluting my screen with apathy.

This post was not written to comfort you. It was written to share hard truths. Take it the way you want to – I will not be replying to comments, especially those of the “you get more flies with honey” variety. I don’t want fucking flies, I want humans who ID as organizers/activists/healers to stop lying to themselves about the work they are doing and how effective it actually is.

I’m not asking you to completely stop sharing links that share information about POC/marginalized community struggles. I’m challenging you to think about how much space you make in your life to actually do something real for POC in your own area – and if those actions are even effective.

Evaluate how much energy you put into criticizing specific people online out of some misguided desire to appear “fierce” by “calling out” someone you have never met in real life. I see way too much re-blogging of shade at specific people and not enough follow through on real-world actions that actually make a difference.

Because if it has just become easier to share links and your “outrage” online instead of addressing your real-world choices that impact POC (or your lack of action), you are most definitely doing it wrong and it’s time to stop and reboot your process.

As far as how this plays out in my life:

  • I refuse to organize with people who take more than they give and who only offer help when it involves being in the spotlight
  • I refuse to organize with people who project their issues and trauma onto me and are in denial about how this plays out in harmful ways
  • I refuse to organize with people who aren’t capable of discussing complex topics in real life or (at the very least) by phone with others before they go online or into real-world communities and participate in slander
  • I don’t seek affirmation or acceptance from people who I don’t trust or respect just so I can be included in an article, event or viral video

Some might think that making these choices would limit my opportunities or shut me out from community. Nope! It has been the opposite experience for me; by removing toxic people from my personal & organizing networks, my life has improved dramatically and I’m able to more effectively organize:

  • I attract people who aren’t afraid to work on themselves
  • I attract people who support my self-care in tangible ways
  • I attract people who operate from a basis of good intentions and trust, who don’t define their self-worth through attempting to tear others down
  • I attract people who left “cool kids” exclusionary bullshit back on the playground and are interested in authentic relationships

I set a high standard and I’m better off because of it.