In 2007, I moved to San Francisco from Stockton – a place once named the most miserable city in Forbes, a place where empty storefronts and people hanging out in front of liquor stores are fairly familiar scenes. I attended the journalism program at SFSU and lived in the Sunset, but was immediately drawn to the Fillmore. I eventually started covering and writing stories about the Fillmore for my reporting class. While I researched the area’s rich history – including the disastrous urban renewal program, which pushed out many of the city’s African Americans in the 1940s through the 1970s – I began to understand why there aren’t many of us in San Francisco’s historically black neighborhood. Partly it’s because there just aren’t many black people here in the city these days (according to the 2010 census, African Americans make up 5.8 percent of SF).
It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized that while I was writing about black businesses and black people, all my friends were white. This wasn’t a brand new concept to me. I spent my days in high school listening to indie rock and punk music. In Stockton, I was used to being the only black person at rock shows, and I was one of only two black girls in my graduating high school class. The racism I experienced in my hometown, while sparse, was overt and by strangers. But there was something different going on here in SF. Partying with the hipster white dudes in the Mission would start out fun, but our hangouts would end with me feeling conflicted. If these people were my friends, why did I feel so bad when I hung out with them?
Before all the hate mail rolls in, I’m not saying that San Francisco is racist and my experiences with assholes in the Mission can’t possibly be a statement about this city as a whole. That deserves a larger article. However, in this city that prides itself in being so progressive, it feels like we need to go back and master something both simple as well as incredibly complex – each other. We can learn to embrace our differences without making them a joke or a spectacle. It might take more effort than making bourbon ice cream, but I feel like we can do it.
Kutcher isn’t just the company’s “president of pop,” as he’s listed on the company’s site–as Brandchannel’s Shirley Brady reported–he also owns a minority stock in Popchips, which also trumpets endorsements by the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Hope Solo and Jillian Michaels. And for most of the day Wednesday, the company was equally as bold in trumpeting Kutcher’s kooky quartet; they had been shown in the cover photo for Popchips’ Facebook page.
Rappers Das Racist came at Kutcher full-force on Twitter not long after the video gained traction, while entrepeneur Anil Dash had some pointed questions for the rest of the team behind the campaign…
In a rather kind gesture, Dash also penned a column offering Popchips and Kutcher advice on how to more forward after this debacle. One of his tips was that they not pull the campaign.
"I think this company doesn’t want its culture to be racist, and they can best demonstrate that by showing how they learn from examples where it happens despite their best efforts,” Dash wrote. “It’s like if rat droppings were found in a bag of Popchips: You wouldn’t solve it by saying ‘We threw away that bag of chips!’ You’d solve it by saying ‘Here’s what we’re doing to clean up things at the factory.’”
While Dash’s advice for Popchips was certainly magnanimous, it should also be said: you can’t clean up the rat droppings without throwing away the first bag in which you found them. So maybe it’s best for the public and “Raj” to break up: it’s really not us in this case. It’s him.
Last week at Racialicious HQ, we were delighted to see the term “hipster racism”—coined by our very own Carmen Van Kerckhove in 2006*—suddenly enter mainstream parlance, thanks to Jezebel’s publication of Lindy West’s “A Guide to Hipster Racism.” In a flash, the words “hipster racism” papered themselves across Facebook and Twitter feeds across the continent (and maybe the world?). Words are wonderful, and when more people have access to language that helps them name the racism of everyday life, we’re happy.
There was only one glitch. While West linked to one Racialicious post (a short piece Carmen wrote in 2007 about white girls and gang signs) she never once name-checks Racialicious or Carmen…or any of our amazing pals and allies who have been writing about this stuff since the main target was Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls (i.e. a long time ago).
On the one hand, no one takes up social-justice work to see their name in lights and, at the end of the day, the point is just to get the message across, no matter who gives it the signal boost. On the other hand, we’re only human. It hurts when work that we, as a collective, have been jackhammering about for seven-plus years gets credited to someone else. (Seven years, y’all! Back to the dawn of skinny jeans! Before Facebook was open to the public, for cripes’ sake.)
And as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger. It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.
Tumblr has removed some of the blogs in question, and has stated their position:
First of all, I would like to thank you for your email. I’m sure that sounds a little strange, perhaps ingenuous, but if there’s a perception of unfair treatment, then it’s best that we be made aware of it and perhaps get to explain.
The fact is, we investigate what blogs are emailed in to us for hate speech and other issues. Having searched, it seems no one has actually emailed in about the blogs you mentioned. As you gave me blogs to look into, I did and I have suspended several of them. Of those I haven’t suspended, I have either removed content (in the case of [redacted] ) and warned the blogger or the blog itself did not seem to be using the term for hate speech or oppression. In one case, they seem to have been saving the URL to prevent others from using it. As for some of the others, their blogs did not seem to have any hateful content. While the word itself is and can be considered hate speech, there are some cases where it is not considered hate speech, such as when used by those it was used to oppress. As we don’t require ID for setting up a blog, we have no way of knowing if someone is a part of that group or not before hand and can only judge by the remainder of their actions whether or not they’re using the term in an offensive manner.
Previously, we have suspended blogs similarly only to be emailed back and told that the blogger was trying to make a point, reclaim a word, or otherwise post what would have been violating content in the context of pointing out it’s offensiveness and the nature of racism in the US. As such, we try to take a more careful hand on such cases.
Particularly in the case of ‘deathtoallwhitepeople’, I do not actually see a record for this blog. If we had suspended it, we would see the blog and see that it was suspended; I do not in this case. This would mean that the blog had been deleted, which is only done by the owner of the blog or someone with access to the blog’s information. As such, that would mean that we had no hand in the disappearance of ‘deathtoallwhitepeople’ in the first place.
I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about our process and our priorities.
In response to their email, I sent:
I am happy that you are finally taking our reactions seriously, as this is certainly a serious matter. Additionally, the list shown was a representation of the blogs that are allowed to remain, not necessarily a list of blogs that had been reported, or that needed to be deleted/removed. But I do happen to know that several of them were actually reported since my post, and I am happy to know that some of them have been removed.
However, I hope you are aware that this is indicative of a larger problem. In the past, blogs like those have been reported, and those reports were met with the “freedom of speech” excuse. Death threats have been sent, and reported en masse, each report being met with the same lack of reason. There are screenshots and emails recording this. And while this is certainly not your problem, personally, it is still a problem.
I want to you to be aware that the use of that word by anyone other than a Black person is hate speech, period. There is no reason for anyone else to use the term, ever. Any time it is used, specifically when used outside the Black/Afrolatino community, the denigration of Black people spreads, our humanity is diminished, and the wide perception of our very existence is diminished, debased, and reduced to a caricature, as it has been for far too long. There is no way it can be used and not refer to a Black person in some way. There is no way it can be used, and not be hurtful. That is the history of it, and that is the fact of it. It is abominable.
I don’t profess to speak for the entirety of Blackness, but you must understand that this is a struggle that we’ve been in for centuries. The eradication of the lackadaisical attitude of a nation is at stake, and that is why it is so important.
I realize that Tumblr is not responsible for the flood of this negativity, but every ripple begins with a single drop. Tumblr has a unique opportunity to stop this at its core — to halt the proliferation of these hateful ideas sitewide. Please consider a general announcement regarding your position against this sort of hate speech, as you did with the SOPA situation (though perhaps not as invasive), as well as a more accessible link to the Terms of Service, as most people haven’t even read them, and couldn’t find them if asked. Even a post on the staff blog would be helpful in making your position known.
Thank you again for your consideration, and for your responses and actions in this matter. Your help is appreciated by so very many people.
Again, thank you to everyone who reblogged the initial post in support of this action. Your support means more than you know. To Racialicious, thank you for your support as well. I was hesitant to send that to you, and perhaps should have done so earlier, but I am quite glad that I did. Thank you for being willing to address the situation publicly.
To those who reblogged my initial post with hate or contempt in your hearts, you have shown your true colors. We see you. We know you. We won’t forget you.
And finally, thank you to all my friends in TheBlackout. You guys are the shit. I love all of you.
Congrats to you, deliciouskaek, for mobilizing all of us to get active about this issue. We’re glad to have helped in our small way, and thanks for the update!
I’m about to write an post, as well as a guest post to a well-known external blog about this, and if need be, I will submit it to my local news organization for review, and I need for you to understand that before I proceed. This is not something you will be able to explain away or cover up. There is already a blog post that is spreading across tumblr about this, so it’s not like no one is going to hear about it. It’s already out there. Your staff has made a mistake.
You recently removed a blog titled deathtoallwhitepeople from your servers. This is understandable, and was expected, as the entire reason it was created was to point out the hypocrisy in how certain users are well-treated at the expense of others. However, you appear to have missed all of the following blogs:
These blog titles are equally reprehensible, equally offensive, and violate your Terms of Service in the same way. I can’t imagine why they are all allowed to remain.
I also need to point out that the 1st Amendment protects private citizens against governmental censorship. It does not provide protections against the actions of a private company, like yours. You have the option — the power — to do something about this, to stop such hateful terms from being used against a group of people who are being harmed and oppressed by them. You’ve already chosen to use that power, and therein lies the hypocrisy: you didn’t protect the free speech of the person or persons who started the deathtoallwhitepeople blog, or protect other people of color from the death threats they reported to you.
In doing what you have done, you let all of the people who were involved, along with anyone who is reading and reblogging the related posts, know that you care for the so-called 1st Amendment rights of white persons, but none for the rights of people of color.
I am disgusted by your actions, and ask that you treat your members the same — that you remove blogs that use the word “nigger” in their title, and do not allow anyone to use it in their URLs in the future.
I look forward to your prompt response.
Everybody, please, reblog the shit out of this.
Signal boost with commentary to follow.