Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys
It all started at a tennis tournament. I was waiting for my match to begin when one of my teammates asked, “Why don’t you have any social media? You’re funny, you’ll be good at it.” I was a freshman in high school, and I figured, well, sharing my thoughts in a public forum where absolutely anyone can see what I’m thinking could never be too detrimental, now could it?
From the beginning, I was good at tweeting. I’ve always been up to date with the latest lingo, and I’ve provided ridiculous content, all in the name of making people laugh. I’ve never filtered myself or cared to; I simply could not be bothered. From the beginning, I also felt an obligation to tweet even when I didn’t want to, even when my mental health suffered because of it.
Over the years, and especially now, I’ve used my Twitter as a way to voice my frustrated feelings. From Stacy Davidson to TFL’s events to instances of racism, I felt I had to react to everything. And I did. People expected a response from me, and thus, I gave it to them. In all honesty, it feels silly to even write about this, it’s such a first-world problem to have.
Social media has given me a platform to speak about causes I’m passionate about, but it’s also blurred the lines to make be believe that tweeting is a legitimate form of activism. I don’t have to respond to everything, nor do I have to place people’s want for entertainment above my comfort. Just as me tweeting is not activism, people supporting me through likes and retweets is not support, at least not legitimate support. I’ve made plenty of friends as a result of social media, but it’s also allowed people to idolize me and my desire for social justice without actively fighting alongside me.
Every time I tweet about being a person of color I get likes and retweets and “go off queen,” but what is that worth if in real life people are not willing to back me up? It’s easy to get caught up in popularity contests, but at the end of the day, I have to go back to my dorm and struggle with the generational trauma I can’t explain to my white friends.
I have been elevated by white people who in reality don’t care about my trauma or well-being, who use me as proof that they are doing enough. People who have told me how much they admire me, I later learn, have made racist remarks about Mexicans, about indigenous people, about people of color. In my experience, I’ve learned that white feminists love me, they really do. I mean, what white person wouldn’t love supporting an exhausted Mexican girl from afar to make themselves feel better?
The point is you’re not doing enough, and I’m not doing enough. I’m not bringing us any closer to justice by tweeting, and you’re not making the world any better by using people of color as a channel for your pseudo-activism. I struggle, and you get to go home and like my tweet about struggling and scroll onto the next tweet. Not a single person is entitled to my thoughts, my words or my entertainment, and especially not those who tokenize my existence.
There are several ways one can be a better ally, particularly at Trinity. You should pick one social issue you don’t know enough about and start going to club meetings held by the members of the particular community you’ve chosen. In addition, read as much as you can: there are countless books written by the marginalized. Keep in mind that although this year marks Trinity’s 150th anniversary, Trinity has only had a Diversity and Inclusion Office since last spring. Lastly, don’t complain about having to wake up early for events like the MLK March, don’t let your friends get away with bigotry and don’t value problematic friendships above the sanity of people of color.