1. Does this mean you know who Jay Smooth is now and have something marginally closer to respect for his work? Because that would be the most illuminating thing about linking that storify.

    I would suggest reading this essay instead, since it analytically captures a set of dynamics you seem to have limited familiarity with: http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/2014/01/30/interlopers-on-social-media-feminism-women-of-color-and-oppression/

    “As the power and control of white feminist gatekeepers diminish, they have rushed to individualize women of color’s critiques. The trope of the “bad feminist” has been deployed as a disciplinary mechanism for re-establishing and maintaining power and control. Rather than substantively engage Black feminist critiques, for example, gatekeepers demonize the bad Black feminist who is not nice to white women. The analysis of “twitter” wars then quickly devolves into a battle among individual personalities. [Feminism actually needs less focus on individuals and more on the collective struggle to uproot oppression.] Ideological differences are painted as hysterical grievance. The “bad” feminist’s anger is labeled as irrational and as a permanent/perpetual condition. It’s all affect with little basis in actual material realities of oppression. Proximity to the “bad” feminist becomes a liability insuring that they are further marginalized and delegitimized. In some cases, white women who choose to associate with the bad feminist are shamed into silence by being called “performative.” One must possess power to successfully construct and then deploy the trope of the “bad feminist.” White feminist gatekeepers have it and most individual women of color do not. The playing field is not equal

    This strategy is enabled by the fact that women of color generally occupy the space of ethnographic object within the mainstream. We are there to be “understood” “theorized about” and “reflected upon” by white feminists in order to facilitate their self-reflection and personal education. As women of color, we aren’t supposed to theorize ourselves, to resist being understood or saved or to question the white feminist ethnographic gaze. Because our task as women of color is to be “known” by white feminists, our theoretical genealogies can be simply apprehended and easily digested. This, importantly, is one reason mainstream white feminists become confused when two different seemingly “authentic” women of color informants give them completely different political analyses. Communities of color are supposed to be singular in our infinitely knowable aspirations and hence devoid of political complexity and contradiction– such that the assumptions behind our political positions require no further engagement. Thus it becomes possible for one individual – one “bad” feminist to be the stand in for women of color in all of feminism. Furthermore that individual feminist becomes reduced to her “bad” critique. Exploring or interrogating the person’s intellectual contributions becomes unnecessary because it is presumed that we do not have a real intellectual contribution to make.”


      1. No. But I think it’s appropriate to highlight your analytical record with regard to social justice work that takes place on Twitter/tumblr. Last time you mentioned Jay Smooth, you contrasted him with Radley Balko (using a “who does he think he is?” formulation, no less) and assumed he had no place to speak because you had no idea who he was. Now a storify he highlighted is “recommended reading.” Does this mean that Jay Smooth improved and somehow become more relevant or that your original analysis was untethered from any connection to his work or priorities?

        And if it’s the latter, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that it’s the exact same trap you’re open to falling into with POC feminists who mark their visibility through twitter. Particularly when your tut-tutting of their methods and accomplishments requires linking an article that portrayed them as shrieking Maoist rage-cultists in ways that reproduced historically racist tropes. There’s a sense that your perception of them is incredibly disconnected from their actual work, if only because your critique isn’t even minimally responsive to or challenging to anything they’ve spent the last several years trying to say. Perhaps in another year or so that, too, will change. But I’d prefer it if it didn’t take that long.

        1. But see, here’s the thing, dude: that’s simply not an honest reflection of what I said at the time, at all. I did not say “who does Jay Smooth think he is.” I said that Radley Balko has done tremendous good for actually existing minority people, in a deeply material and corporeal sense: he got them out of jail. And I said that this should have a greater impact on our conversation about him than it does. That’s what I said, and that’s what I still believe. That you appear literally incapable of actually debating my actual beliefs is indicative of the way you argue: you attempt to force everything anyone else says into a predisgested form that you think has already been rebutted. That’s the work of someone who is not interested in actually fixing the world.

          By the way: I’m recommending Latoya Peterson’s words. Jay Smooth just aggregated them. Your attempts to rob her voice and ascribe it to a man is– well, it’s exactly the sort of moment that you’d leap on as some sort of existential crime.

          Here’s what I think: I think that, behind your incredibly fussy attempts to portray condescension– I half expect you to just write out “I am condescending to you, because I am of such a pure white subjectivity!”– there is absolute terror, in you, when it comes to writing about race. I think that you show up to my space, hiding behind your anonymity, playing your “is he or isn’t he a person of color” game, because you are so terribly frightened of the possibility that you might be accused of racism that you need to project all of your insecurities and fears onto others. I think that if you actually spent one solitary moment of your life contemplating your racist baggage, you would evaporate. I think you insist on stomping in the comments section of my blog, asserting your superior anti-racist bona fides, because you know that if the conversation was ever about you and all the ways in which you live in a racialized world, you’d be completely unable to deal with it.

          Here I am. I am saying what I believe to be moral and to be true at any given time. I am ready, willing, and able to be censured, here in my real, non-pseudonymous life. If you actually are this benevolent entity, if you’re as invested in these issues as you so desperately want people to think you are, then maybe, for one evening, you might consider why you come back here and change the subject from you to me.

          1. Freddie, your analytical framework is thoroughly insufficient for assessing the value of twitter/tumblr-based social justice work. You don’t follow them comprehensively enough to know what they say to each other, you’re not very immersed in their critiques or the cultural/material contexts of those critiques, and the information and references that tangibly mark their political existence is information you have the most passing and superficial familiarity with.

            It’s why, when you claim to share their priorities, it’s nearly impossible to see what they value reflected in your descriptions. It’s why you felt like it was appropriate to align an anti-state posture with the dead body of a black man whose circumstances you’ll never share. It’s why your comments on the article (and your attempted summary of what the Twitterverse’s supposedly fails to embody) is completely detached from the criticism the article’s received and the real need it incited to affirm the value and utility of Mikki Kendall’s work. And ultimately, it’s why you thought a fundamentally racist article was a perfect springboard to minimize that work and circle back to your pet peeves. You say that your leftism is for alleviating oppression and empowering the marginalized, but there’s a movement, right now, that’s doing and that’s done just that and instead of merging your priorities to its existence, the trajectory of your commentary wonders why it’s there at all and what it’s doing. There’s just a foundational ignorance and disrespect here that would be entirely less galling if it weren’t suffused with the pretense that you’re capable of caring about these peoples’ work. You’re looking at their empowerment and not only are you misnaming it, you’re frequently calling it insufficient in lengthy pieces that functionally erase its relevance and existence.

            The reason why I circled back to Jay Smooth specifically – even though we’re both aware that I didn’t ascribe Peterson’s work to his – is because I find it striking that the same Twitter that supposedly exists for offense-mongering and outrage politics is capable of producing, highlighting, appreciating and archiving analytically compelling material from perspectives that are totally absent from the very media outlets that qualify as liberal establishments. And because his act of aggregation and his sympathy for the sentiment is entirely at odds with the assessment you gave of him previously, which wasn’t just open respect for Balko’s work but was, instead, a total dismissal Jay Smooth’s entire capacity for relevance and for grasping relevance:

            “Jay Smooth makes videos on the Internet. So he’s got that going for him. Radley Balko, meanwhile, has gotten actual black people out of actual jail. He has worked tirelessly against police abuse and corruption, the drug war, and mass incarceration, and specifically the mass incarceration of young black men. He’s been cited in court cases where innocent people were freed. His journalism– you know, the kind where you go out into the world and find out facts in order to create change, rather than sit in front of a webcam and use tired slang– has helped to create material change in the world. That matters. You know what doesn’t matter? Tweets about how offended you are by something. Your tweets do nothing. They accomplish nothing, make nothing happen. They do less than nothing: they are nothing that you mistake for something, and thus make it harder to actual apprise the actual situation. Let’s check the percentages, please.

            If you’re a white person who thinks that “Jay Smooth” has the right to lecture Radley Balko about race in America, you care more about your social positioning than about the material conditions of the nonwhite people you claim to be speaking for. Period. ”

            This isn’t just relevant to my efforts to engage with you, this is the trap you willingly jump into every single time you discuss Twitter/tumblr based social justice work. It’s at once dismissive and reductive; knowing and totally ignorant; and so convinced of its own righteousness that it’s almost willfully uncomprehending of how such descriptions play into ongoing cruelties and marginalization. Overprioritizing its effect on white people is incapable of being a meaningful response to any of it because, as I said yesterday, white people are not central to what it produces or who it appeals to. Your whole conception of what matters is centered on how strongly it aligns with what the comparatively powerful is capable of seeing important and effective. How is a left-alignment that’s supposedly centered on the marginal not also capable of avoiding such a damning analytical trap?

          2. For the record: the people I know who are most critical of online activism are people of color who do street-level organizing and local activism.

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