Monday, October 12, 2009

I Need a Pep Talk

So over the weekend I was obsessed with checking Facebook. Well, more obsessed than usual. I had 3 different "friends*" post status updates that either were offensive or led to a slew of offensive comments from the "friends" of my "friend". It was kind of like passing a car wreck on the highway -- You tell yourself not to look. You look. Then you feel scared and a little bit sick. Except in this case I felt angry and sick. And I kept looking.

The comments involved racism, homophobia, and/or misogyny. One status update was meant as a joke (I think). Some of the other comments did involve some sarcasm but most did not. For example, one person (not my friend) wrote that lesbians should be "strangled". He then said he was "kidding". But for me, that comment was way past funny. WAY past. Another "joke" (again, not by my friend) stereotyped all people from the Middle East as suicide bombers. Racism does not amuse me. Homophobia does not amuse me. Hate isn't funny.

There was a total of 30 offensive comments between the 3 different status updates. To be clear, there were at least 20 other comments that I didn't like (cutting remarks about Obama, for example) but weren't really "offensive". A difference in political opinions is one thing. Attacking the rights, self-worth, and very existence of certain groups of people is a whole different ball game. A game that I have zero tolerance for. Zero.

I would sit at the computer and read off the latest comments to Demetri. Then I would say (and spell, as Zoey was present) exactly what I thought of the comments. I would tell Demetri what I was going to write in response and he would come pry my fingers off the keyboard and beg me to think before I responded. Hm, thinking, what a novel concept. So I did. I thought. And thought some more.

Today my anger has turned into a kind of a sadness. I don't feel a part of my community because my community is dominated by homophobia and racism**. It is dominated by people claiming that lesbians are a result of people "turning away from Christ".*** There is a culture here of hate. It goes way back. It goes deep. And it goes mostly untalked about. Unchallenged. Unnoticed. I have found my friends that go against this culture. At times, we all have had to keep our mouths shut. It feels bad. It feels vaguely dirty. And today I feel weighed down by all the badness. I feel coated in griminess.

What do you do when you see an offensive comment on Facebook? Do you respond? Do you respond only to friends? To friends of friends?

* Friends is in quotes bc some of my Facebook friends I don't really know all that well. Like, "Hey we were at that conference together once! We're friends!"
**I still struggle with racism. I am working on it. Every day. Like most people that look like me, I will be working on it the rest of my life.
***I would argue that homophobia is a result of people not understanding Christ in the first place. But that doesn't seem to be a valid opinion here . . .

Human Rights Campaign


  1. This is the stuff humans have been struggling with for centuries. My pep talk is to just continue building those connections that make you feel good, keep promoting what you believe in and hopefully one day there will be more peace than there is hate (i guess that was advice, not a pep talk?). Also, check out Short Mountain, a queer community that homesteads in Liberty TN. It could be a fun outing (pun not intended!) for the fam to go visit.

  2. I completely get what you are saying and am grateful that you are here in this community with me. Your post makes me feel more encouraged to speak up when I hear things that offend me and seem hatred-based.

  3. I know there are still people who are racist or homophobic or whatever, and that saddens me. But for people to say such things and not think that it impacts those who hear/read it...well that really gets my goat. But I guess people are more willing to show their idiot side when online. When I see that I just try not to stoke the fire. I once got into a converstation with a friend's friend about the health care debate, and when it was clear that this person was not open to what I was saying, I just "walked away". Not worth my energy to deal with close-minded people who won't even consider that there are "other ways".

  4. I have been struggling for over a day with what to write. Part of me thinks you should fire back over FB, leave no oppressive comment un-commented-upon, but part of me thinks FB is such a shitty place to address these issues that why bother? I'm not sure I have a good answer for you, but good on you for writing about it, and for caring. You might want to consider "un-friending" those "friends", perhaps with a little note as to why. Or we could just poo-bomb their houses. That's always good too.

  5. I still struggle with the whole FB *friend* concept. Maybe it's the fact that people are called "friends," which I think implies some basic sense of common ground- to the degree that you would not naturally do something so offensive to the other person. I believe it is dangerous when you don't have a live person sitting across from you because you are tempted to write things you would never say in real life.

  6. Elizabeth - I totally agree. People seem to think they can say ANYTHING over FB, email, etc. Sometimes the freedom is good -- sometimes not so much . . .

  7. Complete lack of interest in Facebook, here, so that's how I solve that problem - by not participating at all.

    Hey, I heard recently that nearly half of Tennesseans believe Obama is a socialist, and about a third think he wasn't born in this country. It's hicksville. Clearly it is too much to expect rationality, intelligence, or open-mindedness here - and to expect all three is like...well, expecting civility on Facebook?

    Also want to say thanks for your honesty at the end about "people who look like me" who will always struggle w/racism. I'm with you, there. It's hard as an individual to strive against your inherited cultural baggage. Speaking only for myself, I mean.

  8. Here's what I don't understand, with regard to writingreadingandreflections: How is it civil for someone to accuse others of being hicks, irrational, unintelligent, and narrow-minded, but it's not civil for someone to disagree about Obama?