Did "we" make a friend or an enemy here? Is this young woman a "white ally" who has now been lost to "the cause?" And should it matter either way for how we frame our particular version(s) of truth-telling?
The public sphere should be dynamic. It should be a space where individuals talk about difficult political matters, argue, dialogue, and exchange ideas. While the traditional public sphere faced practical limitations of space and geography, the Internet has created a parallel public space that is not limited in such ways.
Cyberspace does have limits. I am a fan of the in-person exchange, the world of street theater, seedy video game parlors and bowling alleys, newspapers that one could touch and feel, and a model of citizenship where exchanges in the "real world" constitute a set of experiences quite distinct from those in the "virtual world."
Yes, social media and online forums can work in conjunction with traditional approaches to voter mobilization, social movement activity, activism, and social change work. But, there is real risk involved in talking to an ideological foe face to face, as opposed to typing on a computer screen, playing the Internet tough guy, troll, pundit, or one whose "activism" consists of clicking "like" on a Facebook screen or circulating an online petition.
The risks dramatically escalate when holding an unpopular or "political" opinion means confronting real Power in the form of State authority.
I have some immediate thoughts and questions.
First, why is this young woman crying?
As an Other in American society, I have never fully understood the defensive tears of those who are racially privileged. Society is oriented around validating, sustaining, reinforcing, legitimating, and protecting your worldview and cognitive map. One would think that this would make a person relatively immune from the emotionally forceful verbal blows of those who have little to no political or economic power in American society.
A commenter observed the following about the power of white women's tears in this video:
When a person (in this case this white woman) realizes that everything they hold dear (white women being positioned to be the most beautiful and sought after women on the planet) is proven to be untrue and the exact opposite of truth..her truth that she has been raised to believe is untrue....well..that would make anyone want to cry.Is it that simple? Is this young white woman crying because she has been forced to realize that there are some folks, enlightened and cognitively liberated people of color in particular, who do not a priori value her skin color, are not beholden to a worldview that privileges Whiteness, or who are willing to reverse the gaze, identifying the ugly flaws of Whiteness as a social and political category predicated on racism and exploitation?
Bobby Hemmitt's performance in this video is similar to one I posted several years ago where a member of the Black Israelites' verbal darts brought a young white woman to tears. The latter deserved her lambasting by the Black Israelites because of her impudence and overall demeanor.
In the two videos a young white woman receives some real talk about white supremacy and race from a black cultural activist/intellectual/street prophet and then proceeds to cry.
When I was 18, I would have thought these two videos were great and amazing demonstrations of standing up to "The Man."
Now, in my thirties and with a bit more life experience and professional training, I find such interactions interesting, but not all that compelling. It is one thing to confront a young white women who is drunk on liberal dreams of post racial America and her United Colors of Benetton view of reality. It is quite a different matter to confront foes who are far more intellectually lethal and dextrous.
Both are distinct from a right and proper interaction with a young white woman who is sincerely interested in confronting white supremacy and white privilege.
Low hanging fruit is easy to pick; what about reaching your hand into the tree stump where the wood beast awaits as a real test of one's grit and metal?
In all, I cannot readily identify the source of my discomfort with Bobby Hemmit's tutelage of the young woman in the above video. Perhaps, you can help me sort it out?