Monday, October 23, 2017

Too Sensitive Or Potentially Sensitive: Racist Threats OK With Twitter, Facebook But Discussing Racism Is Not

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has a voice that white supremacists despise, but her role as a public official makes it difficult to silence her. So, they insult her instead.
A favorite local blogger, Shay Stewart-Bouley, who publishes Black Girl in Maine Media, posted about being blocked on Twitter for discussing the racism she and her family live with 365 days a year.

Stewart-Bouley wrote in "Real talk is sensitive, or How the truth is silenced" that her tweets have been blocked as "potentially sensitive" (whatever the hell potentially means in this context-- thought crimes anyone?). If you read her at all you know that she is in the habit of using well-considered words and refraining from invective.

Not implying that she should do so, but that is her choice of style in public communications.

So Twitter is really bending over backwards to silence an eloquent black woman while elevating the voice of vile, inflammatory, openly racist and violent tweeters.

Can you think of any vile tweeters that may spring to mind? 

A similar block on social media happened last week when I tried to comment on Penobscot Not Your Mascot organizer Maulian Dana's post on Facebook and fb flagged it as "too sensitive." WTF?

Here's what I wrote: I have heard versions of this powerful truth so many times in connection with the racist mascot used by Skowhegan Area High School: "I had to explain to my 8 year old why they were making fun of us..."

Here's Maulian's post that sparked my comment:
I am sharing in its entirety the eloquent and impactful letter that Amelia Tuplin shared with the Wells School Department after seeing her race mocked and degraded through Indian mascot usage. Her words are powerful and I am thankful for her speaking out. This is far from over and hopefully we can continue this dialogue that has gone on for many years now and finally free our state of these acts and make it a better place for people of all races and backgrounds. Woliwoni, Amelia.
My name is Amelia Tuplin.
On behalf of my entire family, I'm writing to express my outrage over the display of racism, ignorance and mockery that took place at the Wells high School football game on Friday, October 13th, 2017. Your team, students and spectators mocked our families heritage including my son, Quarterback Lucas Francis, by painting their faces, banging on fake drums that included 5 gallon buckets, singing mock chants, performing mock dances, and continuously making hand over mouth sounds. It was the most ultimate display of racism on the largest scale I’ve ever seen. A quick search on social media will bring up hundreds of photos to prove my case.
Before I get into detail, I'd like to first share some background information about myself and my family to help you understand my anger and disgust.
I'm a Mother, a wife,a school bus driver, a sports mom, football booster, volunteer & Native Artisan. I'm also a full blooded Mi’kmaq (MicMac) women from Lisbon Maine. We’ve lived in Lisbon for 13 years. I’m proud to be a part of a community that has accepted my family's culture and a school system that respects and embraces my children for who they and their heritage.
I'm originally from the Abegweit First Nation Reservation. My husband Jeffrey Tuplin Sr. has roots on the Lennox Island First Nation Reservation. My children are also full blood Mi'kmaq. We have family roots in the Elsipogtog First Nation Reservation, Piktu’K (Pictou) Landing First Nation Reservation and the Blood Reserve.
Our family is proud to be Mi'kmaq & Blackfoot, it's part of our daily lives, it's who we are, it runs thick in blood. Our immediate families have a long line of prominent Chiefs, Tribal Council Members, Medicine Men & Women, Traditional Elders, Jingle Dress Dancers, Drum Keepers, Pipe Carriers, Sundancers, Sweat Lodge Keepers, basket makers, quillwork artists, Aboriginal Authors, Aboriginal Lawyers, Aboriginal Nurses, Retired Native Military Members, Native B.ED Educators and Principles. We are proud of our heritage and it shines through in our work and ethics. I represent my entire family when I say we are offended and outraged.
We take pride in persevering our language, our sacred teachings, traditional medicines, sacred face painting ceremony, ceremonial regalia, sacred drums & honors songs. These things have been passed down for many generations and are sacred and precious to preserving our culture.
Unfortunately on Friday night, October 13th, 2017, my family witnessed first hand a racially insensitive display of racism and mockery of our culture on a large scale at the Wells High School Football Game.
Prior to the game, I was well aware of your Warriors Mascot and logo, which I did not find offensive, at the time. When tastefully used, with an appropriate display of homage used, Tribal Mascots would make one feel proud, proud to be Native, proud to be a Warrior.
This is not the case for Wells High School. You made a mockery of my culture.
Your chants, fake drums, war paint, dance and hand over mouth sounds were embarrassing to watch and hurtful.

This behavior is culturally insensitive, distasteful, and downright racist. To say the least I was ashamed and disappointed in your school for allowing and encouraging this type of racial mockery by your staff, students, fans, players & coaches.
Do you realize that you as a school, as educators, by encouraging this, are sending your students out into the world with a false idea of how Native Americans behave. Not once in my entire life have I seen any person in my family, from my community, at a Powwow or a ceremony behave the way you betray Natives. It was was belittling and racist.
Here are just some of the things I witnessed first hand.
Spectators including students holding fake drums and five gallon buckets, pounding and drumming on them singing offensive chants.
Face paint, distastefully done.
Hand over mouth sounds.
Players doing a mock native dance and chant.
This was not an isolated incident or a small group of people, this was on a large scale that continued throughout the entire game.
After the game I witnessed a celebratory Native mock dance and mock chant by the Wells football team.
I escorted my son from the field to the School only to be taunted by people making hand over mouth sounds.
I have been informed that this type of behavior is normal by the Wells Warriors high school team and fans and is considered part of their theme and mascot.
My family suffers from the direct effects of abuse and oppression from the Indian residential school era. With that being said, I'm shocked to be on the receiving end of racial mockery at this magnitude especially from a school in modern 2017.
My goal is to bring this to light, to as many people as possible. Your mascot is offensive, simply because of the way you represent it. I'm asking your mockery to stop immediately. Educate yourself on our culture, be classy and show some respect. Paint a true picture of our culture. Fill your students minds and hearts with the truth, stop encouraging false depictions of how natives behave and celebrate, it comes off as hateful and racist. You're promoting a false image of Natives. This is what your graduates are taking with them into an already world full of hate.
I refuse to subject my children to this type of behavior again, it needs to stop. Wells you created a hostile, hate filled racist environment for my family. What should have been a full filled night of football, a celebration of our young athletes, instead turned into a night of shame and embarrassment. I spent my night reassuring others I was ok, but not ok with what was happening. I had to explain to my 8 year old why they were making fun of us and his older brother on the football field.
Ultimately this behavior needs to stop immediately, and your Mascot should go up for immediate review and removal. I recommend Wells School Dept. have proper Native American cultural awareness training. I have brought this to the attention of the Commissioner of the Dept of Education, Maine Principal Association, Lisbon Town Council, Lisbon & Wells Superintendents of Schools, Lisbon & Wells Athletic Directors, Several Tribal Chiefs, State Senator Mason & the Media. I can only hope this brings to light an investigation and you are held accountable.
I'm requesting a public apology.
Amelia Tuplin
Lisbon Maine
Talk about potentially sensitive!

One of the links shared by Stewart-Bouley, "Activists of color lose battles against Facebook's moderator army" recounts an experiment by psychologist Mary Canty Merrill. Similar to experiments sending out résumés with "white sounding" names vs. "black sounding names," Merrill asked white friends to repost verbatim the words she had written that resulted in not only blocking but having her account suspended. Can you guess what happened?

Here are Merrill's truths that must issue only from white facebook accounts, apparently, but not from the account of a person who is most knowledgable and affected by them:
“Dear White People: The terminology we use to define a problem determines how we attempt to solve it.
“You are so accustomed to defining racism as people of color being the problem that you want to fix us, patronize us, save us and heal us. You rarely perceive yourselves as the problem (which is where its root lies). Thus, your interventions are most often ill-informed, misdirected and yield no meaningful or sustainable results.”
Talk about inflammatory! One can only imagine what would have happened if Merrill had used ugly racist epithets, threatened her white readers with violence, disparaged their ancestors, or accused them of being money-grubbing "empty barrels."

Ijeoma Olulo reported last year that she was blocked by Facebook for posting screenshots of the harrassing, violent, threatening messages sent to her -- messages that Facebook refused to block at their source.

Facebook's management was sent a letter last week from two congressmen detailing concerns about publishing advertising from white supremacists that qualifies as hate speech, and asking for answers. 

Like Frederica Wilson, Keith Ellison and John Conyers will be harder to silence than activists like Black Lives Matter organizer Didi Delgado. ProPublica reported in "Facebook's secret censorship rules protect white men from hate" that

Delgado had her account suspended when Facebook removed her post: “All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed."

Talk about a sensitive truth! White people, let's get to work and use our white privilege to shout it from the digital rooftops.

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