One of the dumbest things I have ever believed in the world of blogging was that beauty bloggers are shallow. It is not something I am proud to admit, but in the earlier months of taking blogging seriously and not seeing the results I wanted, I recall seeing beauty bloggers who were blogging on things that I, in my self-righteousness, thought was unimportant. In observing the ginormous platform and reach that beauty bloggers had, I wondered why I was not getting the results that I wanted in this space instead of searching what I could personally do better.
Over the past couple years, I’ve learned a thing or two or three about blogging (and I continue to learn more and more; it never ends). And with more years under my belt, I have come across more blogs that hit on the areas of storytelling, culture, society, and life inspiration which made me feel like I “found my people” so to speak. And there are other bloggers who are outside of those niches who have blogs that I have come to enjoy and all of us in the blogosphere work hard to produce content on things that matter to us. We schedule our content and post it, and support each other by sharing each others links along with our own. The blogosphere is loud and booming and we are (proudly) the ones to blame.
But then a societal tragedy strikes. And many in the blogosphere are virtually silent about its happening. So when I saw the VERY experienced blogger and business woman, Luvvie Ajayi, calling out bloggers about this in light of #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches, this was my response:
— Mary (@verilymary) July 1, 2015
And here is why.
The silence is something that I have noticed, especially recently. I felt like many of Luvvie’s tweets were speaking to how I felt in the past few weeks although my original perspective pertained to all bloggers, not just black bloggers and certainly not just black beauty bloggers. I know that there are a number of bloggers with thick skin, resilience, and mental wellness who opt out of speaking on social issues because it makes their brand “look bad.” For them, it is purely a superficial thing, an image thing, and that is my motive in retweeting her tweets without thinking twice. To me, those people were her audience. In the midst of all my retweets of her statements, I only retweeted the ones relating to black bloggers, white bloggers, and her strides in empowering young girls to speak their truths without fear. But upon rereading all of her tweets altogether and not in the fragmented batches I saw in real time on my timeline, I realized that her mention of black beauty bloggers was not just seldom in her rant. In fact, her entire rant was dedicated to black beauty bloggers.
And that makes me wonder if endorsing her message as much as I did was a good idea.
Her argument is that since beauty bloggers have the largest reach in social media as I observed in my early days of blogging, they should take it upon themselves to put up the hashtag #WhoIsKillingBlackChurches, a tweet (or retweet), or a picture on Instagram regarding the recent burning of black churches. Sure, there are many (yes, many) people who have read her tweets and somehow left with the impression that she is asking them to write a blog post on the social issue, thus turning part of their beauty blog into social justice central. And yes, asking for a hashtag, a simple tweet, or one Instagram picture seems like she’s not asking much. But her targeting black beauty bloggers and the assumption that posting the hashtag, a tweet, or a picture are only a little (but meaningful) gestures that start and end there oversimplifies those gestures for the following reasons:
It must also be noted that you may not see their contributions to bettering the community because they are done offline. I don’t know if Luvvie was thinking this but, in general, many of us assume that our field of view on social media is the whole story. I know I have fallen for that idea many times. We need to remember that just because we don’t see the involvement happening online doesn’t mean it’s not happening offline.
Like Luvvie, I believe in standing for something. I believe in black bloggers, not just black beauty bloggers, using these platforms to speak boldly on the issues affecting our community as social media has proven many times to bring change offline. I also believe in allies speaking alongside us and amplifying the voices of those whose lives are marginalized and targeted.
On the other hand, I also believe that “you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep people warm,” that their satisfaction in seeing you post something should never at the expense of your mental health and self-care. And I am of the opinion that one can communicate in such a way that challenges people without chastising them. That uplifting but challenging communication was evident in some of Luvvie’s tweets in her rant but the majority of the ones that were targeted specifically to black beauty bloggers were brutal. If I am honest, I would have been hurt if I was a beauty blogger seeing those tweets. And now that I think about it, I wonder if retweeting any part of her message was a good decision. Given that some of my followers are beauty bloggers, I fear that by having pieces of her rant present in their timeline due to my retweets–even without the awful parts regarding black beauty bloggers–may have given them the impression that I endorse that kind of hurtful language.
My fear of those tweets is not only hurt feelings. My fear is that some Twitter users may go into something they are not prepared for. Guilt trips are never the route to take when tackling social issues, especially when you have no idea what the journey involves. Also, taking action because of guilt reduces the integrity of that action and could easily turn those actions into a performance instead of a mission. In the case of social issues and social justice, they are not stages and we are not actors, neither are we string puppets forced to move at someone else’s command. Not everyone is meant to or able post about social tragedies and that is completely okay. Perhaps that is all the more reason to be general when calling people into action in circumstances like this instead of targeting a very specific niche because of their social media reach. That way, we call to action all who are capable in every niche possible.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hating on Luvvie. At the end of it all, I think it is all about balance. I noticed that there are those who will take up on Luvvie’s challenge who didn’t feel guilt or profound hurt and that is great. I am very supportive of calling people to a challenge that might be uncomfortable. But I am not supportive of minimizing the gravity of certain actions, belittling people, or guilting people into action. As they always say, “Do it with your heart or not at all.”
Here are Luvvie’s tweets if you are interested in reading them: