Monday, July 5, 2021

Consuming Black Women


I gave myself a gift a few months ago.

It was accidental, honestly.

I had to change my Facebook password. When I did it, realized I had to change it on all my devices. The problem, turned moment, was that I forgot what it was.

So I did a thing.

I deleted it off my iPhone.

Then I sat in stunned silence. After all, I manage communications for my job and as a social and racial justice minister, I often engage on social media. It was part life and part work, but I let it go.

The silence.

It was so welcome, I deleted Twitter off my phone also.

Only Instagram remained and primarily for the original use I added it - posting about the literary circle.

What happened afterwards was a bit interesting.

I began to evaluate how much of my life is consumed. Content. Created. Consumed.

No, I do not live a "fake" life to be an influencer, my life is very much real, but how much of it I was sharing began to intrigue me.

Long gone were the anticipated rip open of the photo envelope from the local photo shop, the film dutifully dropped off several rolls at a time. Even the digital camera of almost two decades ago and the still anticipated wait for the images to come back, began to fade into memory. The smart phone meant almost instant everything. 

I could tap, capture, and share before I had a chance to really consider the story.

I used to scrapbook, loved laying out the pages, today, that is "planner" with folks using stickers to create the same thing for their day-to-day. It hadn't bothered me until my younger daughter mentioned we don't do it as much. So much is already shared.

So when I deleted facebook and took some steps back from always knowing what was going on, I pondered how much of our lives is actually fodder for others.

Perhaps it was that and the recent news of Olympic qualified sprinter, Sha'Carri. Before we could really celebrate, we knew all the details of her barely-twentyone-life. From being told by a reporter that her birth mother passed away to her stress-relief-inhale to the Olympics scratching her name off the roster, we, the public had consumed her life.

Then there was Allison Felix making a boss move after a few years ago Nike gave her the no-go when she became pregnant. Instead of letting them win, she designed her own athletic shoe.

All around us, Black women's lives are the stuff the Internet lives for.

The trend setters, cultural icons, the creators of content from TikTok moves that the local BeckySallyAmy appropriated and got millions from, glad they went on strike, to the artists, musicians, and writers who shared their thoughts.

We saw what happened with the whole debacle of UNC denying tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, that is now a thing because of public pressure to every white person in America suddenly discovering the legal concept of Critical Race Theory and deciding they didn't want little Jane and Johnny learning it. Everything a Black woman did was evaluated in the public.

Even Monique and Wendy Williams thought their unsolicited opinions mattered about the lives of other black woman, thank Tabitha for showing the grace of us in putting Wendy back in her irrelevance. But everyone was consuming us, from movement folks to ministry folks, there wasn't an area of my Black woman life or career that wasn't also a part of someone else's thinking.

Maybe not intentionally, but so much is.

Even as a writer, we want to be read, we want to share our words with others, so we open ourselves us, we want you to engage with us, but how much?

What do we lose when we are sitting here behind a screen more than being present in our lives?

I kept pondering how much was being consumed, how much content was being created and all the advertisers and marketers who were launching entire campaigns off our being-ness.

So I did a thing, I deleted Facebook from my phone and in so doing, took back a bit of my mind space. Even logged out on my laptop and just let the "notifications" pile up into the double and triple digits. I didn't want to be followed or read or even have some remote person from high school try to find me.

Being present has given me back a moment to consider the role it all plays in our lives. Have we become less critically thinking and more easily swayed by what we see? Has that always been it, commercials began on the radio enticing us to want more than we have, has the smart phone and social media made that easier? I have been thinking about all of it.

And for a while, work or not, decided that parts of my existence didn't need to be liked.

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