“The only thing the video is missing is including “When a Hero comes along” by Mirah as the soundtrack every time a white person appears.” //
“we can’t separate the medium from the message – and I can’t ignore this message and just focus on the (admittedly great) storytelling techniques. If we don’t ask critical questions, then who will?”
- contributors to a charity campaigning list
I’ve collated some links to a spread of articles that criticise/question the Kony2012 campaign, both in terms of tactics and messaging… but first, a paragraph from a friend of a friend (Adam Hudson):
That film had no political, cultural, or historical context/analysis at all. No discussion about the role the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, global capitalism, foreign powers carving spheres of influence in Africa, and Western support of African dictators, like Musevini in Uganda or Mobutu in Zaire/Congo play in the current malaise (war, famine, poverty, instability, etc.) the African continent faces. It also portrayed African people as helpless victims in need of white Western saviors (another problem I had with it). Kony is obviously a war criminal but if we’re going to talk seriously about Uganda and Africa, we need context and critical analysis to understand what’s going on and find solutions to these pressing problems.
TheDailyWhat on Kony2012 — a quick overview of the concerns.
We got trouble (Visible Children) — a reasoned critique of the charity Invisible Children and what they are advocating for.
let’s talk about kony — on stories of self, colonialism, and intervention.
Invisible Children responds to criticism about ‘Stop Kony’ campaign — it would be unfair to not include their defence, though I think Invisible Children’s “defences” don’t really hold water.
Catching Joseph Kony — from someone who’s worked with Invisible Children. More supportive of the work they do on the ground, still critical of the methods.
Bad guys, good guys, and the people in between — more of a fleshing out of the “white saviour” message the film promotes.
This whole palava shows limitations with “clicktivism” and social media as a method of social change: items can go viral (especially video) on the back of their power to incense, but there is little rational engagement with the subject matter at hand, with people sharing campaigns that have actively damaging at worst/entirely ineffective at best ends.
The real challenge now is to refocus the discourse onto voices from the ground in Uganda and across the region (CAR and DRC), and to critically assess what the best way of supporting grassroots movements there are. Articles like Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions by Musa Okwonga, or A Peace of my mind: Respect my agency 2012! by @tmsruge, are probably a good place to start.
P.S. if you’re looking for a place to donate, I’ve seen War Child, MSF and “Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe at St. Monica’s in Gulu” mentioned as good and relevant causes in the area that the LRA works (hat-tip Laura Seay).
Great roundup, Sami.
Watching the infamous video for the first time last night, my distaste was not really based on the medium, because I do believe that new media has its place, plays a very important part; though it is very cheesy when one cause or corporation tries to co-opt the phenomenon as its own in a weird post-modern fictionalising kind of way. I think the issue is a genre issue, this was not a documentary, not a political/historical overview like you’d get from Adam Curtis. It’s SO American, it seemed like a recruitment for a weird cult, but this wasn’t really a media problem - definitely a genre problem.
And it didn’t have any political/historical context, I suppose it does assume its audience is ‘dumbed down’/ has no attention span for any real content.
I can’t abide people using this as yet another chance to bash new-media or new technologies or new online cultures because it seems like a matter of genre or content issue rather than something inherent to the medium.
1. you can’t be a model if you’re fat…unless you’re a certain kind of ‘fat’ (i.e. size 10. i.e. not even fat) then you can be a plus-size model.
2. you can’t be a model if you’re too skinny. if you’re too skinny then tyra will tell you to eat an avocado and kick you off the show.
3. there exists a size between ‘normal’ and ‘plus size’. it’s like size-limbo — not skinny enough to be a ‘regular’ model and too skinny to be a ‘plus-size’ model. if you slip into this size during filming, tyra will say you’ve gone ‘pear-shaped’ and kick you off the show.
3. models must be passive. if you’re in pain during a photoshoot, you must push through that pain in order to get a good shot. shivering from the cold water you’re shooting in? push through the pain for the greater good (ie fashion!)
4. models must be assertive. if you’re in pain during a photoshoot, it is your job to know when to stop the shoot and seek medical attention. develop hypothermia from that cold water you were shooting in? your own fault for not knowing when to say when. you shouldn’t have tried to push through the pain.
5. models can’t be shy. shy people have no personality.
6. models can’t be too loud. loud people have too much personality.
7. women of colour must present themselves with a certain level of ‘whiteness’. acting too ‘ethnic’ is not professional.
8. models of colour must not act too white. they are a disgrace to their race.
9. black women are angry and irrational.
10. women of colour are around for my amusement and should not be taken seriously.
11. ‘women of colour’ and ‘ghetto’ are synonyms
12. african-american vernacular is NOT a valid dialect/ethnolect/sociolect and needs to be corrected.
13. violence against women is a form of high fashion.
14. cultural appropriation is okay when you’re trying to sell something.
15. be it hair or teeth or skin. or weight or height or proportion: there is something physically wrong with each of us.
16. women are natural enemies. put them in a room alone together and they will fuckin’ fight. helllllooooooo, drama!
17. i need to find me some better tv to watch.
omg u think America’s next top model is bad, try watching Australia’s next top model. They use the word ‘expensive’ as praise ‘omg darling you look expensive’. As opposed to cheap I suppose. They had one single black girl in the last competition but she went out pretty early following either completely fading into the background or receiving criticisms like her look is ‘too specialist’ or ‘not versatile enough’ because obviously they would only need her if they wanted some tokenistic ethnic model. And there was a girl who was really badly underweight and they said she could only go through if she started eating, she clearly didn’t gain any weight, in fact I think she lost weight and they never mentioned it again because they actually loved those fragile ankles and visible ribs because they look ‘expensive’.
I get it now.
All my life, I grew up being told that “black” names are ghetto and held by people who are likely to be trashy. If you know a girl named Laquisha, Latoya, Shaniqua, or Kelendria, she’s probably the neighborhood hoodrat, and even names like Tyrone and Tyrese are blacklisted in our society (pun intended). Statistically, it’s been proven that resumes and job applications that bear these names are more likely to go unread or end up in the trash can. [Translation: you’re less likely to be hired if you are obviously black.]
But of course, names are alright if they are unquestionably mainstream (read: white) - Benjamin, Elizabeth, William, etc. Names are also fine if they are from a minority culture, as long as they are not identifiably a product of African-American culture; Alejandra, Lucia, Ivanka, Pierre, Elena, Boris, and Armando, are acceptable, exotic, and can even be beautiful. You might get teased on the playground, but your name is less likely to be a stigma or bad luck charm that follows you for the rest of your life.
When I worked at Hollister (not something I’m proud of), one of my white bosses was named Chante. She told me how people were often surprised when they met her, and would say thinks like “you’re not black!” or “what a ghetto name for a little white girl!” Turns out, her name was French. Her family was French. But because Chante has become such a popular name in the black American community, people have started to see it as ghetto. It’s losing its value because it’s associated with blackness.
A few weeks ago, I met a black girl named Shizuki. I immediately thought what an interesting ghetto name. I’m not exempt from prejudice. Such thoughts come to me once in a while, and I have to reprimand myself for upholding racist ideals instilled in me by American society. I asked her what her name meant, and she told me it was Japanese. Turns out, she was born in Japan and grew up there. Imagine how stupid I felt - and rightly so.
And now I suddenly understand why black names are frowned upon. Because things that are black, in this country, are ghetto. “Ghetto” is synonymous with poor, trashy, uncivilized, and ill-mannered. Because black names are ghetto, they are inherently ugly and unattractive, and names likes Tierra and Mo’nique (which I find aesthetically pleasing) will automatically be regarded as ugly. Simply put, the only reason why black names are bad… is because they are held by black people.
Bolding for emphasis mine.
There is nothing more anti-racist than acknowledging ones own prejudice. It is only by recognizing these false ideals that we can begin to see the social structures that bind us. We can’t break through something we refuse to see.
Yes to all of this. I used to think this same way. My dad does it now. And I try to tell him there are NOTHING wrong with those names. The white world has deemed them poor because anything in association with us is filth to them. In reality, what is wrong with those names? Absolutely nothing. We need to check ourselves for what prejudiced we’ve been taught to have against our own people.
Eurgh when people ridicule so-called ‘ghetto’ names or use them as the butt of a joke I could just spit with fucking rage and embarassment.
We have our own version here called Banania (as in … banana), which is a brand of … chocolate. And their slogan is in what french people call “français petit nègre” as in “little n****r french”, which is the way white people imagine we speak when most french speaking Africans speak better french than them. I’ll just let you check the logo.
But you know, it’s not like they’re racist, because no white man is going to yell “y’a bon banania ” in your face when you’re walking in the street with a bunch of other black people.
You know it’s not as bad as those ugly americans.
Ugh, I hate this country.
oh my fucking gawd just googled that.
[She] suggests that practices of yellowfacing and blackfacing (like, redfacing and brownfacing) take modeling jobs away from nonwhite models. This logic assumes that these acts of racial drag are meant to represent an actual racial body. Let me be clear: yellowfacing is not a practice of racial substitution, of a white model in place of an Asian model. Photographers, magazines, and designers know Asian models exist and know how to hire them. But they don’t hire them for these jobs because yellowfacing does not intend for audiences to believe that the body in view is actually Asian.
I’ve become really impatient with responses to racist practices of racial drag that involve comments like: “Why didn’t they just hire a Black/Asian/Latina/Native model?” (Yes, I believe there are anti-racist kinds of racial drag.) This question glosses over the actual operations of yellowfacing, blackfacing, etc. which is not about Asianness or Blackness but about Whiteness. It is about consuming Otherness, it’s about making racial difference commodifiable and palatable through whiteness, it’s about reproducing and securing white privilege. To quote hooks again, “eating the other” – hooks’ term for the consumption of difference – offers:
A new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.
Fall semester’s begun, hence my absence.
I had an interesting conversation today with a (tenured, established, highly respected) colleague who works in postcolonial studies. He made a very compelling point which I fully agree with: the tendency within certain communities, both academic and nonacademic, to employ an “anti-colonialist” (or rather, anti-white, anti-Western) ideology is not only problematic, but also dangerous.
Anti-colonialist discourse does not interrogate or critically examine the problem of colonialism and racism; rather, it constantly establishes the proponent of that discourse in a victimized state that is essentialized. This essentialism casts white as always-oppressing and colonizing, and non-white as always victimized, oppressed, and colonized.
While Fanon famously established the “white man” (or, in this case, white colonizer) as the historical source of transnational racial oppressions in Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, it is important to understand that Fanon was writing during a colonialist period, and also working to gain a voice in opposition and reaction to the act of colonization. Though he constantly invokes “the Negro” and “the white man” in his writing, there is nothing essentialist about the way in which he deploys these categories, which function as racial classes in his work, and are produced and understood through power relations.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about aggressive anti-colonization in particular, is that it performs as extreme nationalism — which is a topic I will have to write on some other time, since that’s entirely another bag of worms.
But anyway, the point of this post is to say that simply reiterating the basis of oppression, or pointing fingers at white colonizers/white populations as the source of all oppression, and practicing an aggressive anti-white/anti-colonial ideology, creates a dangerous essentialist dialectic that does not properly nor critically understand, interrogate, or consider the complicated ways in which race, ethnicity, nationality, etc. are imbricated and how they are produced.
In other words: yes, most of us know that historically, white people caused oppression, and that historicity must be always acknowledged. But to never go beyond, “I’m oppressed by white people” and to invoke the white privilege card at every single turn in discussions of race and colonization is to have extremely unproductive and uncritical discussions that are actually pointless.
I have been meaning to articulate this for a while but you did such a better job of it. I think people who are interested in post-colonalism/de-colonization as a personal project that is removed from more rigorous inquiry (note, not academia, but a more dialectical and hashed out approach) make a lot of mistakes because they do not unpack the habits of essentialism and reductionism. Among Colonized People (tm) there is a tendency towards a very colloquial understanding of the topics at hand.
But the separatist us vs them all acts of racism are equal and blahblahblah attitude really irks me because 1) its baseless 2) its not practical 3) where is being pissed off all the time and telling someone to fix your shit going to leave you?
As an addendum to this, I’d like to suggest that we also interrogate our ideas about de-colonizing because while its important for communities and groups to unpack the impacts of years of imperialism, colonialism, and overall degradation, to suggest a ‘natural’ course of history disrupted by these processes is false, as is any sense of returning to a pre-colonial era. It frustrates me endlessly- even with certain indigenous groups- that people think we can go back to where things left off.