Last night I participated in a good, old fashioned Internet era call out. Basically, what happened was someone threw a party that was billed as a benefit for Black Lives Matters, and it recently came to light that the promoter pocketed her portion of the door rather than donating it. This is particularly scandalous, on one level because seeing as this was billed as the benefit, it seems that the performers at the event were not paid (although, this is waiting confirmation). The scandalousness of this event is compounded by the fact that the party promoter admitted on Facebook that she took $500 to pay her rent. Multiple receipts have been posted, this person has been outted for other social crimes (mainly against people of color and in the queer community for things like outing people’s STD status and racial slurs), and all of this has set off a boycott and a call for her to be banned from Oakland.
Wow, what a rush. What started out as an Internet post quickly snowballed into multiple posts and reposting with hundreds of comments. Apparently, she had a reputation that no one was willing to comment on previously. And now this woman has enemies in the Black Lives Matter community, the queer community, among party promoters and venues, and average people like me – not an enviable list of people to have gunning for you.
I must admit it’s frightening to see this kind of take down happen; some people are afraid to participate because of the thought that “this could be me. Other people are afraid to speak to the mob mentality that comes with the newly blossoming call out culture. And while some people expressed qualms about calling out a queer woman of color, the fact of the matter is that we need to hold ourselves to higher standards. Slapping “Black Lives Matter Benefit” on a flyer in order to get people out, to book high quality acts for free, and to then keep the money to pay yourself is dishonest, amoral, and we can do better than that. We deserve better than that.
Of course people are angry about this, and in a way that is not characteristic of the attack of oppressive social structures. To see someone who claimed to be one of us turn around and exploit our struggle for personal gain is reminiscent of the historical trauma that POC and queer communities have suffered at the hands of the white patriarchy for centuries. Yes, this person doesn’t fit the typical description of a white male, but the behavior is typical of the oppressor. Of course we are angry; the systemic social injustices we battle every day are monoliths of oppression, and the amount of frustration we experience when it happens on a personal level, on such a petty level, by one person who claimed ally status but instead benefited off of claiming to support us – it triggers the wrath that we carry with us every where we go.
We need justice, and we need to check our community and ourselves because this kind of exploitation is not acceptable; that’s what the entire Black Lives Matters movement is about. She is a non black woman taking money from a benefit for Black Lives Matters. Watching people come together to support each other and ultimately our own community in holding ourselves to higher standards is in many ways heartwarming. This witch hunt isn’t about scaring people, it’s about sending a message that we don’t do that kind of thing here. We are better than that. And for the people who do the right thing and throw great shows: we support you, too. Because, really, in a city like Oakland, all we have is each other. This isn’t about infighting or scare tactics or the sport of social assassination; it’s about our community, coming together to make things right.