Staying in Your Lane Will Probably Get Us There Faster: On Luvvie Ajayi & Like-Minded Activism
Disclaimer: If you’ve come here for a “dragging” session, this isn’t that. Sorry.
This past weekend, Luvvie Ajayi, acclaimed author and blogger, wrote a Facebook post that was the equivalent of lighting a paper ball and throwing it in a river of gasoline. A lot of people have very polarizing thoughts about her comments and it doesn’t seem like the argum — uhh — conversation will end any time soon.
For reference, here is the post in its entirety:
While I have two issues with this post, one of them — the apparent shadiness of alluding to (and then namedropping) the people she was mainly referring — is not worth too much discussion, unless it’s between Luvvie and the people she has a problem with. I’m not a fan of airing out personal grievances in public and I hope Luvvie can talk with those people to come to a resolution that suites all parties involved.
My other issue is what Luvvie’s post implies and what it invited others to say/do. This part in particular:
I’m talking about the ones who will literally ask for “reparations” via PayPal when a white person asks them a question (that shit is weird AF). The folks who give ZERO grace to folks who are actually trying to understand this fucked up web of oppression they benefit from (not to be confused with the white folks who just wanna cry whiny tears of victimhood). The ones who are quick to yell “I’ve been harmed” when they publicly harm people they know in REAL LIFE every week (you got my phone number, B. You don’t have to start a hashtag against me). The people who tell allies who actually want to help dismantle the system that they need to shut up PURELY because they’re white and their voices are automatically trashed. And they do shut up, and clam up, and stay home, because they’ve been told that the fight is not theirs.
These fauxtivists are a problem.
What Luvvie did here, especially when she used the word “fauxtivists,” was imply that there was a right and a wrong way for Black folks’ activism to operate and I just don’t believe that’s true. Unfortunately, she’s not the first Black person I’ve seen or heard say this.
Humor me for a second. You know the saying “stay in your lane”? It’s often used to tell people to mind their business, but I want to use it for the sake of this analogy:
Let’s say Black people are driving on the highway towards Racial Equity and Justice. There’s some folks not even on the highway yet; perhaps they’re stuck in traffic in Hotepville or AntiBlackness City. For those of us that are on the highway, there’s a slow lane, a middle lane, a fast lane, and a carpool lane. Right now, I have no clue what the slow/middle/fast lanes might represent, but let’s say the carpool lane is for Black people who want to bring white folks along.
Will traffic go faster if folks switched lanes every now and then, or if folks drove in the lane that was appropriate for them? If you’ve ever driven on a highway, then you know that the latter is the best way to ensure traffic moves along accordingly so that everyone reaches their destination. If people are driving fast in the slow or middle lanes, they’ll likely cause an accident or have to constantly change lanes to maintain their speed. If someone is driving slowly in the fast lane, they’ll likely cause an accident or unnecessarily slow down traffic.
I mean, do you see where I’m going with this?
Everybody’s activism does not have to be carried out the exact same way at the exact same time. The only requirement is that it helps Black people accomplish our goal of being free from white supremacy. And if it does that, why would we ask that person to conform to some standard method of activism? (A standard I’ve yet to receive a memo on.) Who are we to say who that person should or should not involve in their activism?
So to Luvvie, I say: stay in your lane.
I don’t mean that in the pejorative connotation of “mind your business” but I’m saying to continue using your strengths as the driving force behind your activism and let others use their strengths as they see fit for their activism. If someone’s methods don’t appeal to your sensibilities, the first question you should ask is if what they’re doing will help Black folks get to racial equity. And you should ask this of yourself and of others who know more than you and will tell you the truth. That’s the only way you can make an informed opinion about someone else’s methods.
Even then, giving folks space to shit on the people you don’t agree with is not cool. Not for someone as brilliant as I believe Luvvie is. The comments under her post were as disheartening as the post itself. Filled with Black folks shaming other Black folks, and white folks writing self-congratulatory statements about dealing with “difficult” Black activists. There were times Luvvie even engaged with this. Which, honestly, was just disappointing.
I do believe Luvvie missed the mark on this but we ALL have blind spots. Everybody is still learning and growing; I would like to give Luvvie space to do just that. I really hope she has conversations about not just what she said but how it made others (especially Black women) feel.
P.S. We need to have a separate conversation about clamoring for white folks’ involvement in everything that we do. I wrote a piece about not having to prove to them that we’re human. Can we talk about not having to include them in everything?