Here’s a fact about misinformation, fake facts, and biased messaging: many of us have been dealing with folks talking in “absolute” truths, expecting they will be believed with no question or rebuttal, for generations. It’s dominant class status maintenance. Or better known as putting Black (and other oppressed) people in our place. The assumed right to define reality for others is a line that has been etched in concrete long ago.
To not abide by this ordering of society invites backlash and aggression. Or worse. If you’re a Star Wars fan it’s the equivalent of living with millions of folks acting like they’re Obi-Wan Kenobi spewing assertions, retorts, and directions with a resolute belief that “the force” is with them. Whatever they say is truth, without question.
The Power of Messages
The power of defining others is described by Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folks, and characterized for Black people as living beneath “the veil” — the veil being a belief that maybe they (white people) are right. Maybe they are superior. Maybe we are less than they. That is a burden that haunts Black people. Doubt and insecurity becoming vulnerabilities within already needed armor.
About ten years ago, I visited the Museo Nacional de Colombia in Bogota. A really great place to learn some of the country’s history. One exhibit, drawings depicting Spanish conquistadors bearing gifts in full regalia greeting tribal royalty, took me by surprise. Underneath the images, they told of how the Spaniards thought they’d be greeting animal-like creatures with tails and limited intellect. I was impressed by the exhibition’s candor.
Standing there, my mind flashed back to my college days. My freshman year! A white girl I was dating (I think it’s called smashing now) said her father warned her that Black people had tails. “See one?” I said, showing her my behind. She smiled coyly, saying “I looked for it the first time!” Not much has changed, I thought. Smiling!
Challenging Social Transactions
Using social transactions to codify a dominant culture hierarchy has had, especially for people whose hues are predominantly brown and black, a deleterious affect on U.S. society as a whole. The injuries caused by words strewn into conversations like monuments to white supremacy, reinforcing rights and privileges believed to be meted out by some divine force, have led to mental health problems, violence, and death.
Too many of us know that in the court of public opinion “group think” too often prevails. Many who are guilty have gone free while those innocent have been vilified because of false proclamation. The National Museum for Peace and Justice’s Lynching Memorial stands as just one documentary.
Group think in social transactions has power. Let us not take messaging lightly. Millions, if not billions, of dollars are raised; opinions formed and policies enforced; peoples’ lives made and destroyed. The strategies used to sustain dominance are pervasive, and transparent. Perhaps, because once concretized in a culture’s lexicon they’re so difficult to overcome. Here’s my take:
The Power Play
There’s little hesitance by many to put forth assertions illustrating what Isaac Asimov calls “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” The veracity and worth of their discourse found in use of the “royal we” — people who talk as if they have the power to speak for all. Like, “We know that Jesus was white.” The “royal they” balances the rightness of their arguments. It refers to “others” as if they are one, especially when the “one” is the “evil others.” “They’re all gangbangers, murderers, and rapists” is an example.
The Talking Point Play
This strategy is a marketer’s dream. The same messages coming from different mouths. The left this! The right that! Woke, anti-woke! Dems this! Repubs that! Blah, blah, blah! And you know what almost always comes next. Repetitions of well-used phrases as if they are original thought. Like, “the Left’s Woke agenda.” Problem-solving blockers they are, really! Which often is the goal.
The History Starts with Me Play
This one is probably my favorite. It ranges from, “What’s that got to do with how people are living now?” to refuting connections by saying history only matters when I say it does. Words like, “None of us currently living now is responsible for slavery.” Their impact only being problematic when what happened affects them. Worse, the denial of others’ experiences becomes a prelude to validating dominant culture rights. For example, the regard for so called “illegal immigrants” justifies how we’ve always dealt with their countries. Which sadly has led to people needing to flee.
Where’s the Proof?
Sometimes, I confess, reading and hearing the dominant culture’s words, the belief in their own rightness, or so they pretend, makes me laugh. The absoluteness of expectation that they are to be listened to, believed without question, no matter what they’re saying, is ludicrously maniacal. That the answers are theirs. And theirs alone. “I know how this works.” Or “I know how they are. Trust me!”
Amazingly, people get upset when asked to give citations supporting their assertions. I still smile at the firestorm I once created on Twitter asking for citation. Yet, countering unsubstantiated viewpoints presented as fact is, to me, like sending affirmations into the universe. As much karmic, as it is about refuting misinformation, fake news, and countering biased opinion.
For me, demanding validity, is to counter the win-lose, zero-sum-gain way of being that many have been indoctrinated to believe. Their willingness to echo what feeds their views, proselytizing as fact that which they know is untrue, should meet energy that does not willingly yield to untruths standing solely in protection of supremacy. That’s what’s in my heart as I hit reply. And by doing so, the universe will bend towards valuing us all. Equally!
“You teach people how to treat you.”
— Oprah Winfrey
Now I will confess, I’m a bit of a contrarian. Or so I’ve been called by at least one boss. Hard headed, as my mom used to say. Those who assume a social or pecking order that they believe I’ll buy into, without a reason that makes sense to me, are in for an awakening. A stance for which I’ve more than once paid a price. Yet, still, I do not hide behind fake names, profile pic memes, and multiple social media accounts. The words of Marley are my standard: “Get up, Stand Up . . .”
Perhaps you’ll join me in challenging the privilege of the dominant class to spew bias, to assert fake facts and misinformed narratives. When you hear it! When you read it! That you will call it out. Don’t let it pass. Refute it! Challenge it! Not with emotion, with facts! With passionate conviction. Let’s all give them the “Colonizers Smackdown.” Humanity will be better for our courage.