This journal is in response to Awesomely Luvvie’s post made on Facebook. The post triggered a wave of backlash as she essentially called online activists and crowd sourcers out as fake, shamed others for not gently leading or otherwise coddling allies in oppressive positions of social power and over all set off a wave of disruption among communities of color. I specifically took offense to the sections calling out those who monetize their online efforts using PayPal links as a tool during online discussions.

Some of us are fighting for freedom, while others don’t want freedom, because if we have it, then they will no longer have anything to make them the center of attention. Those people are the ones who wear oppression like coats they refuse to take off, and the very act of being marginalized is what defines them. It is what gives them purpose. There are some digital activists who tend to profit on the pain of Black and brown people, and they use that as a business model. As in, EVERYTHING is a battle, almost strategically. If they aren’t in the middle of “I just got oppressed” chaos, then they aren’t in their element. When everything is a battle, what war are you trying to win? When you sit in a 24-hour cycle of outrage, it’s easy to become the person who cried “INJUSTICE” wolf. And here’s the thing. We tend to call out white folks who are out of line when it comes to activism and call out culture, but what about our skinfolks who do the most with the least? Folks who are trading on white liberal guilt in the oppression olympics, and surrounding themselves with peanut galleries of people who assign them genius-ship PURELY because they’re loud and Black-identifying. And then they send these people to fight their battles. One of these people even has fake ID numbers for her group, and sends them on eMissions. Or had. She blocked me when I once asked her (on her wall) if she could stop tagging me to every post she writes, since she says she doesn’t like when people force “trauma” down her throat even though everything she wrote was traumatic and she’d tag 50 people to it. 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. Cuz what they do is perpetuate the same cycle they say they’re fighting against. And unfortunately, for us to get free, white folks gotta do this work too. OTHERWISE if it was for US to fix by ourselves, we woulda BEEN done it. It’s not about wanting white gaze, or about begging for white friends or wanting white folks to love us. You ain’t gotta love my black ass, but you can’t say you want justice and MY life is in jeopardy every time I walk down the street. It’s about building bridges that can lead to real progress. What are we fighting for if we want to turn right around and silence folks the way WE’VE been silenced? What is the goal here? And what’s interesting is, a lot of the most CAPS CAPS CAPSing “activists” out here are of mixed race descent. I just wanna tell them that they can chill. You don’t have to make up for the lack of melanin in your skin by always using your outside voice, even in situations that don’t warrant it. Tuck in your overcompensation. It's like they're performing Blackness based on anger, which is insulting. Can we have this conversation? And how can we build bridges in the call out culture, that teaches with grace but also holds people accountable?

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Monetizing my online equity as a black “personality” has not been without its doubts for me. I coin my “status” as a small one. I am not internet famous. I’m a blip on the radar compared to the likes of Awesomely Luvvie, Ijeoma Oluo, Johnetta Elzie, JL Anastasia, Aysha Bee and other black womxn creating conversation, inspiring lifestyles and promoting political activism for various audiences.  I make my jokes and follow along with the conversations of the court, keeping watched eyes on the goings on. I have good connections but let’s not for a moment think I’m in with all the cool kids. Those with the large followings or fan bases, book deals, HBO developments, national and international news covered accomplishments have a leg up on the likes of us. They have platforms far from reach for many of us who are also trying do meaningful work, in whatever capacity we can that is also sustainable for our lifestyles and economic stations.

 

“I saw my time online as wasted, payless and worthy of absolutely nothing. I allowed family and friends to devalue it because I found no value in my link sharing, commenting, and postings.”


In the 15 years I’ve been in these internet streets, I’ve built an ever growing network of support that extends across borderlines and oceans. I’ve done so by presenting my daily life, my children, my ups and my downs and everything else for years online. Initially I saw my time online as wasted, payless and worthy of absolutely nothing. I allowed family and friends to devalue it because I found no value in my link sharing, commenting, and postings. When I first started crowdsourcing, it was for emergency needs  and not as a source of regular income. A backpack and supplies for my doula trainings here…money to go towards our year long search for a reasonably priced home, there. I felt ashamed the entire time doing it. I felt unworthy of asking my support base to support me.


With time and a lot of inspiration and comradely interconnecting, monetizing every part of my online identity has created income revenues that more accurately reflect the worth of my time. The worth of lil ole me. When I write essays or articles, I get paid for that. When I consult small biz owners or shared resources, that’s me putting in work or providing the fruits of my own labor and self teaching. I get paid for that, as I damn well should.


As part of my journey to monetizing my time, I also use PayPal in social media forums across the board. When I have a conversation in a thread and drop an epic knowledge bomb, it’s almost always followed by my PayPal.Me link. Mostly for tips but also as a calling card of sorts for others to reevaluate how they use their platforms. For a long time I’ve stressed that “likes” should mean coin in someone’s bank account besides Zuckerberg &Co. That “hearts” on Instagram should equate to the tangible feeling of love and admiration (and what makes the warm fuzzies appear quicker than cash money??).

 

I went through every account, deciding how each one worked to further spread my “brand” or “personality” to my liking.  I created my long term and completely sustainable campaign on Patreon to give followers easier access to monthly services I’m providing the public in exchange for their monetary support. No longer do I feel that sense of shame when that coin hits my paypal purse. I’m instead motivated to be who they value: Myself in my many forms.

 

“When the big dogs beg for choice cuts in the form of sustainable donation it’s a business savvy marketing decision. When someone poor crowd sources to keep their internet service on? To keep their children in school or their compatible computer software and hardware paid for (so that they can keep doing that nitty gritty work online)…that’s begging for money without doing real work.”


Radical crowdsourcing has some negative stigma online as it is seen as cheap and low brow to “beg” for money on Facebook or Instagram. I shrug off those stigmas and it makes it easier every month when PBS, NPR and other platforms fundraise shamelessly with tactics that work to great success. What I’ve realized is that when the big dogs beg for choice cuts in the form of sustainable donation it’s a business savvy marketing decision. When someone poor crowd sources to keep their internet service on? To keep their children in school or their compatible computer software and hardware paid for (so that they can keep doing that nitty gritty work online)…that’s begging for money without doing real work.


Explaining radial theory, systemic oppression and creating racial equity on the internet is fucking hard and is most definitely REAL WORK. That’s why so many people charge an arm and a leg for speaking engagements and seminars on anti racism and white supremacy. These events are classist and ignore the large number of people who will never attend such functions.  For so many, these online forums are the only access to intellectual debate they will have.

 

To gain some perspective, how many of your closest friends and family attend learning events that discuss the same topics discussed on a weekly basis on Facebook, Twitter etc? When people like Aeysha Bee goes live on FB to educate people on the complexities of sex work while black and femme, do you realize her audience of 100+ doesn’t have the means to pay her $25 or more for that emotionally and intellectually taxing discussion? So when she decides to put her PayPal or square cash or other payment information to be compensated for that labor, should she feel shame for doing so? If you said yes, you aren’t seeing value where you should.

 

“These conversationalists deserve to find value in the security they provide, theories and perspectives they explain to others and the space they rightfully deserve online”

I personally and professionally do not have the spoons to essay people into oblivion on all of the things or create informative video content as I’ve done in the past. What I do take responsibility for is the sharing and spreading of information and amplification other radical perspectives… which takes time and access and a certain level of trust within internet communities. Communities created by people who take on these challenges every single day. They have every right to monetize their involvement in these discussions because they are worthy of monetizing themselves, without the approval of established intellectual pillars. These conversationalists deserve to find value in the security they provide, theories and perspectives they explain to others and the space they rightfully deserve online.


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Adele Thomas is a Phoenix based writer, doula, mother and social media consultant. She is a regular contributor to Roaring Gold and her work can also be seen on Kinfolk Kollective, Racebaitr and other online publications. Her portfolio can be found at Adele The Writer. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram