Doom Scrolling the American Revolt of 2020 From Abroad
Experiencing America’s reaction to the recent killings of Black lives at the hands of racist police via my social media feed while living in another country has left me in a fog of emotions.
Both my thumbs are numb. From all the “doom scrolling” on my phone. My eyelids are heavy. They close. My mind opens them back up. Maybe it’s my conscious. I can’t turn away.
I am excited. I am afraid. I am proud. I am ashamed. I am confused. I am hopeful. I am overwhelmed. I slip in and out of each emotion throughout the day and night. Sometimes I feel all of them at the same time.
I see friends and family who have never posted about any social justice post about racism, white supremacy, privilege, police brutality and Black Lives Matter. I tell them I’m glad to see them doing so. I try my best to avoid telling them “About time!” or “Finally!” Even if I am thinking it. We talk through it.
One friend calls it trendy. I agree with that too. It’s a lot to process if they haven’t been on board. If you’re uncomfortable, sit in your pool of discomfort, work on it, figure it out. But leave the performance activism to Madonna’s family.
I also see friends and family who don’t post. Who post their pets and children. Who post ads. Who post statements from their CEOs. RT activism. I see corporations, artists, designers, influencers and celebrities trip over themselves trying to say the perfect thing. I struggle with wanting them to do something and wanting them to take a seat. Many just throw money at it. Which makes some happy. I am more skeptical. I am happy to not be attached to that world anymore and to be able to freely express my feelings without feeling like my source of income will be shut off. But I wonder if it will affect me in the future. I try not to get angry. Especially when it’s people who’ve never posted anything personally before. I text my friends in Brooklyn and they calm me down.
I am in Europe. I see more people on this side of the world post in support. It makes me believe that the efforts and sacrifices of those in the struggle in America are changing the hearts and minds all of the world.
I get into an argument with a dear friend about the significance of such actions from people on this side. We talk talk through it. At the end we express our love and respect for each other. I realise most of us are on edge. We often turn on those closest to us when we feel that way.
Several Asian Americans reach out to me. They are having a hard time expressing their feelings to those closest to them. Some even question if they’ve chosen the right partner. I have no idea if I’m saying the right things to them. I don’t care that the the killer cop’s wife was Asian. I don’t know if it matters.
I thank my Spanish girlfriend for understanding and supporting me about these topics. She tells me, “I will never understand what it feels like for you but if something bothers you and hurts you I will always care because I love you.” It sounds so simple. She thinks as a woman she can relate to feeling oppressed better than most straight white men.
We watch the news after breakfast. Bernice King is speaking on CNN. They show images of the protests as she speaks. My lady and I are standing. I hold her from behind. I can sense her crying. She doesn’t know that I am too. We just hold each other.
I feel pangs of guilt for being here in Spain. Locally we just entered phase 2 (out of 4) of the de-escalation from one of the longest and strictest pandemic lockdowns in the world. It’s something to celebrate. But I don’t feel like celebrating. I wish I was in the streets in America with the protestors. I wish I could meet up with my little cousin who is posting things I never thought she would.
I remember being at Occupy Wall Street. I remember seeing Trayvon’s parents in Union Square. I remember marching with Black Lives Matter. I remember the marching and protests during college.
I want to believe that fire for social justice still burns inside of me at my age.
I listen to Public Enemy, N.W.A., Paris and Gil Scott Heron. I feel like an angry teenager again who believed that we would overthrow the system. I think about how so many of us Asian Americans are descendants of those who fought against injustice, tyranny, oppression and dictatorships in our native lands. I think about how my parents never really talk about how they protested in their college days. Throwing rocks. Running from tear gas.
I think about how our ancestors fought for a better future when we weren’t even in the picture. I think about how so many of them chose to leave or were forced to flee their places of birth, sometimes putting their lives at risk, to a land that represented freedom to them.
I think about how if if they did not fight then, we would not be afforded the luxury to not do so now.
I wonder if we’ve failed them by not continuing their fight in our new lands. They fought because they loved their country. But most of us have been taught to simply be grateful. So how do we love something that constantly reminds us that it does not belong to us and that we don’t belong to it.
To post or not to post? What difference will it make? Perhaps that’s what they want us to feel. Powerless. Ineffective. Posting could make a difference. Not posting never will. Those who never do or did anything have the most to say about those who do or did something.
I want to believe that posting makes a difference. I know they can be effective. I believe if social media existed during the Civil Rights Movement it would have been utilised. I realise history has failed so many of us. I realise the history we have been taught has failed so many of us. I hate that the Civil Rights Movement has been reduced to a few lines of an important speech.
I’m no expert but I know great social movements are complex, with a lot of pieces, leaders and organisations. Different philosophies. Different methodologies. Sometimes disparaging each other. Things are never as romantic and as neat as we like to think they were.
I feel like I’m watching something that I’ve always wanted to happen and now that it’s happening I can’t believe that it is. When I texted my friend in Brooklyn back in March that things would get real bad in America due to the pandemic, I was not expecting this.
I keep scrolling.
I fall asleep to America burning.
I wake up to America burning.
I keep scrolling.
I wake up to text messages, WhatsApps, DMs.
I’m afraid of to open them.
I spend hours on my phone replying to them and forget who I had certain conversations with.
I feel good writing this post. As in I felt good writing it. Then I’m conflicted about posting it. It’s just another post. It’s just words. It’s just another thing for people to read. I’m making this about myself. Also, please don’t send me a list of books or articles to read. You read them.
You can be for peace and still support what’s happening. Change is inconvenient. Those with nothing to lose have the most to say about how those with nothing should do. I’m reminded of who my rich friends are by what they post. But I’ve given up on trying to make people understand. You can only hope that they might come around one day. But it will be on their own time. If they want to engage and are genuinely willing to explore I will join them. But no more converting attempts on my end. Y’all late. Catch up. Until then the social media purging continues.
It is about George Floyd. And it’s more than just George Floyd. It’s a connection. A collection. Built up for years. Decades. Centuries. It’s Native American genocide. It’s slavery. It’s lynchings. It’s Civil Rights. It’s Stone Wal. It’s Occupy Wall St. It’s Me Too. It’s police brutality and killings. It’s church sexual abuses. It’s systemic racism. It’s Ali and Kap. It’s redlining. It’s wealth inequality. It’s hyper gentrification. It’s voter suppression. It’s climate change. It’s corporate greed. It’s student debt. It’s kids in cages. It’s wars in foreign lands. It’s the broken health care system. It’s mass shootings. It’s a pandemic. It’s political corruption. It’s the perversion of the Constitution.
It’s Black Lives Matter.
It’s wanting to mention all the Black lives lost to lynchings from the police and the public and worrying that you may miss a name because the list is so long.
It’s everything that Trump and his supporters stand for.
I have never been more proud to be an American.