The onset of trendivism: Are you pseudo-woke?
July 25, 2016 at 10:30 am
I was raised by parents that were for real woke. My mother fought back against systemic hate for our people by becoming one of the foremost medical professionals in our community and sharing her knowledge with those who were receiving poor care or no care. My dad often used his food as a catalyst to start conversations about issues the community was facing. A meal from him came with a side of straight talk in a safe space. Trendivism was not a thing when they were becoming who they are. You could not be lukewarm about your freedom. Either you were with us or you weren’t. Straight like that. They might not have looked like a black power couple, but they were one. They raised my sisters and I with an honest sort of consciousness I often find lacking others in my adult life.
I was so excited when I learned that sales for relaxers were down and continuing to drop. This wasn’t just a sign of a new wave in black hair trends, it was an indication to me that we were accepting ourselves in our natural state more often. I saw it in my personal life as well: My mom stopped pressing her hair and opted for twists or braids, and even my corporate mentor was rocking singles. This outward expression of blackness brought me joy. On social media, my timeline was flooded with folks speaking out against gentrification (and its dominating affect on people of color), police brutality, and negative depictions of us in media. When I thought about it, people I never thought would engage in these conversations were online posting their outrage.
But often, that’s where it ends.
Something truly unjust and tragic happens to our people, it goes viral on social media and then people move on to the next thing. Even positive things that go viral, we tend to rally behind for a few weeks, spouting essays and sonnets about how much it inspired us, only to toss it for the next thing that’s social-media-poppin’. I think this is one of the most counterproductive things to do.
There’s someone out there right now reading this saying, “…but the conversations matter. Conversations lead to awakening.” And I agree with that. I’m just wondering how many times our conversations lead to tangible and consistent action on our part. Trendivism is this thing where everyone says something bad happened, so more people say something bad happened. Then we post articles about the statistics of the bad thing happening, we watch videos where experts tell us about the bad things in this or that state, we listen to personal stories from families about how that bad thing affected them, and then everyone says we should do something, everyone else agrees… and then nothing happens. Why is that? Is it because we can’t think of solutions or we really just don’t want to?
I remember when I first heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. I freaked out because my sister lives in Lansing. We learned about the major intellectual deficits many children from Flint would have to cope with for their entire lives, and the local government’s role (and culpability) in the entire situation. Celebrities came forward and publicly or privately offered their assistance to residents of Flint, and maybe you did too. The issue wasn’t one city in one state who had poisonous water, though. The issue was that a government could knowingly allow residents to have unsafe resources, lightweight try to hide it, and then not be held responsible. We all know that our lives might be in danger when engaging with law enforcement, but now it’s in the water.
That’s the conversation I don’t always see happening.
That’s the action plan that has yet to materialize. What are our national (and more importantly, local) survival tactics for seemingly targeted efforts to wipe us out? Trendivism will have us posting memes where we’re sipping tea over some faux pas at the BET Awards while sipping tea that’s poisonous in real life. These conversations are big and the actions that need to follow them can seem like mountains that are insurmountable.
The thing is, we have to try.
You don’t need to be a celebrity to make an impact. What are you doing in your local community? How are you empowering your block? What child you could you be mentoring to make their lives better (and so they, themselves don’t fall victim to trendivism)? Could you volunteer at a local soup kitchen? What do you know about renter’s rights that you could share with someone who’s being pushed out due to gentrification?
Trendivism says that we should stand up for what’s right online only, because it’ll never be us in real life who needs someone to fight for us. But what happens when we do?
For more personal essays like this, sign up for our daily newsletter!