Monday, December 8, 2014

Ferguson and Garner: how should we fight back?

by Melissa Scott

In light of recent issues surrounding Michael Brown and Eric Garner, many celebrities chose to speak out, especially via social media. Kerry Washington, Chris Rock, Diddy, Aaron Paul, George Lopez, Katy Perry, and Jon Stewart all voiced their outrage following the grand jury decisions, and Spike Lee even marched with protesters in Manhattan. These expressions help unify protests regarding social concerns. Azealia Banks made clear her resentment towards those who chose to stay quiet on the social media front.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Banks used Twitter to call out rival Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, for not adding her own opinion on the jury decision publicly. Early Wednesday night, hundreds of people filled the New York City streets, taking part in several demonstrations to protest the grand jury decision. The officer who caused Garner’s death placed him in a chokehold, as the NYPD argued Garner resisted arrest after they attempted to detain him for illegally selling and distributing cigarettes.

This decision came barely a week after a similar questionable ruling over a white police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson. The case and ruling ignited racially-charged protests, inflated tensions nationwide, and raised issues about racial discrimination and brutality in the police force today.

After tweeting out #EricGarner, Banks argued for a change, partly blaming the media: “The Media reminds me everyday that I am black, and the media reminds everyday that things happen because I am black.” She then accused Azalea of not speaking out on behalf of these issues: “its funny to see  people like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen…Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren't huh?” Banks claimed Azalea strove to reap the rewards of black culture as rapper, but without sharing the burden. She continued tweeting reproaches at Azalea, “If you’re down to ride with us, you gotta ride all the way,” and quoting Paul Mooney’s “everybody wanna be black, but nobody wanna be black.”
Azalea responded quickly, chiding Banks’ social media attack. She coolly replied, “there’s more to sparking a change than trolling on social media. World issues shouldn’t be used as a poor excuse to promote fan battles.”

She accused Banks of stirring up trouble for the sake of greater publicity: “The issue here is America’s racist justice system and police force,” she stated. “I don’t have anything to do with that, my tweet is in regards to somebody trying to use my name and the actual problem to promote themselves via twitter beef…Make sure you do something to let your government know how you feel when something is unjust, not just your followers on twitter.” Instead, Azalea encouraged protest through other ways, such as donating to causes that help local communities or petitioning for change.

“Make sure you sign petitions, hit the streets and protest, or donate to groups helping to support and rebuild the community too,” she tweeted again, posting a link. Azalea ended the twitter clash by rebuking Banks’ reason for the instigation: “Also try not to judge another’s support or “lack there of” solely on if they have ranted on twitter about it, that’s not right or helpful.”

Banks has a right to be upset regarding the Ferguson and Garner issues. Supporting protest and opposition to these grand jury decisions is a way to affect change. But attacking Azalea simply because she didn't tweet out her views immediately doesn't seem like a way to help reconstruct these societal injustices. Seeing celebrity support via social media is comforting, and it sparks confidence and determination for others to join the cause. But it doesn't have to be the only way to show difference of opinion, and those who choose to protest in others ways certainly shouldn't be accused of not participating at all.

Azalea has a point: active involvement through petitions, donations, and protests are just as effective as verbally disputing the decisions. Her silence on social media doesn’t prove her hesitation to support these issues, and I don’t think she should be judged as such. 
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