You might not believe it, but Tumblr has actually made me more aware of some social and political issues. In fact, as a white woman, Tumblr was my biggest educator on cultural appropriation. I saw tons of reblogged photos of white girls in Native American headdresses and the ensuing commentary on how this is offensive and why. Admittedly, I didn’t get it at first (and by default never will be able to fully get it) because honestly, in white upper-middle class suburban America, at least in southwestern Pennsylvania–and I say this from experience both growing up and with peers–people do whatever they want, no matter how it may offend other races. My dad was/is the kind of person that said people denouncing racist words and actions were just “too sensitive.” This is still common. If it wasn’t, those Tumblr posts and this blog post wouldn’t exist.
By the time Lana Del Rey released her “Ride” video, I was pretty up on the issue. I also was pretty skeptical of Lana Del Rey herself. I do still think “Video Games” is a gorgeous song, but her Saturday Night Live performance was a disaster and no other live videos I’ve seen of her have redeemed my opinion of her live shows. Standing there lifelessly and crooning isn’t performing, but I guess that’s what the hipsters want–and on that note, she seems to be a marketing construct. On top of that, there was some complaint of exploitation in her last video, “National Anthem,” from people of color. On top of that, I thought the video was disrespectful to the entire Kennedy family, and using footage of JFK’s assassination in a video just for the sake of doing so because Lana imagines herself as some sort of hipster Jackie was disgusting.
So I watched “Ride.” First of all, it’s mediocre. Sure, the imagery is great, but a lot of it is repeated. Furthermore, at this point, it feels like Lana’s trying to convince us all she’s an artistic savior, a role model for the disturbed and lonely to turn to because, like, she totally is, too. She even says it–she’s fucking crazy! I’m not falling for it. Really, she’s the hipster Lady Gaga–all show, no substance. But I’ll go into this another time.
The second I saw her in that headdress, I knew that if nothing else, Tumblr was going to shit itself, especially since it’s so obviously a prop to look “cool”–there is no function for it. At all. Not that there would be otherwise, but the whole segment screams, “Look at me! I’m Lana Del Rey! Look how badass I am with a headdress and this gun! Im fucking crazy!” Yeah, you’ve got to be either fucking crazy or inattentive to do that, especially when it’s such a big issue right now. Really, I think both the “Ride” and “National Anthem” videos are attempts to stir up controversy for the sake of attention, though hipsters are eating this shit up. I actually saw GIFs of JFK’s assassination show up on Tumblr after that. What the fuck?
I was right. The reaction started small with screencaps of the offending scenes and “WTF” comments. One day, a graphic with one of the screenshots popped up on my dashboard, complete with “LANA DEL REY IS A RACIST” in massive font with a brief explanation of the issue. That explanation included, I believe, criticism of Lana’s response, which was basically writing it off. By comparison, No Doubt some weeks later released a video for “Looking Hot,” which also featured appropriation, and pulled the video completely and issued an apology when they got called out for it.
I reblogged the aforementioned Lana photo, as I had with previous posts on the issue (in the meantime, the video has also been criticized for sexsim). This isn’t anything new for my Tumblr–I often reblog plenty of things dealing with anything from racism to LGBT issues. They’re all important to talk about.
I figured some of my Lana-loving followers wouldn’t be thrilled but maybe would learn something, and maybe they did. I didn’t expect a series of passive-aggressive tweets to come from my cousin’s boyfriend. Paraphrased, they requested factual, cited sources explaining how Lana Del Rey is a racist (of which there are plenty, once you navigate past Google results for actual Lana Del Rey remixes by Das Racist), called anyone who thinks she racist “gullible crusties,” and said he didn’t support “bullying” someone over this non-issue just so someone (presumably me) could promote their “self-image.” That’s all a bit extreme, methinks, and it got even more extreme when just minutes after the tweets went up, I found I no longer had access to his private Twitter account at all–I have been unfollowed and blocked, on both Twitter and Tumblr, as I later found.
Any white person listening to the concerns, complaints, criticisms, etc. of any person of color is not being gullible–it’s trying to learn, be aware, and ultimately take steps to not be a shitty person and instead promote equality. As a general rule, if any person of color takes issue with anything, we need to at the very least shut up and hear them out. We don’t get to say what is and is not offensive or racist. Historically speaking, we’ve been doing that for centuries, we’ve been wrong, and it’s led to some of the shittiest examples of humans being horrible to other humans. Listening and then discussing these issues ourselves doesn’t make us gullible–in fact, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means–it makes us decent human beings.
Criticizing someone for racist actions isn’t bullying. It might be if I was being super mean directly to Lana, or if I was outside her house or following her around screaming at her for being racist, but I’m not. I reblogged approximately to pictures/commentaries pointing this out. Sure, one was a bit forceful, but that’s still not bullying. Again, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.
Now, let’s deal with the unnecessary attack on my character.
I don’t try to promote any sort of self-image. I may not publish every single detail of what I say and do, but I don’t censor myself or even Tweet, blog, etc. selectively to make myself seem better than I really am. I’ve blogged about things that I haven’t been proud of, and sometimes as I’m blogging, I realize how terrible certain things might make me sound. I post them anyway. My goal has always been honesty. My writing experience is mostly in memoir and journalism. Both of those rely on truth. Beyond that, I’ve always hated being lied to. I strive for truth, and I achieve it. I don’t live life one way and blog or Tweet the opposite. Anyone who might claim I do probably doesn’t know me very well.
Most importantly and most telling, this is all coming from someone who has a very warped sense of who I am and what my values are. This is all coming from someone who knew me for about a year and a half and spent most of that time not just holding a grudge against me but neglecting to ever speak with me about it. I’m positive he doesn’t know me at all, and I don’t want him to know me anyway. He’s a negative, toxic person that I decided to cut out of my life, and this incident only solidified that decision. Should I regret removing someone who made passive-aggressive personal attacks on me (after he accused me of and criticized me for being passive aggressive) because I criticized one of his favorite singers, someone who routinely posts racist, ableist, sexist, and classist things all over social media? I shouldn’t, and I don’t.