by Tora Shae
“27 Questions Black People Have for Black People.” The video title seemed intriguing enough and I had a couple of hours to throw down the rabbit hole of addicting BuzzFeed videos. Why not?
I’m no stranger to BuzzFeed’s “ ____ People have Questions for White People” video series. The videos usually allow for semi- hilarious commentary on race relations by poking gentle fun at white quirks, but then ultimately demanding that white people take a closer look at the power dynamics at hand. They’re good videos. I figured this new video would be like the other ones but just with more black people. Maybe it would even be an all black spoof. I expected the best when I clicked the video for a few laughs and maybe a few more get real moments.
“Why is it so hard to be on time? Why does 5 to 10 always become 20 to 30? If my dab is on fleek am I lit?” 24 seconds and a few questions in, I paused and stared at the screen wondering what kind of nonsense I’d gotten myself into.
The first two black on black video questions were based on a very tired ‘Colored People Time’ stereotype and the third on a mockery of African American Vernacular English. This is BuzzFeed, so I’m sure they know that’s not how to use ‘on fleek’ and that only situations or places should be referred to as ‘lit’. “This can’t be serious,” I thought, “They have to be joking.” I was apprehensive, but I clicked to keep playing the video, hopeful that it couldn’t possibly get worse.
Question 28: Guess how wrong I was?
I watched on, horrified as they blurted out half-truths and harmful stereotypes proven wrong by statistics. Here was a barrage of questions implying that black children are fatherless, that we don’t support our own businesses, that we are to blame for our economic failures, and that black people are more interested in dancing than entrepreneurship.
Question 29: Seriously, who wrote these questions?
As I hate watched the video for the second time, I realized why these questions elicited such a palpably disgusted response from me: I am used to hearing them come from white people. It was simultaneously puzzling and disheartening to hear questions like these come from our own people. It’s impossible to watch this video and keep from wondering if it should have really been titled “27 Questions White People Are Too Afraid To Ask Black People For Themselves”.
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The difference between this video and the other ones is an issue of power dynamics. This video is the only one of theirs I could find where a marginalized group is put on display to ask each other ‘questionable’ questions. I gave this revelation all the side eyes and was unsurprised that black people were chosen as the guinea pigs for this experiment.
All of these questions were easily answerable by a simple Google scholar search on white supremacy or a quick click on a hashtag filled with thoughtful dialogue. Black people hold these conversations in much more thoughtful and nuanced ways amongst ourselves in person and online daily. The black community has created hashtags, movements, and prevalent blogs all with the intent of creating a discourse amongst ourselves about issues important to us. We have written books upon books of material to explain the nuances of internalized racism or the effects of white colonization on black identity. There are documentaries on the topics of colorism, black pain, and tokenism.
I’ve confronted many of these questions before, but usually it is in the context of having to explain to indignant white friends things like why black people can reclaim the n-word and remember its historical context at the same time. I’ve grown accustomed to having conversations about #BlackLivesMatter and being met with derailments about “black on black crime” and personal accountability.
Hidden amongst the rest of the poorly concocted prattle were a couple legitimate questions about colorism and mental health such as “Why do we think people with light skin look better than people with dark skin” and “Why don’t we like to confront our mental health issues?”. There are Black people who have not yet encountered critical conversations about colorism and mental health. But this video is not the place to start that process. We already are talking about these issues within the community on platforms more appropriate because they are for and by black people and not made for the white gaze. We shouldn’t be cheapening these topics by allowing them to be coupled with witless, condescending jabs on a white platform like BuzzFeed.
With all the resources that have actual explanations to these awful questions, I find it extremely hard to give the black people in this video, and the folks that put them up to this, the benefit of the doubt. I have some questions for the participants of BuzzFeed’s “27 Questions Black People Have For Black People.”
Who really wrote these Questions? How are you unable to see the blatant hypocrisy and laughable irony in fighting against blackness as a monolith then turning around and painting other black people with the same overused stereotypes? Are you really this oblivious to the constant discourse going on amongst black people? Why have you never been to black twitter? It’s lit! This was an amazing opportunity for you to ask real questions to our community, so why would you waste it by mocking us and alienating yourselves?
I would have loved to see a funny commentary on black culture, responses to microaggressive behavior, maybe even a few well-developed uncomfortable questions for the community. What we got instead were biting observations that felt purposely divisive. I would suggest that the next time these black people agree to making a video, they pay more attention to their intended audience and be mindful they aren’t being used as tools to shame other black people.
Tora Shae likes to consider herself a creator. She has her hands full as a writer, podcaster (In Front Of Company), and a wire artisan. Find her on twitter @BlackMajiik or @NFrontOfCompany!
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