Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wolf Tickets for Sale

Twitter is a great medium...and also the worst. I mean, it is great for learning about breaking news, upcoming events, or the random thoughts of your friends about the random stuff that just happened to them five minutes ago. Black Twitter is indescribably the greatest social media phenomenon since YouTube. Honestly, I learn so much on Twitter on a daily basis that I just don't know how we ever managed. At the same time, Twitter is THE absolute worst. I need only mention one name to prove my point...but I won't because this piece is not about him.

On the spectrum of Twitter's greatness is this remarkable tweet posted by Sherrilyn Ifill, someone I deeply respect and admire. It was both informative and poignant, so I retweeted it and in the days since, I have referenced it several times in other tweets on the same topic. 

On the spectrum of Twitter's shamelessness is the very suggestion (via Twitter) to which Sherrilyn Ifill was responding. It was this offer made by Ben Shapiro to debate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ben Shapiro is a conservative commentator and writer who made this plea on August 8. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a progressive candidate for congressional office from the Bronx who upset a ten-term incumbent in June. This was her response to a taunt by another twit that she had refused to debate Shapiro. In the following days, much ado was made of Ocasio-Cortez's response on Twitter and on FOX, which ran several news stories online about the "spat". Then the ante was raised by this offer, made by Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist who runs the nonprofit Turning Point USA to support the debate offer made by Candace Owens, his communications director. Ms. Owens, who happens to be a black conservative, has spent the better part of the summer demanding that other black commentators debate her on cable news, but we'll come back to that momentarily.

(Yes, I found every tweet. And here is mine in response to Ifill's brilliant analogy.)

I really don't need to restate Ifill's point, but I think it should be noted that of all the progressive candidates on the ballot across the country, the spotlight that has been shined on Ocasio-Cortez is undoubtedly the brightest. And that makes her a target for all kinds of analysis and criticism, such as this perspective, this critique, but also this radical idea that she might represent the future. She could probably use better advisors than the Bernie Sanders folks, but that isn't for me or anyone else to say. I don't live in the Bronx, so I won't be voting for her.

And it doesn't really matter to me which candidates she chooses to endorse in other primaries because none of those voters will be voting for her either. In my best effort at nonpartisan analysis of her candidacy, I am just excited by the prospect that a young Latinx has toppled the establishment and is part of a wave of women who are seeking public office. This Busy Black Woman has no opinion on her politics (to express at this time).

However, I am offended that she is being singled out to "defend" herself by someone who isn't her constituent, isn't currently a candidate for office, and who feels entitled to this request by virtue of the fact that he offered her money as an enticement. Then to Ifill's point, the incentive offer of more money to debate a black woman is exploitative, exhibitionist, and sexist. Who do these people think they are?

To my knowledge, similar demands have not been made of Bernie Sanders, who is the face of Democratic Socialism. But I already know what this is about, so let's pivot back to Candace Owens.

Sis, we see you. And look, I am not going to knock your hustle because I know how the game is played, and you are definitely playing to win. You see the absence of credible black voices on the right, especially with respect to black women (because Stacey Dash does not count), and you need legitimacy. I suspect you are frustrated that some bartender from the Bronx is getting all of this attention for crazy ideas that you think aren't going anywhere, so you feel it is your patriotic duty to take her down.

But this is not an after-school playground fight circle.

You didn't offer money to debate Stacy Abrams, Ben Jealous, or any other high-profile progressive candidates of color, so what you and your editor are promoting is a live-action version of GLOW. You've put up a couple of videos on YouTube and Instagram (I watched one and I am reclaiming my time), got a Twitter high-five from #45, but somehow because you have been on cable news a few times, you believe that you deserve to challenge Ocasio-Cortez to a debate? At least Ben Shapiro invited her on his show, which is cute since he lives in California and isn't running for office either.

I would say bless your heart, but Michael Eric Dyson already did that, and my goal is not to insult you because I don't have a Busy Black opinion about your politics (to express at this time...). I just want to caution you against flying too close to the sun and I would offer the same advice to Ocasio-Cortez. And if you haven't done so already, take some time to read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to understand what Sherrilyn Ifill meant by her tweet. Play the game, but don't play yourself.

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