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I gave up Facebook, but I didn't give up giving a shit about equality and respect for all people. Photo by Flickr user Sam Michel (Creative Commons license).

I gave up Facebook, but I didn’t give up giving a shit about equality and respect for all people. Photo by Flickr user Sam Michel (Creative Commons license).

The title of this post has to be long because I haven’t been on Facebook and am trying to cram in all that I missed.

Actually, I sort of gave up Facebook and I don’t “miss” it at all.

By “gave up,” I mean, I deleted the app from my phone so I have to check FB from an actual computer, which happens approximately once a day. I do not comment on posts, though I will still like things, give people their bday love (my bday was a few weeks ago and I got hundreds of bday loves and well wishes. Your bday is perhaps the one day a year when FB is worth it.)

I also share my own stuff, my own blog posts. In fact, things I would’ve used as status updates before? They’re blog posts now. I can blog more often–but not about every little thing!–write and engage more thoughtfully, and maybe get some of my existing friends to talk to me here, in a space I’ve created. Last week, three posts got me eight comments. It’s a nice, modest little start.

Friday afternoon, I noticed Mongrel Coalition Against GringPo was tweeting (I’m still on Twitter. Always.) at AWP about Vanessa Place, a “conceptual poet” who is tweeting every word of Gone with the Wind, who changed her avatar to a picture of Hattie-McDaniel-as-Mammy, and who thinks that in so doing, she’s somehow making art.

Further, she and her ConPo defenders think the rest of the world–many of whom are objecting loudly to this appropriation (not to mention, a gratuitous peppering of the N-word all over the place, by a non-black person, and I don’t care if she IS quoting a book or, you know, has black friends, or not)–are too stupid to interpret or appreciate that “art.”

We’ve seen this before. Bros aestheticize violence against women in art all the time (nope, not linking!), then they and their editors tell us we just don’t understand nuance. OK. Yeah, aaaaaaalllll the people objecting to your work have nothing in common except that they’re all stupid and one-dimensional, right? Right.

And ConPo have been in the news, anyway. They like being in the news. Kenneth Goldsmith read Michael Brown’s autopsy report to a crowd and called it a poem. This group seems to revel in controversy, and that’s fine, I guess–but then words like “censorship” start getting thrown around. (Can someone please tell me who is being censored when we object to a writer’s tweeting lines from someone else’s book and calling it art?)

Anyway. MCAG was all over it. Apparently, Place was supposed to be on an AWP subcommittee for next year’s conference. = A writer who is offending people of color is in a position of relative power and influence over people of color. Further, have you seen the stats on how straight and white the panels at this past year’s AWP conference were? How is appointing Place to an AWP subcommittee sending a message that POC are safe and welcome on AWP panels?

So. MCAG began tweeting at AWP, demanding that they remove Place from the committee. They insisted that anyone associated with Place must either denounce her publicly or be considered complicit in her racism. Here, here. Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

And guess what. AWP removed Vanessa Place from the committee.

I’m not going to link to any of these happenings because it flies in the face of my very reason for disengaging from FB: the onslaught of litroversies is sucking time and energy that I want to spend on writing, reading, teaching, and being a good mom. It’s a selfish decision, and I need to be selfish right now. Follow @AgainstGringpo on Twitter. Look for the official statement from AWP later in the day. My reason for writing this post is because, lo and behold, some people bitching on the Internet actually made a difference, resulted in the creation of a petition against Place’s AWP involvement, and inevitably got people’s ire up. My ire was stoked Friday afternoon as I retweeted a few of MCAG’s calls for denouncement.

Then, I walked away. I could feel myself sliding into the fight. I’m sorry. I try. Mad props to all my Facebook friends who gave of their time and energy to raise awareness all the livelong weekend about this. I believe their efforts are worthwhile, and they are no less tired or busy than I am.

Maybe armchair activism is more effective and necessary than we give it credit for?

I realize, as the uprisings in Baltimore and Ferguson continue, how privileged a statement that is. I am protesting racism from the comfort of my own home–and even if I were to leave my home, my safety as a white person is a better bet than if I weren’t a white person.

And now I don’t like the way the term “litroversy,” which I glibly used above, diminishes what we’re really talking about here: persistent systemic racism that is “art” in one corner of society and very real, non-conceptual, dead black children’s bodies in another corner. ENOUGH. And I’ll say that out loud, online and in real life.

I’ve given up Facebook, not empathy. Not human decency.

There is so much more I/we can do, and should do, and some of it, I will do. But no matter how much glee ConPo gets from interpreting outrage over their aesthetic as successful buzz, some tireless people did a good thing in getting that petition together quickly. I’m grateful to them; when I logged in to FB this morning for a quick skim, that petition was the first thing I saw. I remembered Friday afternoon, and how I slinked away, and I felt terribly guilty. I did the least I could do and signed the petition–and that, I will link to.

Activism or slacktivism via social media? Whatever you call it, it worked.

Did you or will you sign the petition, even though AWP has already removed Vanessa Place from one of its subcommittees.

Update: The official AWP response sucks. Screw it, here’s your link.