Seeing someone say stuff like this in print will, undoubtedly be considered by many as ridiculous: it’s imagery, anybody can inhabit a character’s mindset. Except… this is something I’ve wondered about for a while. Imagery is important to me, and although it could be conceivable to argue that as a writer I have the ability to write as a person whose ethnicity I don’t understand…
More and more, this is not about the action, but appropriation. It is borrowing without permission. That is undoubtedly where a lot of GIF creation lies: as a means to express yourself, via the medium of someone else’s reaction. If you apply logic, it does stand up to scrutiny, but that’s not the key here. That’s empathy.
If you look through my blog, you will see a lot of GIFs used not as promotion, but simple reaction. I’ve certainly never used any of them as an active means of promoting myself, and often (when it comes to personalities such as Ru Paul, Idris Elba or Beyonce) you aren’t just using their image as a reaction, it’s a nod to your appreciation as them as a person.
Knowing when that moves from being empathic into appropriation territory is going to be a tough ask for many white people. Yes, I can type that sentence with absolute confidence, because we all know that person who does That Dumb Thing and never really considers the consequences. You only get naïvety as an excuse in the modern world… probably once now, if at all.
If you’re on the Internet, you’re interacting in public. Twitter might be trying to create a forum environment, and the illusion that you can say what you want without redress with their new Conversation feature, but the truth is this place never forgets. It is vicious and feral and has very good reason to be both of those things if you don’t respect the people using it.
The bigots, racists, and idiots who use this kind of article as sport won’t ever listen. That isn’t what articles like this are about. They’re meant to make the sensible and rational amongst us stop, think and change the way we do things, and if that rolls out to wider audiences and unexpected places, so much the better.
You can mark this point as the one where I won’t use certain GIFs any more, because I respect and understand the point being made here. I’ve spent time this morning deleting certain ones out as a result of reading Lauren’s article, and followed her on Twitter to be further educated.
Sometimes, you are part of the problem, whether you like it or not.