Do Pgh Memes Inherently Have To Be Racist, Transphobic and Vicious?

This is why we can’t have nice things in Pittsburgh. Content Notes: lots of hate. And few allies calling it out.

I pretty much think of any new “rah rah Pittsburgh” effort as a reflection on the #NextPgh concept. And this is not always good.

There’s a new Facebook Page called “Pittsburgh Meme” that is pretty self-evident – it creates memes about Pittsburgh using local images and those infamous meme memes floating around the Internet. Brace yourselves. For the record, 21,000+ people like this page including at least 30 of my own friends.

Funny? Sure, some of it is funny. Some of it is ugly. For each smack down of racial privilege and other actual funny things, there are lots of pics of fat women paying for food with SNAP, wearing skimpy clothing and generally offending by their very existence.

The racism is pretty appalling.  Like this:

From new Facebook site "Pittsburgh Memes"

From new Facebook site “Pittsburgh Memes”

Blurring their faces makes it okay to write things like

Welfare

Then there’s this lovely transphobia image which has been shared 145 times.

Dudes

The comments are what you might expect

Dude

I’m not even bothering to cover up the names because their ignorance isn’t worth the effort. They deserve a little public shame and scorn.

This is actually a lot like the Pittsburgh where I grew up, but #nextpgh isn’t supposed to be about lifting up the hipsters and the yinzers at the expense of black folks, queers, transgender and fat residents. It isn’t funny, it isn’t creative and it DOES contribute to the social justice ills YOU fight against.

You can only have it both ways if you trade on your white privilege to “tee hee” about the hipster jokes then say “support my fundraising effort to help XYZ” with a straight, clueless face. The people being mocked most often are probably the ones who were part of the working class standing up to UPMC. How does that make sense?

Funny is mocking people WITH power and influence and prestige and respect – like white middle class men (those who are left), not demeaning vulnerable folks who are already dealing with more violence, crime, harassment and sexual assault because of their status and value in our society.  And to be fair, there are some great memes on this page that do just that.

This is how the page owners address it

Capture

“this is a fun meme page about the burgh and if the memes are not to your liking please unlike and let others enjoy having fun..Thank you”

Per their request, I unliked the page to let them have their fun. But this middle class, middle aged, life long white Pittsburgh resident with at least 6 generation of forefathers in the actual mills and lots of attendant Pittsburgh-esque memes defining my life thinks you are supporting true injustice by lending your like to this page. It isn’t funny to read this at all. Today is the rally calling for racial justice for Jordan Miles and Leon Ford in Pittsburgh. How exactly do we accomplish this while hundreds of their neighbors are spewing racial contempt all over this page and progressive allies turn a blind eye?

White straight folks liking this page are NOT allies to the LGBTQ community and I’d question their commitment to racial justice. That’s my meme. And if a page I’ve liked has similar content, by all means – take me to task on it. I’m responsible for where I put my stamps of approval.

This is about our town, these are our neighbors. It isn’t some far off distant Wal-Mart where the people are funny. These kids go to school with your kids. What message do you want to get from your social media – that you value and respect them and believe they have the promise to grow up to have a healthy, happy life? Or that they are so dehumanized that they deserve to be pin-ups on a Facebook page about their pathetic lives?

That’s your choice.

Comments

  1. BonnieHalfElven:

    Actually, I’m not overly fond of the “people of Walmart” posts, either.

    • Sue Kerr:

      I agree. But I suspect a Wal-Mart theme allows people to create the us/them distinction so they can laugh in peace. These are photos of our actual neighbors here in Pittsburgh. Not so easy right?

      • BonnieHalfElven:

        Laughing at anyone, whether they are us or them, because of how they look or dress, is wrong. I used to do it, too, but I’m a grown-up now.

        BTW, I am enjoying the “selfie slideshow.” :)

  2. Sue Kerr:

    Since you are anonymous, I presume that’s a loaded question. What do you think – are they allies?

    • pgh_resident:

      I’m trying to understand what the implications of your statement are. That non-whites and/or cis/straight individuals who like that page ARE allies? Does the underlying statement (e.g., transphobia, racism) become more or less hateful based on the skin color or sexual identity of the person endorsing it? I personally don’t believe them to be allies if they’re endorsing the same hateful messages as “white straight folks”.

      • Sue Kerr:

        No, but I am speaking to white cis gender straight people who are the vast majority of those who like this page and hold up this infrastructure in Pgh. I’m working on another version of this for a larger publication and will take your feedback into account when I write this – it isn’t my intent to give people a pass on condoning oppression because they happen to be part of an oppressed group. But I think that is a different thing systemically than how this particular FB page evolved – I’ve had a dozen people say to me variations of “That’s not Pittsburgh” and have no response when I say “That’s the Pittsburgh I experience and witness.” Head. Buried. In. Sand. That’s whom I’m trying to address.

  3. samthor:

    I did call them out on the “Liberty Avenue Dudes” meme. my comment removed. in fact quite a few comments were removed…. so rather than fight about it they’d rather give the appearance that everyone is in agreement with how “hilarious” it is.

    • Sue Kerr:

      Interesting. Anyone else have that experience?

  4. Robert:

    24-year Pittsburgh resident be like, “This is why I’m glad we left.”

    Everyone still trying to fight it out back there … serious best of luck to you.

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