Apparently, many of yinz don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook because FIVE of you approached me this weekend to ask about my ‘silence’ on the Wendy Bell issue. It is true that I didn’t write anything in this space, but I did share a lof of the things other people were saying. You know, amplifying people’s voices.
So, read these please.
Shut Up. Listen. – Burgh Baby
Today, Bell (re)launched her Facebook page. She has 50,000 followers. It is an outrage on many levels, some of which my friend Virginia Montanez lays out on her blog.
PittsburghStrong is not you. It is not “I got fired for writing a kinda racist thing, but I started a new Facebook and I’m rising from the ashes of the fire I set to my own career like a fucking majestic Phoenix, so give me a follow, you unthinking puppets. #PittsburghStrong!”
Until you realize why what you wrote was wrong, and until you realize why how you dealt with what you wrote was wrong, and until you realize how you seemingly still do not understand why what you wrote and how you dealt with it was wrong, and until you stop making everything all about you, and until you realize your OWN fault in causing every sleep-depriving “woe is me” thing you’ve tacked to the cross you think you bear … you have no hope of ever being #PittsburghStrong.
What *I’ve* been thinking is another Facebook page called ‘Pittsburgh Meme’ that I wrote about in 2014 just about this time of year. The page, like Wendy Bell’s page, has about 50,000 followers. I bet most of them would deny their racism and their privilege. And take shelter behind all sorts of arguments about their innocence. 121 of them are my friends on Facebook, even though I was personally targeted by their humor. My friends must think its funny, right? That my eyes are funny looking (ha!)
Probably not. They just laugh at the silly stuff and disregard the rest. When I brought it up on Facebook, I was told it wasn’t the same thing – people can laugh at Pittsburgh Meme and not support Wendy Bell.
Here’s what I wrote in 2014
And that misses the whole point. It isn’t about Wendy Bell. It is about the people who rally around her. It couldn’t be more clear that she’s propping up a racist value system, but we do not want to confront what that means for our individual lives – no matter the cost for our neighbors. So we turn an unseeing eye and even spin her rhetoric to fit into our narrow perspective on the world.
We do that a lot. We do it on Facebook when we like a page without doing any due diligence. We do it when we turn journalists into media personalities. We do it when we are scared out of our fucking minds about retirement, college, finding a job, keeping our home or some other equally important issue and turn to the person who promises to fix it for us with minimal pain. (Read this.)
We make decisions based on our own priorities, needs and privileges – whether that be keeping out the ‘criminal element’ or enjoying some stupid humor with our morning cup of coffee. And when those decisions turn out to be supporting something bad or problematic or troubling, we tend to avoid owning the decision – we rationalize, we explain, we sneer, we dismiss or use some other rhetorical device.
We hit that defensive crouch that makes Ledcat shake her head and say to me “Ah, my little advocate” right before she admonishes for going too far. Again.
But five people actually brought this up to me and that has never happened before. I was at a fundraiser for a LGBTQ youth performing arts group for four of those encounters. I was busy waiting in line for the bar, holding a plate of food and keeping an eye on my silent auction bid (I lost) so I had nothing to say in response.
SO I came home and saw that today Wendy Bell lay claim to the hashtag #PittsburghStrong to support a wealthy white heterosexual woman who lost her job in part due to her racism. And my heart sank as my eyes rolled back in their sockets.
I hope you won’t follow Wendy Bell or Pittsburgh Meme. You can look at the content without giving them the coveted like. Don’t say otherwise. I know what I’m talking about. You like it or you don’t. You know now that they both represent a mindset that causes tremendous harm for your neighbors, for you.
You know. And you need to stop pretending that you don’t. You have to look everywhere because this is the Pittsburgh we’ve built – it is predicated upon the assumption that we are not racist and we don’t talk about our non-racism. We don’t discuss it, we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t think about it.
Six queer and trans people died violent deaths in 2014-2015 in Pittsburgh. The three white folks died by suicide. The three QTPOC died violently by gunshot. Is that a statistical coincidence? Or just another fact that makes us click the channel and dig our heads into the sand?
So this is my Wendy Bell post. I think Damon, Ginny and Michelle did a pretty solid job summing things up from their various vantages. I think Wendy Bell is a privileged jagoff who swallowed her own mommy media personality kool-aid AND I suspect Tony Norman was right that there is a lot more behind the story to her dismissal that we’ll ever know. However, I’m intolerant of your racialized defense of a self-serving rich white woman who absorbs your pity like a logic defying lotion.