The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.
Over the weekend the world lost a lighthouse with the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman. Boseman, most famously known for his iconic role of T’Challa in the cultural phenomenon, “Black Panther,” died at 43 years old of colon cancer. Only Boseman’s family and close inner circle knew that he had cancer as he worked tirelessly between surgeries and chemotherapy since being diagnosed in 2016.
And because Boseman has been heralded not only as an iconic superhero, but also a world-class humanitarian, his passing created a ripple effect across the globe. His passing had an especially painful impact on Black children, Black boys in particular, who saw a mega comic book superhero they could identify with.
I shared an image I found of a small Black boy crying sitting next to Black Panther action figures on Facebook. My caption was an open letter to this anonymous Black boy encouraging him to channel his own greatness and recognizing his tears as a source of strength. I felt it was important to articulate the power of Black boys being free to openly grieve and process, as we often are socialized from an early age to consider tearful expressions as a sign of weakness.
The post has been shared over 4,200 times on Facebook, largely to a response of love and care reactions.
But because the internet is often the place where the miserable and inhumane congregate, a few select assholes opted to respond to the image and caption with a laugh reaction. I decided to click the reactions to put faces to the scum, and sure enough, it was white dudes being white and dude.
Sadly, this was not surprising and is quite often par for the course when articles or images of Black folks dealing with communal pain circulate on Facebook. I cannot count the amount of times I have seen shared news stories of premature Black death or social injustices levied against Black people to be met with a digital chuckle from spineless white folks.
And every time I want to reach through the screen and punch them in the throat.
The cruelty to laugh at moments of Black despair and grief resonate differently than seeing white folks engaged in heated debates along racial lines. I can vehemently disagree with a bigoted Facebook user’s position on matters of race and not feel as enraged as seeing a white person react with amusement to Black suffering. It is the cavalier dismissal of our hurt to the point of finding some type of enjoyment in it that makes me want all the bad things in the world to happen specifically to those people.
At the top of the pandemic, Facebook added a “Care” button to its menu of reactions to allow users a more nuanced reaction to the devastating news of COVID-19. If someone is using their phone to give a reaction, the care option is right next to the laughing one, so it is not uncommon for folks to accidentally click the laughing reaction when they intended to click the caring one.
But it is evident when you click the profile of someone who “laughed” at Black pain and see anti-Black/racist images and posts, that they intended to poke fun at issues that are in no way funny. These profiles are the underbelly of social media, but most alarmingly are run by actual people who live and work among us.
I know there is nothing I can do about these Neanderthals aside from blocking them from my page when they respond to me with their twisted sense of humor. I sometimes fantasize about their device giving them an electrical jolt whenever they laugh react to Black grief. I mean a thorough ass shock that causes them to toss their phone or laptop across the room, shattering it pieces.
And then I wish I could be on hand to laugh right in their stupid faces.