“You can beat the charges, but you can’t beat the ride.” – Steve Rambam, founder and CEO of Pallorium, Inc.
“You cannot allow yourself to be put in a position where you can be made a victim for no good reason.” – Steve Rambam
“What you do today might bite you in the ass tomorrow.” – Steve Rambam
Below is a much more in depth video for academics and interested researchers. Steve Rambam explains the practical issues that lie behind why I’ve been studying the unintended consequences of marginalized girls’ online behavior in YouTube videos. “Dissent is not tolerated anymore. And you need to start thinking about your information and your lives differently” (Rambam)
You never get a second chance at a first impression.
Before online, [it was] private by default, public by effort. After online, public by default, private by effort. ~~ danah boyd
As you all know, I am on a mission to educate girls of color, specifically black girls, and the people who love them to consider protecting your future digital reputation while you grow up online.
Your future depends on what you do today more than ever before.
Your digital reputation is critical to your future net worth in a networked reality. The permanance of what you do on YouTube or other social networks and the searchability of most data is not your friend.
What you say and do online can and surely will ruin your reputation for decades to come and girls of color should be particularly concerned. Other people’s perceptions of us matter even while we campaign for our own lives mattering to them. #blacklivesmatter #blackgirlsmatter
As a demographic minority, we cannot guarantee the the millions of strangers out there can get us without meeting us in person. In other words, how people tend to perceive black females (cis or transgender) is already stigmatized and latent with stereotypes and symbolic meaning that the youngest black girls online have not yet fully grasped nor learned how to manage. Your reputation is everything! And adolescence is no longer protected given the millions of kids 13 and younger on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms. How do we get kids and adults, alike, in communities of color to start thinking of that I am a brand not just as an individual. I represent more than my present self. I also represent my future selves in perpetuity.
Here’s a quick remedy. Eric Qualman’s book WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS ON YOUTUBE: Privacy is Dead (2014). It’s a must read and a quick one, too! Be sure to download it from Amazon while it’s still free!
Not convinced? Don’t forget what happened to our girls. Think of Rachel Jeantel, Quevenzhané Wallis, Malia Obama, whose selfie that leaked before she knew it, or Mo’ne Davis and the negative attention they received that wasn’t even warranted. What happens to girls who twerk? Nothing wrong with twerking. It’s the broadcasting it online before you’ve even finished high school that threatens a young black girls’ public identity and future net worth (online and off). Mo’ne and Quevenzhané have publicists. Every day people do not.
TIP OF THE DAY:
I bet many of you have YouTube channels but do not have your settings for your History or your Searches “private.” Don’t wait! Do it today!!
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Education, Liberation – I LOVE YOU!
Just got off the phone with my mom. She and I graduated–spent our last years of adolescent black girlhood—at the same predominately white public school, Richard Montgomery High. It’s located in Rockville, Maryland just outside the beltway in Washington, D.C. Mama was in the 2nd class after Segregation ended (pun not intended, but … take it as it comes). I believe she attended 1958 – 1961. I attended 20 years later from 1977-79. I graduated at the age of 16. With my birthday in September this sounds amazing but it was not. That’s an altogether different story for another time. It sure looked good in the eyes of others to graduate at 16 but the real circumstances were not cute. I might write about it in another postif folks are interested.
It’s early Saturday morning and I’m sharing about my upcoming TEDx talk I’m givingMarch 20th at my alma mater, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The talk will be about race, value and black girls’ self-worth so I can really talk about racialization, sexualization and structural racism on YouTube. I am planning on starting my talk with a story about stage fright at my first audition at UofM.
Somehow we got to talking about our different experiences with Integration across our life courses. I was recording it in case I said something good for my talk. I transcribed the exchange because it rich with meaning and relevance esp. as I finish up an article highlighting the re-segregation of black girls on YouTube. Wanted to find a way to talk about segregated spaces on and off line, the blurring of public/privacy, the meaning of publicity in what are essentially segregated bedrooms broadcast online, and the inherent racialization of adolescent black female body and image while valorizing their white female counterparts. Even though big butts are valued they are stigmatized on black bodies. Kim Khardasian can “Break the Internet” but when black girls try in twerking videos…as Nicki Minaj put it when talking about black girls doing a black thing, “it ain’t that poppin’!”
My new friend and one of the newest TED Fellows (Rock the TED Stage girl!!), choreographer Camille A. Brown articulated the dilemma we black girls face today, young and old,
Your body has value, but not on you!
Un-gawa, Black Powa
My conversation with my Mama is always like a roller-coaster. We cover lots of emotional terrain — sometimes it’s not easy but this was one of the more precious moments I want to remember forever.
She mentions the store Zaire’s which was a local department store in Wheaton, MD that my mom went to most of my childhood. She paid for new school clothes put on law-a-way often working 2 jobs a day. I got my first brown cordoroy bell-bottoms at Zaire’s when they were the “in” thing. Wish I had a copy of my 7th grade picture sportin those pants as the cheerleading squad assistant. Ungawa, Black Power was one of the cheers we black girls brought to the white junior high squad.
I was an integration baby. So you were supposed to fit in. I was always– the only black student in classical music until I got to Michigan. [That’s a little exaggerated. Tony Scales and his friend Virgil were in the music department with me to Montgomery College but no one else for 10 years of my classical training from 1979 until Michigan in 1988].
What made Michigan great for me was that there were THIRTY OTHER BLACK STUDENTS there. It was AWESOME! But…we didn’t see each other, ya know. Even when I was [back] at Julius West [Junior High I thought] all of the black students, I thought we were in different classes, because I never saw them at school [in the spaces of learning, in the classroom; I saw them everyday at lunch. We played Spades on the regular]. [I later learned] They were [all] in another class [tracking them vocational ed and not college prep].
24:19″ Mama: The bad part of that was, in order for you to get a half-way decent chance to go to higher learning [college], I had to be on [them]… making sure you were in the right courses. Because there was some courses where the kids just played in the class all day [ME: a function of curriculum design not student laziness]. And that mighta been fun but in the long run. I mean…
24:59″ I never thought that Integration was the best thing.
I wanted to have the experience of being… [of] graduating from Carver High School. GeorgeWashingtonCarver high school!! I wanted to graduate from there!!
25:09″ But..but they– said–[parents and school authorities brokering the transtion], I was a student that who would be successful in going to the white schools. I didn’t like it!!
And when I started to have problems with the teachers, my father said “you oughta be glad you’re going to school with whites.” That’s what he said.
Me: Ye-ah! Our…our experiences are like mirrors ..
25:35″ Mama: We all had things we had to go through, ya know? and I had a few teachers at Richard Montgomery — my U.S. history teacher — probably if it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t had — her and maybe Mr. Preston — I would have had just a TERRIBLE time at Rich’rd Montgomery alltogether. I mean 9…well…I had…well, less than 50% good experience there most of my time there, and I was just glad to get outta there! (she laughs at the irony)
26: 19″ And I had to work at Zaire’s behind the food counter! [It was] my first job after I got outta high school.
Me: Wow, I didn’t know that. [She’d never told me this before. And we continued shopping there for years.]
Mama: YE-AH!!! So what was the… ya know.. Me: ..the benefit… Mama: Ye-ah!
Me: You got to go to a white school with white people but you didn’t get any better of a job. Mama: Right!!!
Mama: … an’ COULDN’T SIT AT THE COUN’ER!
Me: WOW!!!!!! <pause> Really??!?
The Flawed System of Race
Notice how even as black woman’s own daughter, I respond in disbelief at racism. That my moms went to a predominately white school–we have arrived–to still deal with segregation in the rest of society, in her first workplace, after getting her degree. This ish is a trip! And this trip around the sun for black folks has come with way too much ish. Situations matter. There is not global solution to the racial ideology that still fools far too many of us into thinking what we do online or off is ok if I own my own body. No man, woman and child is an island.
We are all accomplices, co-creators — past and present — the shaping black girls’ social identity and their self-worth. That’s it for now. But our conversation reminded me of a poem set to music in an African American art song by David Nathaniel Baker. Thought the poem was by Langston Hughes. Delighted to learn and remember it was written by Mari Evans, whom I spoke to when writing my first book. She wrote a fabulous poem about black women and the poem “status symbol” [note the lower case spelling] is from her book I am a Black Woman (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1970).
The Right to Protect Your Embodied Self-Expression
This talk on privacy from TEDGlobal in Rio last week is one of the first talks made public. As I shared about the Watching Black Girls Twerk on YouTube data about the ways girls images are essentially being “trafficked” by 44% of the 168 videos we collected, a woman said she wasn’t on social media but then added she made her first selfie the other day. If you carry a mobile phone, you are being surveilled with your phone itself, your calls, your photos and your microphone in ways you surely are just indifferent to.
As women and people of color, the lack of privacy could and probably will be much more harmful and detrimental to us when others perceive our actions of “bad” — whether that’s the state or fellow citizens who ability to flag or dislike your uploaded content, tweets and updates can perhaps lead you to lose your job these days. Factor in the discriminatory biases of race, gender and age, and you might see why I am studying the videos of black girls who twerk on YouTube. I am trying to understand the media ecology of surveillance by other consumers and by corporations like YouTube and VEVO and the possible implications all this has on black music culture, girls’ musical behavior and the social construction of our digital self-presentation. This work is bigger than black girls. It applies to us all.
GlennGreenwald was one of the first reporters to write about the Edward Snowden files and the US governments surveillance of its citizens. His TED talk begins by talking about what I am most passionate about these days–digital self-presentation–and the indifference teens and adolescents (much less the rest of us) have when uploading images of ourselves made in private settings in front of a webcam. The moment initially leads to sense of “context collapse” or a sense that you don’t know who you really talking to out there in Internet land–you lose control of your image the moment you upload it. Greenwald begins:
0:00 There is an entire genre of YouTube videosdevoted to an experience whichI am certain that everyone in this room has had.It entails an individual who,thinking they’re alone, engages in some expressive behavior —wild singing, gyrating dancing,some mild sexual activity —only to discover that, in fact, they are not alone,that there is a person watching and lurking,the discovery of which causes themto immediately cease what they were doingin horror.The sense of shame and humiliationin their face is palpable.It’s the sense of,“This is something I’m willing to doonly if no one else is watching.”
0:53 This is the crux of the workon which I have been singularly focusedfor the last 16 months,the question of why privacy matters
Educating Black Girls: Their Privacy Matters
I posted this comment after the video:
As a digital ethnographer studying how black girls’ images are being “trafficked” more or less to feed their adolescent desires to fit in through social media/online video or to feed the markets of objectifying female body parts, this talk speaks directly to an issue that I find most African American adults–parents, teachers and elders of any age–tend to be indifferent to. Our privacy…We give it away with YouTube in the name of some fake democracy or self-expression that will later be used as data to limit access to education, to jobs and more.
Thank you Glenn Greenwald for your passion, commitment and integrity to journalism’s core values in any society. Your work as a journalist reveals what is often hidden from us by others and by our own words that defy our lived realities. This is why my intention now is to help black girls learn what their elders are not equipped to teach yet.