By Rachael Wanogho
The world’s most prized inhabitants are struggling. The internet, a tool that was meant to be an ally for societal change has begun to expose who we truly are. It is interesting to observe, that as internet, a human invention gradually reaches its climax, humans for which it was made are still constantly in a battle of wit against each other.
For a fact, the internet has many faces. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Humanity, how humanity has degenerated, and gotten to the point where we need to educate other humans like us, living and breathing the same air, on how to behave and treat a fellow human being.
Someone posted a meme depicting the United States of America as a third world country wearing a Gucci belt and the sad reality is that it is not far from being true.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began around the world, a lot of workers, old and young tried to deal with the new reality of being forced to stay indoors to avoid contracting the virus or infecting others. In a time where people are not entirely used to working remotely in a digital world, we found more elderly people taking to TikTok, the fastest growing social media platform I make bold to say, thanks to quarantine.
I use the term elderly to refer to those from the ages of twenty-five years of age and above. We were met with a new wave of fun, expressing our creative side and I myself as a creative disregarding all my inner warnings of not joining the crowd, downloaded the platform.
It was supposed to be temporary. It was supposed to be fun. FUN. It wasn’t supposed to be a war zone for uneducated (not referring to those who did not attend a registered institution) and untrained humans to exhibit the prejudice they have against people of colour, blacks, Filipinos, Asian, Africans and other minority race. The interesting thing about the TikTok algorithm is that once you ‘like’ a certain type of content, you begin to see more of that content on your page.
Initially, all that appeared on my feed were comedy in the form of drama, memes, and talented editing from people of different races. It wasn’t about where the creator was from. It was about art. The beauty of art. If you have ever used the TikTok platform, you can testify on the addictiveness of it. It draws you in. And so, you keep scrolling from one account to the other and before you know it, hours have passed.
In actual sense, you’re not bothered by the passing of time, once you’re neck-deep in the fun Tiktok offers. This is because you are in lockdown. Nowhere to go but read the news. Suddenly, my feed began to change when the news of Ahmaud Arbery’s death broke. The black 25-year-old who was gunned down in Georgia for jogging in his neighborhood in broad daylight. Did I mention that he was unarmed? Well, he was unarmed and shot with a shotgun. How ironic?!
I started getting different rants from different black creators admonishing white people to stop being racist. The hashtags BlackLivesMatter was pulled out of its sleep and started to trend. From one post to the other, other hashtags that trended were angry black people, upset black people, sad black people and red-black people.
On the other end of the spectrum, supportive white people, allied white people, and human white people were also trending. Note the many times I used the word ‘people’.
This goes to show that we are a people, which is something a lot of the other ‘people’ around the world have no idea what the word means.
Same organs that all perform the same function. The only difference is the size, the language, the voice and the skin. The skin. Very interesting how the colour of my skin is a determining factor to my intelligence. As a Nigerian living in a foreign country, I had become more intertwined with discussions and issues regarding race. I was more receptive to news concerning race because I was outside my comfort zone, Nigeria.
The interesting thing is that when I was in Nigeria, the subject of race wasn’t an issue. The lesser devils we dealt with back home as a ‘people’ were tribalism, religion, corruption, education and social class.
Even though we had individuals who wanted to become lighter, by bleaching their skin, thereby endangering it, the colour wasn’t so much of a problem. And so, in a new country, being black in a predominantly white community, I began to question my allegiance and my safety and if truly I was free.
The creators on TikTok kept resonating the same message on how TikTok had banned their accounts, hiding their videos and even taking down their videos by violating community guidelines.
When I did further research on this subject, I realised the videos where mostly because these black creators had talked about racism and that black people are people and shouldn’t be treated like animals. What I found upon further investigation is that we had some white people being completely racists and not being apologetic about it. Tears came to my eyes every time a black creator mentioned the Arbery incident in Georgia. I cried. I cried because it could have been me if I was in America. It could have been you if you were in America.
I had become a deep thinker. Thinking about the future and what it holds for us. All the isms from racism, colorism that has been going in different parts of the world had finally come to my doorstep and I had become much more empathetic and angry. All that kept going through my mind was that we are humans.
Dear Tiktok…Leave Black creators alone.
Dear White People… humans irrespective of their race can coexist and live together in harmony.
We can all live together in harmony. The color of your skin does not define you, or anyone else too. We are one.
Dear Black people…Stay strong and don’t give up. And remember, not all white people are bad.
Dear Asian people… Stop with colorism. We are one people. It is one earth, one world.
Dear Mixed people from different races…Your beauty is in your diversity. Don’t feel alone. We love you.
To everyone out there, the only thing you need to do is to treat others how you want to be treated. Once you remember that, the issue of race, class, supremacy and colour would be wiped out. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. Hahahaha.
Rachael Wanogho currently studies Creative Writing at Durham University, England, UK.
Youtube Channel: Rachael Wanogho