When Caping It Real Goes Wrong: On Jamilah Lemieux, EBONY and The Tweets Ain’t Safe Bradford J. Howard March 28, 2014 Features, Speak of Freedom Let me preface this piece with two absolutely necessary disclaimers in light of recent events: 1) My government name is Bradford J. Howard. I am a contributor to Day&ADream.com but the views and opinions expressed in this not-exactly-an-essay are not reflective of Day&ADream as a whole and are solely my individual viewpoint. 2) That said, as it is my piece, I welcome any and all criticism to be directed to ME, personally, especially if you find yourself in disagreement. — It’s possible that Jamilah Lemieux deserves better. The acting Senior Online Editor of EBONY Magazine found herself under the heaviest of internet scrutiny for the second time this month yesterday, when she was involved in an online discussion regarding conservative politics which she did not agree with. The nature of the Twitter monster is that, in addition to opening up dialogue with people you might otherwise never meet who might share your viewpoints… is that it also might leave your “mentions” open to a wealth of comments from people you might otherwise never meet who don’t agree with you and gladly insert themselves into your conversation. What Lemieux herself poignantly referred to as “Twitter’s version of telephone.” Twitter’s version of telephone. You heard that someone tweeted something you don’t like and you attack their mentions because…bored? — Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) March 27, 2014 I am allowed to be disinterested in engaging political views that I find to be against my best interest and the best interests of most. — Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) March 27, 2014 Somewhere along the way, Raffi Williams, Deputy Press Secretary for the Republican National Convention (and not so coincidentally, son of Rupert Murdoch’s token analyst/go-to guy on all things Blackness former NPR radio host turned Fox News correspondent Juan Williams), entered into Lemieux’s mentions during one such random conversation. Lemeiux, sensing that a) Williams was probably going to say something she wouldn’t agree with and not wanting to spend the next two hours arguing in her mentions or b) that entertaining Williams would likely result in a number of others entering her mentions, said simply “I don’t wish to know more.” Williams egged it on, telling Lemeiux he “hoped you would encourage diversity of thought.” Her request to sidestep this conversation ignored, Lemieux hit Williams with a dagger of sorts – “Here comes a white dude telling me how to do this Black thing. Pass.” Lemieux erroneously assumed that Williams was white, likely for using the “diversity of thought” language that has become standard fare for the post-racial America crowd. Still, Williams persisted. And the interaction seemingly ended with Williams telling Lemieux “you are questioning someone’s Blackness, sorry I do not fit your stereotypes.” In the minutes and hours that followed, Lemeiux’s mentions were flooded with rhetoric from mostly conservatives (of all backgrounds, white, Black, and otherwise) chiding her language and insisting that she apologize immediately for insulting Williams. Full-blown articles were written about it. Crystal Wright, Twitter’s self-proclaimed “GOP Black Chick” trolled as usual chimed in. A petition was started to get Lemieux to apologize or be fired. And Republican National Committee Chairman even saw fit to draft an open letter to EBONY’s Editor in Chief, Amy DuBois-Barnett, about Lemieux’s comments. Lemeiux apologized in her own way on Twitter, but apparently that wasn’t enough. So this afternoon, DuBois-Barnett threw Jamilah under the bus like it was nothing issued a more eloquent apology on Lemeiux and the magazine’s “behalf.” There is another dialogue lurking beneath the surface of this – the “in-house” conversation about what makes one Black person “more Black” than others and the use of acting white as an insult in the Black community – but that’s not the point of this piece. Perhaps, taking a cue from Reince Priebus’s statement whereby the Republican Party directly engaged a publication that caters towards predominantly-African American audiences (which I’m sure must have had SOMETHING to do with the GOP’s current strategy to encourage diversity and whatnot in their ranks heading into the 2014 and 2016 election season), Amy DuBois-Barnett wanted to extend an olive branch. Perhaps she wanted to make sure that EBONY Magazine was not portrayed as a media entity that was not open to different viewpoints, or a media entity that may ignore its readership that did not fall in EBONY’s “standard” Black liberal audience. So she offered Jamilah Lemeiux up as a sacrifice, if you will – served a journalist who drives their digital content and whose tremendous following online almost certainly carried over into EBONY’sreadership, up on a platter to save face with the Republican Party. And not even for something that Lemieux expressed on EBONY’s website or in the pages of the magazine; but rather for something the writer said on Twitter. Her own personal twitter account to be exact. “Just because I have to respect your right to have [certain views], does NOT mean I have to engage them.” Lemeiux tweeted the above words yesterday, mere minutes before the real fallout behind her comments started trickling in. And now I’m compelled to think about Kobe Bryant’s words in The New Yorker mere days ago, when he said paraphrased that Blacks shouldn’t rally behind someone just because the person happens to be Black. In a country that prides itself upon free speech, publications like EBONY Magazine, JET, and Essence, to name a few, were pioneering in creating spaces for Black faces when the TIME’s and People’s in modern media wouldn’t make room for us. True, there are consequences for speaking freely. But I can’t help but feel as though the Republican Party were sharks in the water who saw blood when Lemieux said she what she did to Raffi Williams; and instead of saying, “We don’t agree with what was said, but she’s within her right to say it,” EBONY Magazine essentially washed their hands of Lemieux entirely. I don’t know what EBONY Magazine stood to gain from it, but I know what was lost – the right to voice your own opinion in your own space. I hope it was worth it. 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