+ BY CELESTE SCOTT +
It was a warm, lazy night during the summer of 2016. I laid in my bed after a long day at my rigorous summer job, wasting a couple of hours scrolling through Twitter. And that’s when I saw it. A video of a black man bleeding out in his car. His girlfriend beside him, holding the camera. Her daughter, crouched down somewhere in the back seat. A police officer outside the car, shakily holding a gun, through the rolled down window.
To tweet BLACKLIVESMATTER until my fingers went numb. To post a photo on Instagram of this slain victim with one of the many hashtags I’d seen floating around the Internet. I wanted to speak words of truth and justice, but the twisting and churning of my insides was making me more and more exhausted by the second. So, I did nothing.
The officer screamed, “I told him not to reach for it!” The man bled out. His girlfriend’s voice tremored, “Please don’t tell me he’s dead…” Still the officer screamed, “Keep your hands where I can see them!” Still, the man bled out. I stopped the video. Put my phone down. Suddenly there was tension in my stomach. A twisting sensation in my intestines that felt almost like crippling anxiety. But no. That wasn’t it. This feeling was more raw. More intense. I went to Facebook. The worst decision. There I found people arguing their way through the death of this man. And suddenly he wasn’t a man anymore. He was a controversial issue. An incident. A hot topic of debate. He was a dark face attached to a series of hashtags.
#SayHisName #PhilandoCastille #BlackLivesMatter As I scrolled through my feed that feeling came up again—my insides twisted in the most unpleasant way. I was enraged, but also immediately fatigued. I wanted to cry but the tears wouldn’t come. I wanted to scream but my throat felt sore before I could even open my mouth. What I was feeling in that moment were symptoms of anger. It was strange for me to feel this way. As someone, who is more often than not quite even-tempered I found myself feeling uncomfortable in this queasy anger. I wanted to do something immediately. To shut down every ignorant Facebook post with wordy paragraphs full of statistics I didn’t yet know.
I logged out of Facebook and let the arguments run on into the night. I went to sleep in the comfort of my own safe bed. Warm and cozy, all the while my stomach still twisting and churning. Anger, I’ve observed has a funny way of manifesting itself. It can bring about intense, passion-driven action or passive, crippling silence. However, the passion-driven action we’re used to seeing is never quite active enough. With today’s technology we tend to use social media as an outlet for much of our anger—and understandably so. It’s easier to type in all-caps about an issue you’re extremely far removed from in box that asks “What’s on your mind?” Real life conversations are a lot more complex. They’re messy and uncomfortable. So we spew out all of our emotions on our digital platforms of choice, being careful not to go over the character limitations. And though we may occasionally tussle with resistance from opposing voices, it is in these online spaces that we find solace for our anger. Whether we’re seeking support from communities in solidarity with our beliefs, or that inkling of pride we feel after speaking up for something we believe in strongly, there is a level of satisfaction reached through internet activism that stunts one’s growth. It tricks us into thinking that our long-winded Facebook posts, and wittily-worded Twitter threads are enough. When in reality these online engagements with social problems, rarely ever reach beyond the screens of our devices.
On the cover, COIN // Featuring: Jasmine Thompson, Joyce Manor, Madelyn Deutch, Sarah Hawkinson and loads more.