Not All of Our Public Figures Need to Speak Out About Social Issues

by Inda Lauryn

Admittedly, I don't regularly keep up with Awesomely Luvvie's blog although I am well aware of who she is and the popularity of her blog. So I was a little baffled when she called out Black beauty, fashion and lifestyle bloggers she felt did not address major social issues, explaining that they were more concerned with profits and brands than with Black lives. My confusion comes with the fact that she not only specifically targeted this faction of bloggers but also did not focus on anyone specific. Perhaps this was a subtweet or just an attempt to not focus on any potential Twitter beef that could arise with a specific name although she later stated she intended to call out the entire group.

In any case, the conversation started. Many Black bloggers, public figures and others whose names carry weight with Black Twitter responded to the accusation. While many acknowledged it was worth discussing the role of Black bloggers who don't usually address timely social issues, many also felt the call out was misguided and placed an unnecessary burden on Black bloggers who do not have the luxury of or interest in stepping out of their lane to make larger political statements on the times.

The question is this: do all Black bloggers and public figures necessarily have the obligation to address every social issue of the day on their platforms? Black people do not get a pass on picking and choosing battles when we have a platform, but are there platforms in which some issues just do not belong?

Black public figures face an expectation to address every issue affecting Black communities whether or not they are well-versed in the subject matter. Not only is this unfair, but it may also be unfortunate. For instance, Ben Carson is a spectacular neurosurgeon but does not appear to have a basic understanding of how institutionalized racism affects the everyday lives of African Americans who have not achieved the same type of success as he has. I could also point to Raven-Symoné as an example of someone who has a public platform but perhaps should not use it as much as she does.

Speaking about social issues is also not simply a matter of knowing the subject. For many bloggers, speaking out can be dangerous not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Not everyone who has a blogging platform has the comfort and protection needed to feel safe when taking on tough social issues. Prominent Black women on social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr face constant harassment every day and in some cases get death and rape threats just for speaking out. Being a beauty blogger does not exempt Black women from this harassment and it takes a toll on mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Furthermore, prominent Black women bloggers on all subjects also often find themselves tagged by others including non-Black people expecting them to immediately jump into controversial issues. In some cases, Black women are expected to speak out and expected to be attack dogs in others. Not only does this expectation mammify Black women but also reinforces the idea that we are always ready to support others at the cost of our own well-being. We are expected to fight at a moment's notice and show solidarity to all others in all causes.

This does not mean that Black women bloggers should not speak up when compelled; however, we should let go of that expectation that we must speak out even when we feel inadequate or just unwilling. Audre Lorde was right when she said that our silence will not protect us, but silence does not equal apathy or resignation. It also does not necessarily equal fear. Black women get weary spirits just as much as anyone and should be allowed spaces to heal and recharge.

This is where many Black beauty bloggers come in for us. Sometimes looking at the latest line of MAC lipstick is just the lift we need when we find ourselves facing yet another tragedy on top of the one that just happened yesterday. Sometimes we need to see Black women happy and thriving in order to move on ourselves. If Black women make their names in beauty, fashion and lifestyle circles, we know where we can go to get a much needed break from hard news.

Furthermore, specialty blogs do not completely ignore social justice issues; we simply neglect to include them as social justice because we do not assign the same importance to them. Black women who write about fashion and beauty may often discuss racism as it intersects with colorism and sizism with the fashion and beauty industries, issues that are quite crucial to those who want to break into fashion and beauty circles. Gamers expose racism within the industry as well as the fandom on blogs and podcasts, but many prominent Black public figures do not take on these issues when demanding social justice.

Black beauty bloggers and other specialty bloggers should be held under no obligation to use their carefully crafted platforms to speak outside of their areas. While many do use social media forms like Twitter to speak out when compelled, they sometimes do not use their blogs or websites to speak further on them. This is okay. Sometimes we need to curate a space for specific issues and stick to those. Black bloggers and public figures have a right to focus on what they want without the expectation of being attack dogs and spokespersons for the Black community.

Photo: OWN TV - Christopher Halloran /

Inda Lauryn has previously been published in Blackberry, A Magazine, Interfictions, The Toast, XOJane, and Callaloo, as well as had her work featured on blogs such as Black Girl Nerds, Bitch Flicks, and AfroPunk. She is currently working on a novel and countless other unfinished writing projects, occasionally blogs at Corner Store Press and shares music playlists at MixCloud.

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