A Response to the Comments Section

I am as frustrated by the perpetual negative portrayal of YouTubers and YouTube culture as the next person, but some things are too egregious to even try to defend. Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known as “PewDiePie,” is the most popular vlogger on YouTube. He’s ascended to incredible fame, power, and success through his “Let’s Play” videos, and has branded himself as an “edgy” comedian who isn’t afraid to swear and cause trouble. If you even have a passing interest in online video news, you’ve probably already heard that he is currently under fire for using the n-word in frustration to insult a Playerunknown’s Battleground player during a livestream. He then said “sorry,” repeated the sentence with “asshole” instead, and then said he didn’t mean it “in a bad way.”

Yes, he did indeed interchange it with “asshole” and then attempt to claim it wasn’t “in a bad way.”

Like many other people, I am already tired of this story and generally fatigued with talking about Felix. There’s so much good that comes from YouTube, and the focus on people like Felix is demoralizing. However, he is the most popular personality on the platform. That means that even if he represents a poor side of YouTube, anything he does holds huge sway over how the community is represented overall. Also, people never cease to amaze me with the way they will bend over backwards to defend and justify the terrible actions of fully grown men. So here we have a list of excuses I’ve seen, and my arguments against them:

1. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Come on, you aren’t even trying. Answer: no.

2. “He’s young, he made a mistake.”

It’s always funny to me when people use this excuse, because the person they’re talking about is almost always older than me. Also: no.

3. “He’s Swedish, and it doesn’t carry the same weight in Sweden.”

I’m not familiar with Swedish culture, so I don’t know if this is true or not. However, Felix has lived in the United Kingdom since 2013, and is definitely familiar with both English and American culture through his audience. The odds that he just didn’t understand the weight of the word are next to zero, especially since he immediately tried to correct himself on the livestream.

4. “(insert YouTuber here) says the n-word all the time, and no one cares”

This reminds me of the people who tell feminists that women in Saudi Arabia have it so much worse than them whenever they talk about an issue. If the only time you bring up another example is to try to shoot someone down, it’s not an effective argument. Now, if this was brought up as an argument that there should be a greater backlash for use of racist language by all people, not just Felix—I can agree with that. That brings me to:

5. “Calm down. People say that all the time when they get angry playing games.”

Who are you hanging out with??

A few points here. One, commonality does not equal morality. Horrific things have been common throughout history, and while we try to push our society towards more just social norms, there is never a point when “lots of people do it” is the only goal post that must be passed for something to be “okay.”

Also, I get angry when playing games, and I have never once in my life shouted a racial slur. I’m not trying to suggest that I’m somehow morally superior, I just think that should be the baseline for human decency. I’ve never yelled the n-word in frustration because I’ve never once said the n-word, and so it’s never the word that comes to mind. When people are angry, their reaction isn’t going to be a word they never say, it’s going to be something that’s in their vocabulary.

6. “This isn’t a big deal.”

I agree that there are more important things out there—climate change is worsening our natural disasters and causing irreversible damage, millions of children live in poverty, and the risk of nuclear war seems to be slowly ticking forward by the day. However, there’s also been a resurgence of racism and white nationalism in the mainstream culture of the United States, and that has very real and dangerous effects. It’s not “just words.” It’s contributing to a system of violence that enables people who truly believe that Black people are inferior, and causes real life harm in innumerable ways.

It matters because everything that contributes to a system of white supremacy matters, but it’s a big deal because Felix is the most popular vlogger on YouTube. I keep saying that because it is important, because he does have a huge audience, and because he commands a lot more power than most other people. A lot of people are complaining that Felix is receiving this attention when other YouTubers who say the n-word aren’t, but there’s a very good reason why he gets more attention: because, well, he gets more attention.

7. “He’s not really racist.”

I don’t know and I don’t care. “Racist” isn’t something you are, it’s something you do, and he’s doing it. I don’t care what’s in Felix’s heart of hearts, I care what’s coming out of his mouth, and it’s not pretty.

Education & Action

I'm a firm believer in the power and necessity of education. When I look around the country right now, I see how much I do not know and do not fully understand. With that in mind, I've compiled a reading list of books to help me better understand race and racism in the United States. They aren't in any particular order or grouping: it's merely a list of books that were recommended by various articles as to what I should read to educate myself. I'm publishing this list to encourage others to educate themselves as well, whether that's through your own list of books or whatever medium you choose.

However, education at this time is nothing without action. After my reading list is a list of actions to take, as a white person, to combat racism and white supremacy in the United States. Both of these lists will probably be updated and altered.

Books

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Why Can’t We Wait? by Martin Luther King Jr.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement by Kimberle Crenshaw

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and History by Vron Ware

The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela David

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcom X

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar

No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacon and Mike Davis

When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World by Greg Jobin-Leeds

The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundani

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg

Action

Don't stand for racism, however "small" or "casual." If it is safe for you to speak up, do so.

If you have children, talk to them about what's happening. The age of "colorblindness" is over (not that is ever truly existed). We need to raise our children not only to accept everyone, but to embrace and cherish differences.

Don't just listen to white people. This is surprisingly easy to do, depending on where you live and what your social media bubble is. Make an effort to seek out voices that are different than yours (this is good for widening your mind, but it also makes your life more interesting).

Believe people when they share their experiences with you, even if those stories are outside your life experience.

Do not require POC to educate you. The people on Twitter you would want to ask questions often have already written and spoken about these issues. Do your own research, the answers will usually already be out there.

Work to elevate the voices of POC and never try to speak over them.

Think about the ways that you benefit from white supremacy. You do. No one's asking to be guilty for being white, but you do have a responsibility to use the power you have. Other people are using that power to terrorize and kill people. The time for neutrality is over.

Consider your own language and actions. Are you unintentionally reinforcing white supremacy to others or within yourself?

Don't get mad when people complain about "white people." There are so many other things to deal with right now, and they are a lot more important. If what they're saying resonates with you, consider to yourself why that is, and think about what you change within yourself to make their concern not apply to you.

If you make a mistake: apologize, seek to correct it if possible, make sure you understand what you did wrong, and make sure you will do better next time.

Think about what's going locally and what you can do and say in your community.

Contact your representatives, from local to national, to encourage good behavior and to condemn their failures. Be loud about this, to them and to others.

Go to protests. Tragically, there is no guarantee of safety for anyone at protests, but it's important that those who are less at risk (white people, able-bodied people, etc.) make the effort to be there, not only to support the cause but to help protect people who are more at risk.

Take care of yourself. Take breaks from the news/twitter/activism when you need to or you'll burn out.

Donate to causes you believe in and that are doing effective work.

Support good journalism on a local and national level.

Speak out against false equivalence and poor reporting.

Help people register to vote and get to the polls.

Vote.