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Pickle Me This

March 18, 2021

The Limits of Hashtags

For the last, well, seven years, to be honest, I have been frustrated by the limits of hashtag activism, not because the issues these hashtags have brought to the surface of public attention are not urgent and critical, but because they *are,* and I am not sure they are served by the simplification of a hashtag, which ultimately stands to coalesce a tangle of experience into a single narrative. The hashtag is a beginning, I think, but one single event or idea can never really stand for more than itself, because the world is so much more messy and complicated than that.

I was thinking about this all last week at news of the murder of a woman in London; I’ve been thinking about it with the news of the murder of 8 women, six of them Asian, in Atlanta. I have been thinking about how I want to resist the demand to share the same PowerPoint stories, employ the same hashtags, to use the same words as everybody else to respond to these incidents, because there is always more than one story and we ought to be suspicious when there isn’t.

How I want to respond with something more meaningful than adhering to that single story, as a tribute to the humanity of these people whose lives have been violently stolen. More meaningful than texting my Chinese-Canadian friends to check in with them as well, which seems kind of cringe worthy and cliched, and a burden for my friends. I don’t want to put a fucking candle on my porch. (Or a hockey stick. Good God, do I ever find public mourning rituals meaningless.)

Instead, I want to think, and share my process, and sometimes that takes time, and in fact it should. Instead, I will admit that I still don’t know what an appropriate response is, but that I’m rattled too, and that white supremacy is real, and that I am committed to anti-racism, which I think requires even more work than me yelling on Instagram in fact.

I learned a lot from reading Morgan Ome’s “Why This Wave of Anti-Asian Racism Feels Different,” an interview with Cathy Park Hong in The Atlantic, and so I think that is what I want to share now, in addition to the obvious show of love and solidarity. It’s linked in my profile and it’s great.

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