Updated: Mar 9, 2020
As I'm drying off from my morning shower this past Wednesday morning, I look through YouTube on my phone to catch up with some video subs, and a clickbait-ish title comes up under one of my recent subbed channels, "The Majority Report": "Are You a Guilty White Liberal? There's a Safety-Pin-Box cure for That".
My Angry Feminist Negress sense tingled, and I thought, "Hmm...maybe this segment isn't as bad as the title is?", so I watched Michael Brooks give his thoughts on the social activism subscription service "Safety Pin Box", created by activists Leslie Mac and Marissa J. Johnson.
...and, it's EXACTLY as BAD AS THE CLICKBAIT TITLE SOUNDS.
Later on that morning, I tweeted through my disappointment and astonishment at the perspective held by Brooks with a tweet thread, in which I directly @-ed Brooks and SPB co-creator Leslie Mac. The conversation became large, as Twitter convos usually do, in which both Leslie and Marissa ended up giving their own thoughts on Michael and Phil's tone-deaf and ad-hominem filled "critique" of their service, along with others. I told Michael that I would listen to the 2DB segment in full to get more a more broad understanding of their perspective. After listening to the segment on the episode, "Racial Indulgences for Guilty White People...", I have to say...
...the podcast is MUCH WORSE. So, let's go through WHY.
Right off the bat, the critique starts with an ad hominem against Leslie Mac and Marissa via the “I guess an activist” crack from Michael Brooks. He also proceeds to call the SPB service “peak pseudo-woke neoliberalism” and hyperbolically strawmans the service as "an infomercial" because of his own cynical perspective about how much activists should be paid for their labor, which, funny thing, would be a neoliberal, capitalist perspective, would it not? So when it’s about Black women getting paid for their social activism and intellectual labors, it’s “neoliberalism”, according to the 2DB hosts, because THEY ---Michael Brooks ESPECIALLY---PERSONALLY think $100/month is an “absurd” price, and "overpriced commodified activism"? More on that, later.
Then show co-host Phil McKenzie says, “Who can sum this up better than the creators?", with Michael jokingly replying, “US”. “ Actually, NO, gentlemen. Y’all could’ve reached out to Leslie and Marissa before doing this segment, or done more due diligence before doing this segment. Listening to the entire "Brand Eff Up" segment of this week's show, Phil mentioned that there are 3 subscription levels, but he and Michael keep a LASER SHARP focus on SPB's Premium Subscription level, dismissing the lower subscription levels, and even the one-time contribution box, where SPB will donate those funds to the charity of your choice in the name of someone you know/are related to who is racist, sexist, queerphobic, etc. at your request.
Example: if your dad is against abortion, you can send SPB a $50 donation to be sent to Planned Parenthood IN YOUR DAD’S NAME. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?
The hyper-skeptical and hyper-cynical nature of Michael and Phil, questioning the quite literally cut and dry language of the objective of the SPB almost as if they didn’t have a topic for “Brand Eff Up”, so they picked one out of a hat, no matter how much they may say otherwise. Phil commenting on when he first saw the site, he thought to himself, “This has gotta be a joke”, following by cynical musings of the use of plain language as a deceptive tactic, ridiculing simple explanatory statements like, "Box memberships are a way to not only financially support femme freedom fighters" caused the men to laugh. Laugh at Black women plainly stating their identities. Jesus. And all I could think was, "Wait...you’re mad that a site is being 100% about what their product is,? Is this really happening?", which is why I stand by my assertion of Michael and Phil not really having a subject for their "Brand Eff Up" segment, so they just went online as the show aired, saw something that offended them via a quick skim, and then, BAM! SEGMENT FODDER!
On top of that, you see deception and apply malicious intent in language that is nothing more than Black women plainly stating their gender identities, along with utilizing "femme" to make sexist jokes about some women's deep dislike of being referred to as "females" as opposed to "women", like...
Y'all muhf***as SERIOUS??
The objective says plainly that White folks can do the work to educate themselves to combat White Supremacy while supporting Black femme-identified women for their labor. I don’t know how much more PLAINLY that needs to be PUT! Of course, it’s possible the SPB service may appeal to those White ppl who are faux woke, but they won’t be able to keep up for long if they don’t PUT IN THE EFFORT to do the work, and if THIS is your ONLY grievance? Besides, y'know, placing yourself as an arbiter of how much Black women should be paid for their labors in social activism?
GET THE FUCK OUT THIS LIBERATION PRAXIS SHIT, DOGGIE, BECAUSE LIFE IS HELLA MORE COMPLICATED THAN THE SHIT YOU'RE ON.
Phil expressed his dislike of the SPB service via reading off part of the FAQ, but skips over most of it to focus on a statement made that really "grinded his gears". The FAQ question asked, "Why a subscription and not just general donations?", to which the SPB creators stated, "Part of being an ally is being consistent." It was THIS one sentence of a CONCISE, FOUR SENTENCE REPLY that bothered Phil a lot because he proceeded to say that "One's commitment to an ideal isn't measured solely by one's financial commitment."
Now, on the face of it, without taking the ENTIRE answer for that specific FAQ question in context, Phil's statement is true; one’s commitment to an ideal or being an ally isn’t measured solely by one’s financial commitment. But if financial commitment weren’t a significant means of assisting people, causes and ideals, then most nonprofits and crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and even Patreon would not exist. And from personal experience, when it comes to causes I really care about? Yes, I signal boost the HELL out of them via my social media networks. Yes, I make videos about them on my YouTube channel. And...I'VE ALSO CONTRIBUTED MONEY FOR A TIME TO THEM. I'm not working right now, but when I'm in better financial circumstances, I look forward to being able to give Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International, and Children's International some coins once a month once again. And as I replied to Michael on Twitter on Wednesday, people will give their money to causes and other shit they believe in; they will put all the dollars behind said idea/cause/product/service, etc, yet, when it comes to Black women creating a service and wanting to be compensated for our activist labor? The worth of our labor comes into question or is dismissed as "absurd" by Michael Brooks, or just a "hustle", according to Phillip McKenzie.
THIS IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM. This continues to be why there isn't any worthwhile solidarity between Black women and White+Black men in liberation movements.
We live in a capitalist society, and we have to survive in it, until the system is changed or done away with completely. And even activists and advocates need to eat, to support their families, pay their bills. The Majority Report, the online YT news show and podcast that both Brooks and McKenzie co-host on with main host Sam Seder, asks for monetary contributions via donations and memberships, as well as receives support from sponsors, like Amazon. So to criticize SPB for its membership subscriptions---for its Premium Subscription, SPECIFICALLY---is hypocritical on the 2DB hosts' part, a significant point that was bought up by Twitter user Florian (@studioflow):
***Tweets used with permission***
As the segment goes on, Brooks and McKenzie continue to go in on SPB, with commenting that the creators are “...couching it in bullshit”, aka somehow obfuscating their motives with language, even though they only skimmed through the site and did not read and watch the contents of the FAQ in its entirety, and in doing so, they do nothing but rely on intellectual laziness & dishonesty, sling hyperbolic strawmen and ad hominems, and assign malicious intent of trying to get rich where none apply, whatsoever. Brooks even went so far as to assert cynically that only White people who are performatively woke are the target market for this service, and that White people who would sign up for the SPB service would be given a "racial pass" to say "nigger/nigga" via his comment, “You can use the ‘N’ word dispensation for them”. Not only is this assertion logically fallacious, but an UNMITIGATED insult not just to the SPB project itself, but to Leslie, Marissa and pretty much any Black woman whose antiracism social justice work on social media has been jacked by White people who go on to benefit from the work they co-opted and stole. And only a person who couldn’t be bothered to do any research on Leslie and Marrisa would ever assert they're here for giving White folks a pass on ANY sort of racial fuckery, let ALONE using "nigger/nigga".
So, when Michael assured me that he had deconstructed his skepticism, I can state THAT was a LIE. Brooks did not deconstruct WHY he thinks a $100/month subscription asking price is too much or why he focused on THAT ASPECT ENTIRELY and not the other subscription levels, he merely rationalized and justified his position without ANY actual basis in facts, because it's obvious he and Phillip browsed through SPB's main page until a certain point and barely skimmed the FAQ page. They did not take the time to watch the videos in the fact section, nor go through the entire site in full, nor did they do research on the creators, Leslie and Marissa. THIS IS NOT DUE DILIGENCE, this is intellectually lazy, dishonest, hypocritical, PROBLEMATIC, PERFORMATIVE, "FAKE-WOKE" FUCKERY that borders on MISOGYNOIR.
Also, the SPB has never asserted or implied that their subscriptions are THEE only way to go about liberation praxis and allyship, but just a MEANS. The level of cynicism espoused by Brooks and McKenzie will be the death knell of any concrete solidarity btw progressive White and Black liberation fighters and advocates. Cynicism and hyper-skepticism have NO place in liberation movement and praxis, and may I remind Michael and Phillip that the only social justice advocates who get rich off their endeavors are WHITE advocates, like the Tim Wises and the Hugo Schwyzers. All the women of Safety Pin Box are putting forth is a service where they can finally receive some measure of compensation for the decades of Black Women’s social activism work.
And there is NOTHING malicious and pseudo-woke about THAT.