We've lost some truly great things.
The #ThingsIdLikeToGetBack hashtag swept through Twitter yesterday as a twist on Throwback Thursday.
Set off by the account @MoonPieTags, it has inspired thousands of lamentations of lost youth along with posts about fallen media icons, Obama being better than Trump, and how we all miss our old pets. It's a soft and pleasant kind of nostalgia, which is nice enough. But if you dig a little deeper, #ThingsIdLikeToGetBack has also painted a clear picture of the ways that life in the United States has changed for the worse in recent decades.
While the "OK boomer" meme points to the exhaustion of dealing with a group of people who refuse to listen to anyone born after 1985—who mock our concerns and blame us for changing the economic shifts that afflict us—this hashtag tells the story of what they had that we lack. For all their nostalgia for a lost era of greatness, a lot of the things that made life hopeful, prosperous, and just plain livable for young people coming of age in the 60s and 70s have been lost without much of an acknowledgment.
If you're a boomer, maybe you think that music these days is trash. It's just a bunch of noise. Back when you were in college, you could go see Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and The Who all in one venue! Real music. Not this noise they listen to these days. Who even is Tekashi69? And why do all these new musicians want to have tattoos all over their faces?
We'll ignore the fact that your parents said the same things about your music, because these are good questions. I would answer them if I could, but you're actually more invested in these trends than most of us are. These young celebrities who frighten and confuse you do not represent important cultural touchstones like Hendrix and The Beatles. Media sources are more disparate than ever, which means there are 100 times as many "famous" people today as there were in your youth, but each one is only a tiny fraction as famous as celebrities used to be. You hear about the ones that float to the surface, mostly for being especially outrageous. And yeah, a lot of them are trash. Leaving aside how many of your icons were secretly trash as well, let's focus on the fact that even a basic ticket to 2019's biggest music festival cost more money than a huge portion of the country has available even for an emergency.
If you adjust for inflation, the minimum wage is still lower than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, rent has gone up at more than twice the rate of the median income, and home prices are even worse—up 121% compared to income crawling along at 29%. And you get upset that we aren't buying enough houses? All the while, productivity, AKA the value of our work, has been shooting up, with that growth almost all funneled to the nation's wealthiest (disproportionately boomers). And that college you went to when you weren't swimming in the mud at Woodstock? It's nice that you were able to pay your tuition with a summer job, but tuition has increased at eight times the rate of wages. We're not taking on unsustainable levels of student debt because we're careless, or lack work ethic. We're taking it on because we've been told all our lives that an advanced degree is necessary for a good life, and that's just how much it costs.
You didn't even realize that you were riding on a wave of prosperity and growth that was put in motion by the New Deal Democrats. As you found your footing in the world, you voted in politicians who would slash the top marginal tax rate and kneecap the union protections that gave workers the leverage to negotiate fairly with employers. Politicians value the success of private enterprise over the health of our populous, and they take donations from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies who wring every bit of profit they can out of basic survival.
You used your wealth to create a culture of toxic individualism verging on narcissism—of sprawling excess and consumption, driving up home prices with suburb upon suburb of McMansion—and you scoff at the concept of restructuring our system to curtail the environmental effects. You tell us that our plans to clean up your mess will hurt the economy, despite the fact that climate change has already cost the global economy nearly two trillion dollars and presents a threat to over a billion jobs. You are the generation most at fault for creating the world as it is, and you blame us for its ugliness.
Here's my contribution to #ThingsIdLikeToGetBack: A boomer nostalgia that goes deeper than cultural signifiers—than Muscle Cars and Mork from Ork. I want to see a nostalgia that acknowledges that the existence of iPhones doesn't necessarily mean that my generation is better off, a nostalgia for the material circumstances you had which my generation is deprived of.
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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