Keeping in mind that Peaches Monroe, who coined “on fleek,” is crowdfunding her life, that there is racial inequality in meme monetization, and that, as Doreen St. Felix put it when writing for Fader, black teens are breaking the internet and seeing none of the profits, here’s the question: When you have a situation in which, as what one person on Twitter called it, “the commodification and misuse of AAVE and black culture for capitalistic gain” occurs—not to mention unauthorized usage of lyrics from black musicians—should we be distressed with the companies making these products, upset with the consumers, angry at the market, pissed by the business plan (put words black people have used on something and sell it!), or just resigned to the idea that, as the kids say, there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism? #
I saw this being retweeted a lot and wondered how many of those people unknowingly continued to use AAVE or black slang in their regular tweets. For example, using the emoji clap in between words to emphasize what’s being said. According to Know Your Meme, “On May 3rd, 2014, Urban Dictionary user Alexandria Princess submitted an entry for “ratchet clap,” defining the expression as an applauding gesture used by “ratchet” people to “emphasize a point or statement.”
Black Twitter influence + unpredictable diffusion throughout the internet = people who don’t know the net history. I’m reminded of Miranda Priestly’s monologue from The Devil Wears Prada:
This stuff’? Oh, ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of “stuff.”
On the supercharged end of the internet spectrum is memes and “going viral”. On the other are people who are still figuring out what is a “basic bitch”. This means that there are folks who don’t know that the emoji clap history but know how to use it. People who will think that its history is not from black culture but internet culture and thus are ignorant to why black people get angry and annoyed by its appropriation and by white people’s attempts to cash in on it.
The internet is still terrible at providing sources but I think we need to be more diligent about it so everyone can be better informed and so black people can hopefully get the (monetary) credit they deserve.