You ever been to a dinner party and catch the host softening a stale loaf of bread by wrapping it in a damp towel and placing it in the microwave? Me neither. But I have read multiple anti-ADOS articles written by Jess Aiwuyor, which is basically the same thing.
In both scenarios, what’s put in front of a person is old and warmed over, with the only difference being that the stale bread was at one point actually good. The same cannot be said for Aiwuyor’s uniformly dull, dishonest, and lecture-like ‘critiques’ of #ADOS, which—before she’d even first put pen to paper—had long passed their expiration date and have since essentially just been laying around the Internet sprouting mold.
It’s getting harder not to feel that Aiwuyor is anything other than a hired gun for the keepers of the status quo. Or (and maybe this is more likely it) that in churning out these articles she is doing anything other than signaling to those relevant parties how keen she is to faithfully serve in whatever custodial capacity they might recommend. She is, after all, a self-identified ‘storyteller’. And if you find your eyes kind of auto-siding at that descriptor, I assure you that you’re not alone. In this space, a self-professed ‘storyteller’ who suddenly materializes with such evident zeal to discredit and police a justice movement led by this country’s bottom caste should rightly be regarded as more creature-ish than sincere.
There’s a kind of weird, horoscope-y quality to Aiwuyor’s latest anti-ADOS reheating. “The year 2020 is pivotal for the Black community,” she tells her readers. “This is a year of change but it’s also a year of deception.” Mercury retrograde in Pisces blah blah blah. This is what supposedly serious political criticism looks like when it comes from the #ADOS opposition. It is literally the equivalent of something you would find inside a fortune cookie. And while Aiwuyor desperately wants her audience to believe that #ADOS—under the subterfuge of a reparations movement—promises to yield nothing but further marginalization for black America, the most she can can offer them (all she has ever offered them) is a culling of last year’s discredited claims (e.g. the one about #ADOS being primarily “bots” and “fake [online] accounts”—a claim that even some of the most strident of anti-#ADOS figures have really backed away from, presumably because every major news outlet that has covered the movement over the past year has been repeatedly unable to produce the sort of evidence that would corroborate the allegation. Nowadays, the only people still seriously talking about bots and Russian disinformation campaigns in relation to #ADOS are doing so in what seems a kind of boozy wreckage on national television where no one can actually challenge them on how totally preposterous they sound).1
Among the other reasons that Aiwuyor offers her readers for why they should “beware #ADOS” is how the movement refuses to become an accessory to N’COBRA or NAARC, which is just like, dude, obviously #ADOS is going to unhitch its wagon from the organizations that have heretofore utterly shat the bed with respect to their delivering meaningful and transformative justice for black America. Obviously. And you can try to frame that break as like treasonous or whatever—as an act of broad sabotage by a bunch of petulant and perfidious black Americans—but the fact of the matter is that ADOS, by just about every available metric, is backsliding to where they were at before these groups were established. Think about that. The question is not how could they be doing this, it’s how could they possibly not? How could they not, in taking stock of their situation, fail to recognize the need to radically overhaul the existing approach to their repair? I mean fuck…
ADOS owe no one anything. It is in fact they who are owed everything. And, at the absolute minim, they are owed some basic deference in how they as a specific group with a specific justice claim choose to self-identify and pursue it. If you don’t like it, fine. But at least try to argue your side from a place of integrity? You don’t get to just declare that the movement is co-signing race science just because their political project challenges your assumptions about what solidarity looks like in 2020 and because it complicates a shallow, naive and entirely one-dimensional understanding of how the world actually works. You don’t get to say that they are “dehumanizing” black America by trying to gather under a coherent identity that segment of it whose ancestors were quarried in Africa like animals and who were brought here to be made to labor and live in much the same manner ever since. Aiwuyor would have us believe that #ADOS is ‘dehumanizing’ that group? Really? Are we absolutely sure it’s not the other way around? That it’s not Aiwuyor who is in fact doing so much of the very dehumanizing that she claims to abhor? Because it sure seems to me that—when it comes to ADOS’s ability to know and articulate exactly what they are owed and by whom; to describe as precisely as possible the specific contours of their oppression and then advocate for repair in like measure—Aiwuyor seems to think of them as being on about the same cognitive level of a fish. It seems to me she expects from ADOS what the farmer expects from his draft animals in the field: that they are to simply submit to the yoke; the yoke for ADOS being, of course, the contemporary ‘woke’ norms that have been so casually destructive to their group.
No, what #ADOS is in fact providing the group is the possibility by which they might actually be treated as humans in the country that their ancestors’ suffering built and which today still hums briskly along on their unique exclusion and failure. Because by all indication, to be a descendant of U.S. chattel slavery means that you are bequeathed nothing of such immediate material consequence and salience to your experience as an American as the aggregate, hundreds years’ efforts by that country to thoroughly gut your life of opportunity and access. And it is so contemptible that anyone would try to de-center that reality and harangue ADOS just because they are actually brave enough to stick their necks out for one another when basically no one else will and try to begin undoing some of that disadvantage for the ensuing generation. There is, at least from my vantage, something infinitely more human expressed in that tendency, in that willingness and resolve, than anything I have yet to read in Aiwuyor.
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1. Furthermore, what seems completely lost on Aiwuyor is that describing for your readers what “journalists and researchers have documented” as being typical features of online disinformation campaigns, but then omitting how in fact no journalist or researcher has actually been able to conclusively identify #ADOS as being even tangentially linked to any such network of disinfo, doesn’t actually make your theory true. It just makes you supremely irresponsible, and betrays a basic contempt for your readers who you apparently feel don’t really deserve anything beyond your evidence-free editorializing. For Aiwuyor, it makes her, in the most literal sense of the word, what she ultimately only is: a storyteller. ↩