Saturday, September 12, 2009

Maia Campbell and My Community

I'm so behind the curve on this one. I've got to admit it's because I'm doing what people do in a new situation. I'm adjusting to life in my new big city and trying to figure out where I fit. What that means, however, is that I completely missed a story about Maia Campbell, daughter of the writer Bebe Moore Campbell. She's all grown up. She is a famous beauty and, thus, is a target for people who want to take advantage of her.

It looks like that's exactly what someone did. I'm not linking to the video. However, within the community of black bloggers and websites, the mockery is shameful. It really does seem that all of the hate that we perceive coming at us from society we've managed to take and make our own. Now we turn on, mock and deride each other with the same level of hate.

This morning I read Tara L. Conely's take on what's happened, and I agree. Also, for me, the fight against the Black Superwoman myth is something I hold dear. We're strong. We've had to be. However, both mainstream and black culture seems to be blind to the challenges black women face.

And in saying that black women face challenges I'm not implying that other women don' please, don't be simple.

I also empathize because I lost my parents five weeks apart. I mention it because after it happened, people seemed to think I'd just bounce back. I did on the outside. I moved to a new city, got into a top law school and kept it moving. However, it's disturbing that society expected that of me. I don't think that's tied to race but just a general insensitivity to loss in our society. I'm glad Tara brought it up that Maia's mother is dead and gone. Tara mentioned her own loss. I know that my loss touches me pretty much daily. I can function and even thrive, but there is always the reality that I can't call my mom like I used to and have her guidance, advice and love wash over me.

I'm posting what Tara had to say here, turning comments off and hoping you'll head over there to leave a comment for her.

Maia Campbell & The Curious Case of Social Blogging

I suspect that many women of color suffer quietly or at best receive inadequate attention from family practitioners, internists, or clergy when afflicted by even the most commonplace maladies, such as mood and anxiety disorders . . . With educational efforts of the past decade, mood, anxiety, eating, and substance-abuse disorders are being increasingly recognized in the general population, and larger numbers of women of color are seeking and receiving treatment for the first time. Paradoxically however, women of color may still be less likely to receive adequate evaluation for psychotropic medications, even when their presenting symptoms are recognized (or recognizable) by health providers . . . It is not uncommon, for example, that African American, Latinas, and Native American women feel patronized by a health care system that tends to portray them as either ‘victims’ or ‘perpetrators’ of societal ills such as drug abuse, crime, and so on, rather than as individuals. On the other hand, some groups–such as Asian Americans–have a tendency to ‘delay and underutilized’ psychiatric care (Lin, Innui, Kleinman, & Womack, 1982) leading to an ‘invisibility’ of their problems.”

Frederick M. Jacobsen, MD, MPH in Women of Color – Integrating Ethnic & Gender Identities in Psychotherapy (Lillian Comas-Diaz and Beverly Greene, Eds. 1994).


With the recent viral video of actress Maia Campbell appearing disoriented and detached, it’s time our virtual communities, particularly communities of color, recognize that mental illness, whether brought on by genetics, trauma, or drug abuse, most certainly should not warrant exploitative and childish mockery in the name of increasing YouTube and blog hits. I’m sickened by some of my fellow gossip bloggers, and bloggers of color that chose to distribute this video without providing context, but instead posted cheeky bylines to attract viewers, or otherwise, start shit. YouTube users that posted the video on their channels with links to their websites, record labels, and blogs, are just as pathetic. Campbell’s recent video is not the first of its kind to surface. About a year ago, Campbell appeared withdrawn yet again while being video taped by some guy who thought it would be a cool idea to record her engaging in sexual acts.

For obvious reasons I refuse to post or link to any of the videos currently being distributed virally. I also refuse to link or track back to certain bloggers that choose to use their medium as means of speculating about Maia Campbell’s mental state and circumstance.

While other sites continue to propagate Campbell’s tragedy for hits, a few bloggers, listed below, chose the grown-up route to discuss the Campbell controversy. Among some of them include:

I going to assume there are plenty more out there blogging responsibly (I hope), but these few above were among the top searches via Google.

To those bloggers and Tweeters that choose the dickhead route:

Stop speculating that “word-on-the-street-is” bullshit as a form of ‘reporting’ on an obviously serious social issue. Stop insinuating Campbell’s condition is based on her lack of integrity, particularly when you post headlines or Tweet updates like “Cracked out Prostitute” to describe Campbell’s behavior. And by all means, at the very least, search Google before you run with a story or post a Tweet. Trend with truth, as Robin Caldwell asserts in her post above. To bloggers specifically, you simply cannot hide behind your computer screens and relish in your “I’ma blogger not a journalist” shtick, when the truth is that a large majority of people get their news from urban sites, including gossip and blog sites. Blog responsibly, and grow the fuck up.

While I’m not 100% certain Maia Campbell suffers from a specifically diagnosed mental illness, I got a sense from her late mother, Bebe Moore Campbell’s, biography that the Campbell family struggled with mental health issues. Ms. Campbell, a notable journalist, wrote several books, including Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, and one play, “Even with the Madness,” both of which highlight issues stemming from mental illness. Likewise, Bebe Moore Campbell is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and founding member of NAMI-Inglewood. As a long-time advocate for mental health, supposedly inspired by a close relative’s battle with schizophrenia, Ms. Campbell’s book was recognized by The National Alliance on Mental Illness for Outstanding Literature in 2003. Bebe Moore Campbell, Maia’s mother, died in 2003 from brain cancer.

With Campbell’s mother gone, I imagine that it only intensifies her day-to-day struggles. Not knowing Maia Campbell personally puts me in a position of observer, so I in no way want to speak for her, narrate her story, or define her womanhood by what I’ve only seen in a 5-minute video. I simply want to acknowledge Maia in a way that folks within our own virtual communities have obviously failed to do overall.

I empathize with Maia’s battle. On a personal note, I lost my father only several months ago. Since then I’ve been struggling with learning how to cope with losing a significant piece of my identity. It wasn’t until recently when I finally sought help that I realized I’ve been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, for some time. In addition to the trauma of losing my father, I’ve experienced a series of of other traumatic events since childhood, namely death. And at 28-years-old, I’m just now learning how to cope with it all.

This, my friends, is why we cannot publicly speculate, assume, and for god-sakes condescend those of us who continually deal with mental illness on a daily basis. For bloggers and journalists to say to Maia via their written posts, “Maia, you are too beautiful to be doing this” – (yes, I’m talking to you,, you have completely marginalize an entire segment of people who quietly suffer because they’d rather not feel, as Dr. Jacobsen writes above, “patronized” by the rest of society. To equate someone’s “beauty” (a socially constructed ideal, at that) with an obviously self-destructive illness not only shows your lack of brevity as a writer, but also your dearth of intellectual capacity and moral code as one with a public platform to disseminate ideas. Again, grow the fuck up.

But unfortunately this type of virtual behavior is no surprise, when considering that who we are as virtual people tend to mirror who we are and how we believe as people living in the offline world. Stereotypes, misjudging, mockery, and all out inane sensibility permeate through our social networks and web-based platforms. Instead of utilizing our new media platforms to progress as a collective, we’ve chosen to mimic regressive public behaviors online, thereby stymieing our growth and progress as a culture conscious of itself. In the case of Maia Campbell’s recent video tragedy, bloggers of color, in particular, really dropped the ball this time around. Instead of researching, folks posted without context. Instead of respecting a life, folks chose to demean and exploit. Instead of calling out others in the virtual media who got all their facts wrong, folks eagerly posted their own publicly damaging blog based on a 5-minute video clip. And instead of supporting a woman of color, who obviously appears to be suffering quietly (like so many of us have been for years), you – the folks – chose to promote your own self-serving cause; a fucking makeshift blog or record label.

#epic fail.

To Maia,

You, my dear, have my support in sisterhood and in love.

“You’re only as sick as your secrets.” (Anonymous)

Code is still buggy. I'm still busy. "read more" leads to nothing...just skip it.

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