Ecosystems of Abuse
I have always wanted to write about my experience on Play Vicious, the first Black centered instance that is part of the fediverse. Although my profile was closed 2 years ago, I could never muster the courage, or the emotional strength needed to do such a task. I have worked on noting keywords for such writing, and just peering through the few years of posts with these words was enough to have my close my machine and save it for another day. We have been collectively compounded with stress and trauma, and writers keep reminding us of this as we enter a new phase in a Covid affected society.
This is a short piece that acts as a primer for what I gather to be a larger work, but in time that will appear and write itself and I am in no rush to push this process. That said, if I do not begin and move forward with this literary eulogy to my experience, then I will have a hard time emotionally, for all these events are tied securely together. Play Vicious itself- was not the problem. The community, the people who hung out with us in our cyber space were amazing people that I still keep in contact with, but those outside of it that wished to burn it; we shut down our instance but we're not gone yet. Those with matches stood around, pleased in some capacity they had defeated their final boss and stared back at the rest of the fediverse - spectators to spectators. The loudest form of silence.
I will say that it is difficult to think about how to write about my experience without thinking about the works of other artists and writers who focus on internet culture, gender studies and anti-blackness; there is so much context and literature that has been well established before my time on the fediverse. The works are gifts though, they help me frame my own experience but also provide me with an anchor against the gaslighting and DARVO nature of the fediverse. I have also had to push myself intellectually as well- do I have the capacity to really interrogate what has happened in an intelligent manner?
Either way, what I am doing here is not static. I will be building upon it as time goes on, but I feel I must begin to lay down the foundation sooner rather than later, as people move to rewrite history.
My time on as a moderator on a Black instance, a very diasporic Black instance, really opened up the space to explore the dynamics of anti-blackness in a white dominated space, and while I think that I don’t have to explain that, I think there’s something to do be said about how ‘lefty’ the fediverse is (or at least, what I am exposed to of it) and how far removed Black thought, history or contemporary discourse is from the periphery of most of the self-proclaimed leftists and anarchists of the community. That meant that discourse that revolved around the Black experience, or the experience of People of Color (this excludes white passing people who are not read as People of Color and can live a ‘white’ life) and all the intricacies of those experiences and the language we use to discuss these phenomena’s were completely unknown; and because they were not known to the white lefty anti-racist ally of the fediverse, they were up for debate. Concepts and frameworks were not engaged with as if they had merit, they were intellectually discarded or used as a counterattack to silence Black people and darker People of Color, the very beings the concepts/frameworks were meant to speak for.
This is all separate from typical racist and sexist behaviors of random users on any social media site that one looks at and just reports, blocks, and moves on from. I am about to discuss an entirely different phenomena.
A TL;DR run down of meta discourse as people move from Twitter to the Fediverse and are trying to find their spaces. There has been a public apology to me, and it has brought back a wave of emotion and memory and frankly, I need to move forward even though people wish to keep reminding me of awful deeds done.
In 2019, after a white passing person and Black person had a public run in with one another, several issues came to the surface. Misgendering, white women/femmes making comments to Black men that make them uncomfortable, the politics of white passing people as they engage with darker folks, and slurs as they are used intracommunally—these are not easy topics but at some point, they do become necessary to discuss.
This incident led to a clear pile on from white people who were ready to come for a visible Black man in a space dominated by white people- to the point in which the white passing person and a white person (who themselves said they were a ‘reformed white nationalist’) were comfortable calling the moderators of the sole Black instance of the fediverse “peak colonizers”, with zero irony, zero pushback and zero accountability. Verbatim quote “How the hell they ended up being peak colonisers despite not being white IDFK”.
- This prompts a discussion about dynamics such as colorism, the paper bag test and
other people who claim ethnicity (not race) as proximity to being [of color] then
internalizing critiques about these systemic and documented issues as something
- The phrase ‘paper bag test’ was used against Play Vicious mods to prove that we was
against white passing people. This was also done without irony.
- Non-black person of color closed their PV account and moved to the space with white
passing people and began to suggest people were race scientists if they discussed ‘white
Latinos’, again without irony. As if Latin America was created outside of a world of
coloniality by white people from Spain who became…White Latines.
- White Latines on fediverse used being “Latinx” to evade any criticisms of white
supremacy in Latine spaces or cultural dynamics, colorism and more. Despite having
white skin, fair skin, the “Pale BIPOC” became a popular term used as a counter
argument to colorism. Being a Person of Color doesn’t make you immune to criticism
and being white passing doesn’t mean that you can center yourself in discussions about
colorism just to evade any colorist behavior you exhibit but want to hide. You’re a
This doesn’t scratch the surface but I note that it is of my opinion that the vicseral campaign against PV started directly from a negation of colorism, anti-blackness and the reality of having a marginalized identity does not mean you're free from also acting through bigotry; and what is important to note is that people were on the trifecta of instances which I even now hesitate to name because in the past they are able to dogpile with their shitposts and make one feel so incredibly small. In a world where people that look just like them do it on a massive scale, being Latine and being antiblack and colorist to another Latine for sport feels far more colonial than radical, to me. Pero el hijo de la culebra no nace redondo.
The loudest accounts on the Latine instance were white passing Indigenous person and other white Latines, and instead of engaging with what was said, they internalized everything and made themselves the main character in discourses that were never going to center them. And because of that, I was harassed, lied about and under surveillance for years. Other white Indigenous users called PV a minstrel show (I can’t even begin to tell you how ignorant you gotta be to call us that because that shit makes no damn sense, but the point is people were HATING); people were silent about these behaviors and instead of rebuking, correcting or making sure they weren't in spaces that gave them power and control, everything was done behind closed doors silently.
And stalking, and shit talking, and mining content, parroting our words with zero substance leaving the lips and being overtly antiblack and angry at us. These moderators, instance admins across at least three large or well-known servers worked to harass PV, and perhaps when it began to be a boring sport for them, try to quiet down those that had it out for us the most. Admins/mods knew screen shots of locked posts were being shared, knew people were monitoring my locked timeline, knew that old hurt was being dragged up again and again, and instead of proactively calling out the abuse, they continued to behave as if PV was just a problem as it was just existing. PV was being gaslit to hell and back, just for us to find out 2 years after we closed shop that multiple admis and mods are coyly admitting there was a problem, there was harassment, there was clear antiblack and colorist biases and ‘not enough was done to stop it’. Far too little too late. And users on these instances do not know the extent to which individuals were told to stop harassing, stop lying, stop projecting…
The fediverse is an ecosystem of abuse. And we as victims have paid a very heavy price.