This has been going through my mind for a little while and the most recent incident caused me to decide to address it here.
As we know, DeWayne Wade has a son who is a part of the LGBT community. Both Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, have been vocally supportive of their son on his identity journey.
I think this is good. I repeat, I think this is good. I felt the need to repeat and embolden that part because what I’m about to talk about may sound like I feel the opposite and I know how some of y’all can be when you don’t read exactly what you wanted to read.
There has been more than one instance where after posting family pictures, adult meanies on social media have made untoward comments about Wade and his son. These comments usually come out of the mouths of homophobic people who feel Wade should bring his son into subjection in terms of his expression of his identity. In other words, they don’t like that his son is allowed to wear fake nails, or crop tops, or whatever else these internet commentators deem feminine wares.
Usually, Wade or Union will “clap back.” They will address the meanies and talk about how they love their child and support him and it’s their business and choice to do so. They get a lot of media attention for being good parents. People pine over the way they support their son.
The question I have is, when is the clapback only adding to the insult or injury of the initial mean comments?
Let me explain. When you “clap back,” you are dignifying the comment that you’re clapping back to. You may not realize it, but when you address anything, positive, negative, or in between, you are acknowledging that even if the comment wasn’t nice or educated, it was a valid expression.
In other words, instead of letting it die at the end of the sentence, you give it a life.
At some point, I wonder if Wade and Union’s clapbacks and the subsequent praise from the media about their clapbacks is merely causing their son to relive the bigoted comments directed towards him.
For example, if I have a child and my child comes home crying and tells me that Johnny called her ugly, and I comfort the child and reaffirm her beauty, that’s good. But, if when my (imaginary) husband comes home, I tell him while we’re all eating dinner, “Johnny called her ugly today,” and then, when her grandma calls later, I get on the phone and say, “A little boy called her ugly today…” while my child is sitting next to me watching television, am I allowing my child the opportunity to sit in and absorb the reaffirmation that I gave her when I keep replaying the insult to everybody who will listen?
Now, pretend I was a celebrity with millions of followers who not only is going to clap back, but have my clapback shared by millions of followers and mass media and even end up doing an interview or two about the situation. Despite the fact that I’ve reaffirmed my child, Johnny and his ugly comment is given a life as it plays non-stop on the social media news cycle and my reaffirmed child has to keep hearing and seeing it until social media gets bored and moves on to the next piece of nonsense.
This is my peripheral concern with Wade’s son and his parents’ need to address the ugliness that comes out on the internet. Raising children can be tricky because on the one hand, you want to be tender with them as they deserve and give them a worry-free childhood. On the other hand, you have to prepare them. You have to prepare them for the fact that some people won’t like them for no reason at all. You have to prepare them for the fact that some people will think they’re too tall, or too short, or too fat, or too thin, etc. Unfortunately, if you’re a part of a marginalized group, that goes double.
You have to teach them that the people who just want to pull them down are ultimately the people they need to avoid. In the social media era, that also means that those commenters are the people you don’t need to spend your time clapping back at every time you decide to post a picture and they decide to be hateful.
The truth is, your clapback won’t make them abandon their bigotry, (and sickeningly enough, may gain them more popularity). And it’s likely that some of these people, no matter how much you clap back, will only make sure they show up in the comments of your next picture with similarly foul sentiments.
Am I saying they should stop posting family pictures? Absolutely not. They have the right to celebrate their family like anybody else does. I do think it’s time to stop taking the bait of randos on Instagram and Twitter with enough time on their hands to express their displeasure about a crop top.
Personally, I hope the Thanksgiving picture controversy is the last time Wade or Union feel the need to engage bigoted trolls. I think it will set a good example, not just for their own children but for the rest of us as well.