A Volunteer-Run Facebook Group Will Respond To Racist Comments On Your Behalf, But Here’s Why It Might Be Problematic
Our current political and social climate has made being a person of color in America even more difficult than it was before. Events like Charlottesville have emboldened racists, and it’s so important now more than ever for all white people take accountability for the ways they benefit or contribute to racism. Enter White Nonsense Roundup: this volunteer-run Facebook group will respond to racist commenters on your behalf, so you don't have to expend emotional labor educating trolls. According to the group’s pinned Facebook status, “White Nonsense Roundup (WNR) was created by white people to address our inherently racist society and stand up against racism in our own families, work spaces, and communities.” They also add “We believe it is our responsibility to call out white friends, relatives, contacts, speakers, and authors who are contributing to structural racism and harming our friends of color.” In addition to the Facebook group, White Nonsense Roundup maintains Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Founded by Terri Kompton and Layla Tromble, White Nonsense Roundup’s focus is to provide educational resources about systemic racism for other white people, as well as alleviate some of the demand for emotional labor often put on people of color. (Simply put, emotional labor is when a marginalized community is asked to educate a privileged group while not "getting emotional," and without receiving compensation for the work they put in.) Black people, especially Black women, are expected to give a lot emotional labor with nothing in return, and White Nonsense Roundup seeks to alleviate some of that pressure.
This is how it works: If the group is tagged on Facebook by a person of color who is being asked to give emotional labor, one of their white volunteers will step in, and provide resources or commentary instead. The Huffington Post reports “The [Facebook] page has garnered a modest following, with close to 100,000 likes on Facebook and posts from people of color calling them 'amazing' or 'awesome' on their personal pages.” White Nonsense Roundup also routinely posts resources and articles on recurrent topics such as cultural appropriation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and intersectionality. White Nonsense Roundup is like an online version of Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), a national organization that gathers white people in local chapters to fight racism.
While White Nonsense Roundup is doing good by picking up the emotional labor being asked of people of color, the Facebook group also draws some criticism for whitesplaining. Chenoa Alamu, a woman of color who has utilized White Nonsense Roundup, told the Huffington Post, “This is a good thing, but also not a good thing because still, a black person will know better, because we’re the ones actually experiencing [racism].”
Don’t get me wrong: it is the responsibility of white people to educate other white people on racism, but even the wokest white people will never be able totally convey the damage caused by systemic racism. Only marginalized people can truly speak for themselves and their communities.
Another issue that comes up with the concept of White Nonsense Roundup is the idea of a white savior complex. The term is used to describe white people who believe people of color who do not have the ability to help themselves without the aid of an altruistic white person; examples of the white savior complex in action are voluntourism and American textbooks that praise colonizers. Though the group clearly doesn't believe that people of color can't help themselves, and is indeed providing a useful service, their efforts could be perceived as playing into that trope since they are, quite literally, white people coming to the rescue of people of color online.
Despite the potentially problematic aspects of the group, White Nonsense Roundup offers a unique way to tackle racism and trolling that adversely affects the mental and physical health of people of color. While speaking to HuffPost, Tromble acknowledges that she isn't trying to speak over people of color. “Nothing I’m saying is new: black, brown and indigenous folks have been telling us this stuff for decades,” she said. Kompton and Tromble understand they are reiterating the work of Black activists, and in many ways, they are repackaging the conversation about racism in a more palatable way for white people. White Nonsense Roundup is making it easier for people of color to exist in online and real life spaces, and that is vital to any form of inclusive activism.