“The White Privilege Media Bucket Challenge” @blackgirldang

Sara FrykenbergRecently Michele Stopera Freyhauf posted an important blog about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and parallel challenges that are making use of this medium; including Orlando Jones’ reimagining of this challenge, in which he dumped a bucket of bullet shell casings over his head to “bring attention to the disease of apathy.” In her blog, Michele asks us to critically consider the way a person’s privilege may impact one’s response to such campaigns. She proposes that we use good stewardship in our enacting of a given challenge, highlighting ways in which charitable giving must be a product of deliberate, liberative praxis.

I agree with Michele: deliberate praxis (action + reflection!) is essential to justice making. And justice-making, solidarity and allyship are all kinds of work that take continual action and reevaluation. In light of such discussions of privilege and solidarity, I would like to use this blog to lift up another important reimagining of the ice bucket challenge: Mia McKenzie’s BGD White Privilege Media Bucket Challenge!

Mia McKenzie is the creator of Black Girl Dangerous (BGD), a reader supported, “grassroots arts and media project,” designed to “amplify the voices of queer and trans* people of color.” Articles on the website, www.blackgirldangerous.org, discuss a wide range of topics related to justice-making in the face of particular oppressions (and their intersections), practical strategies for breaking down privilege and standing in solidarity, queer and trans identity, and a great deal more. Some recent titles include: “All Grown Up Under Hip Hop,” “Four Person-to-Person Things I Do to Address Anti-Blackness con Mi Gente,” and “What HIV Testing is Like When You Are Queer, Black and Undocumented.” 

Working to create greater opportunities for queer and trans people of color, BGD is currently running a campaign to raise money for its “Get Free Program for Queer and Trans Youth of Color,” and the “Editor-in-Training Program.” The Editor-in-Training program is a free program designed to teach online writing and editing skills to marginalized people for whom access to education and the tools that allow for self-sustained voices are too often denied. These are both exciting projects that I know many writers and readers here at feminismandreligion.com would be interested in supporting or learning more about.

Mia McKenzie has also invited those of us with white privilege to help raise awareness for this project through her “Media Bucket Challenge.” She describes the challenge on the BGD website:

The White Privilege Media Bucket Challenge is a fun way white folks who are practicing solidarity with people of color can help let people know about this project and help support it!

The ball’s already rolling! Join in! Check out these videos and make one of your own! Here’s the basics:

  1. Keep the wording simple (stick to the basic script in these videos so there’s consistency)

  2. Make your video quirky, bring your personality and make it fun!

  3. Challenge three of your friends (give them a 24 or 48 hour deadline to accept/do the challenge!)

  4. Please include the link to the fundraiser when you share on social media (http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/bgd-editor-in-training-program-get-free-program/223787)

  5. If you’re on Twitter, tweet your video to@blackgirldanger. You can also tag us when you share it on FB.

  6. Help bring awareness to this important project!

The video challenge looks something like this: A white individual accepts Mia McKenzi’s challenge to bring awareness and support to the Editor in Training program on camera. He, she or they then dumps a bucket of media (in the videos I have seen, this looks like crumpled up magazine articles) over his, her or their head, and then proceeds to review each article—noting that it is a white voice each time.  This action is meant to draw attention to the ways in which white voices vastly outnumber the voices of people of color in the media. The participant then names specific individuals, asking these additional people to accept the challenge and support the inclusion of marginalized voices. You can check out sample videos here.

As a professor and person concerned with justice, I find this challenge extremely important. When building my syllabi, I purposefully try to displace white, male and heterosexual dominance in my classes by decentralizing these narratives and refusing to simply “add” people of color, and queer or trans individuals as “extras” to an academic cannon based on the lives of people of privilege. However, I have noticed when I am stressed, when it is my third semester of mostly new preps and when I am tired, how easy it can be and the temptation to “default” to the dominant cannon—or more accurately, as a white feminist, to default to the white feminist voices I know so well.

Watching these videos, I asked myself what this video would look like with the kind of media I consume. I stared at my bookshelf (of digital and physical texts). I considered the pile of articles I included in my last publication. I considered my blogs for this site. What voices am I in dialogue with? How am I in dialogue? And, what kind of power and whose power is affirmed in what I write? While I do not think using white sources is “wrong,” I do believe that part of what it means to work in solidarity with people of color, queer and trans people, and other marginalized communities, is that I, a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman must use my power to make room for and centralize marginalized voices and concerns—in other words, to give epistemological privilege to the oppressed. Mia McKenzie’s challenge reminded me to practice constant vigilance: to continually consider and reconsider (and reconsider again) those sources with which I dialogue.

There are many invitations given to people of privilege to act for justice—and Mia McKenzie’s creative reinterpretation of the bucket challenge is a great place to start. My thanks to BGD for the opportunity and permission to post this information here.

 Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.: Graduate of the women studies in religion program at Claremont Graduate University, Sara’s research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher.

Categories: Justice, LGBTQ, Media, power, Racism, Social Justice

Tags: , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Great post, Sara. Thanks for letting us know about Blackgirldangerous and what they’re up to. I hope many people take the challenge.


  2. Nice idea but my best friend has ALS and very little attention has been paid to the disease in favour of other diseases. I’m watching a friend die in increments imprisoned in her own body. I’ll keep backing ALS and if that makes me privileged, so what.


    • Hi Elfkat,

      I don’t think this challenge from BGD is meant to prevent people from supporting research for ALS– nor, in my view, is it trying to say that one has to be “privileged” to want to support research and awareness of this devastating disease. Rather, the reimagining (I believe) is just that: a reinterpretation of the symbolism of this ALS campaign to also garner awareness for other important issues.

      I do hear your concern here that ALS does not garner the awareness/ attention that its seriousness warrants though. Michele’s article (which I link to above) notes the success the Ice Bucket challenge has had in raising funds for this research, which I see as a step in the right direction.


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