We Need to Talk About Letitia Wright’s Tweets and Why Accountability Matters
Please be aware of the scope of your platform.
I woke up this morning to see Black Panther 2 trending along with Shuri and Letitia Wright. Much to the dismay of my Wakandan fangirl heart, it had nothing to do with the franchise. Instead, it was about a series of tweets Wright made in regards to a video she shared re: the COVID-19 vaccinations that are being worked on.
Before I continue, let me just say that it is absolutely okay to question the validity of vaccinations that are in progress and haven’t been proven to work. It’s also absolutely okay to be skeptical as a Black person considering our history with racism in the medical field. That’s not the problem here, but I’m sure you already knew that, otherwise, why would Wright be trending?
The problem here is the video she shared and her response when people rightfully called out the issues in it.
Not only was the speaker (Tomi Arayomi) in no way a medical professional, according to sources (since the initial tweet has been deleted) he flat out stated that he didn’t understand vaccines medically, was skeptical of climate change, xenophobic, and transphobic. This wasn’t some educational video she shared, it was a full-on conspiracy theory video that, somehow, had extra time to be discriminatory toward marginalized groups. That’s truly an achievement.
Folks rightfully called Wright into question and I was ready to just leave it at that, but then I saw that this delightful tweet which is, surprisingly, still up:
if you don’t conform to popular opinions. but ask questions and think for yourself….you get cancelled 😂
— Letitia Wright (@letitiawright) December 4, 2020
And this absolute non-apology/lack of any sign of growth here:
my intention was not to hurt anyone, my ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised my concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies.
— Letitia Wright (@letitiawright) December 4, 2020
And I realized that we have to talk about this. ALL of it. The misinformation. The fallback to blaming cancel culture. The lack of accountability. The transphobia. Just… everything, all of the everything.
In order to question things you actually have to ask a question
Wright is under the false impression that she’s being attacked for daring to question the validity of these vaccines. Okay, first of all? I’m gonna need folks to stop calling education an attack. The hypocrisy of saying that you’re questioning something to seek answers, only to cry ATTACK when folks give you answers, is absurd. What you really want, in that case, is answers that agree with you and treat you like some rogue vigilante who dared to step up and question things when no one else would.
You don’t want facts. You don’t want to be challenged. You don’t want to have a conversation. You want to be coddled and praised. Period.
You are absolutely allowed, even ENCOURAGED, to ask questions, especially about a thing that’s being produced to stop an entire pandemic. By all means, we NEED to ask questions in order to get a vaccine that actually solves that problem.
If you actually want to question things, you not only have to check the sources you share (I’ll get to this next), but you have to, well, ask a question. Technically speaking, all Wright did in her initial tweet was share the video with a prayer hand emoji. That’s not questioning anything, if anything, that’s showing solidarity with the video you just posted. You can’t say you’re sharing it to question things when you didn’t say anything until folks started to question you.
That’s not asking questions. That’s defending yourself after making an irresponsible tweet.
The dangers of spreading misinformation
Keeping in mind that Wright didn’t actually ask a single question until after the rightful dragging, I should point out that it’s a good thing that folks were quick to debunk the video. We can easily say that they did it to educate Wright but it’s more than that. It’s not just about her.
Wright has a large platform, and if that tweet got left without anyone calling the video into question we could’ve had a lot of misinformed people to deal with. It doesn’t matter what Wright’s intentions were, what matters are her actions. She shared a woefully misguided video with no sort of explanation behind it beyond an emoji, people could’ve easily taken it at face value because Letitia Wright supports this.
If you really do want to have a conversation about the vaccines being made right now, it’s imperative to check the sources you’re using and, at least, explain why that’s the source you’re going with. These are people’s lives on the line here and Letitia Wright has a global presence. This wasn’t some small-time Twitter rando with 2 followers, it was someone with a voice on the platform.
What’s especially insidious about this incident is that it’s coming from a marginalized person who is part of a group that has a history of being mistreated in the medical field. I mentioned how it makes sense for the Black community to question the validity of vaccines, but spreading misinformation will only harm us more. Now isn’t the time to prey on already existing insecurities. Whether Wright meant to do that or not is, again, irrelevant, because that’s exactly one of the outcomes that could (and probably will) happen based on her platform. It was irresponsible of her, especially the number of times she quadrupled down on it.
Author Mikki Kendall wrote a thread addressing Wright, Black skepticism with vaccines, and the full weight of her actions. It’s worth reading the whole thing and Wright’s responses to it.
I am actually writing about the reasons Black people are skeptical about vaccines, but can we just not spread the words of people who don’t know what the hell vaccine ingredients are, can we give up on conspiracy theories? https://t.co/YmlKixGLZQ
— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) December 4, 2020
Also, this thread by physician and assistant professor Brittani Moneé James is an amazingly educational dive into why Black folks would have concerns about a vaccine and what can be done to alleviate their concerns. I should also note that James is one of the co-founders of “The Institute for Antiracism in Medicine.”
Let’s be honest.
Many Black person will refuse to take this COVID vaccine bc most of us don’t trust that white people or the government mean us any good.
And when that happens, know that the hesitance is not some baseless paranoia. It is completely rational.
Let me explain.
— Brittani Moneé James, MD (@DrBrittaniJ) December 3, 2020
Basically what I’m trying to get at is that Black folks are already concerned, so adding more concerns based on conspiracy theories and hesitation over “luciferase” being one of the components in a vaccine because Lucifer is in the name is… not it.
the name lucifer is an interesting choice 😞 * opens bible*
— Letitia Wright (@letitiawright) December 4, 2020
This could’ve been an opportunity to discuss this with credible sources and discussion on how we make sure this community is reassured of their valid concerns, but instead, we have a video that’s over an hour-long that shares no credible information, and thanks to the size of Wright’s platform, there will be a subsect of people who think that this is a valid take.
You might see the number of people calling her out and think that it doesn’t matter if only a handful of people believe her, but it only takes a few for something to spiral out of control. All we have to do is look around at the number of people over the summer who supported being shut down to flatten the curve compared to the folks who protested about haircuts and dining in. You see who won that argument.
Also, in the spirit of completely checking your sources, I implore you to not raise the platform of someone who expresses misguidance and hatred toward another marginalized group of people, ESPECIALLY if you’re a Black woman and the group he’s addressing involves OTHER BLACK WOMEN. I’m linking the tweet with the clip here so you have a choice in whether or not you want to see it. I was gonna link Arayomi’s problematic response, too (that I’m told was also transphobic), but it’s already been deleted.
It’s maddening that Wright shared a video with transphobic messaging when we just talked about the violence against Black trans folks because of what happened to Laverne Cox and her friend this week. It’s completely callous to have a platform as big as Wright’s and share something that discriminates against others, especially fellow Black women. The fact that it’s days after a transphobic act of violence is just an extra layer of malicious, especially since Wright hasn’t addressed that part at all.
Then again, she hasn’t really apologized or acknowledged any level of growth, but I’ll get to that.
Stop. Blaming. Cancel. Culture.
I will always and forever be frustrated that the term canceled has been morphed into this LOL scapegoat folks use when they’re being criticized for their loud, wrong, and harmful actions. It’s especially frustrating when it’s coming from someone who not only didn’t initially ask anything, but when they did start asking questions that meant that … um … they opened themselves up to responses.
How are you being “canceled” when you asked for this very discussion?
There’s this thing that folks do where they say they want to learn, but they forget that part of learning is holding yourself accountable when you come at something in the wrong way. But now it’s been boiled down as “lol canceled” which immediately makes people think it’s silly discourse and “don’t worry, sis, folks just be like that.”
I especially hate when celebrities do this because fans (and even other celebrities) will come to their aid without looking into the entire situation. As soon as Hollywood utters the phrase cancel culture there’s a chance that the rest of stardom will back them because cancel, to them, translates to “dismissing someone over nonsense, we must form Voltron to defend the others.”
Take Wright’s Marvel colleague Don Cheadle, for instance, who initially had Wright’s back based purely on the fact that she cried CANCELED. Once he realized the full scale of the situation he pulled back and deleted his initial response.
jesus… just scrolled through. hot garbage. every time i stopped and listened, he and everything he said sounded crazy and fkkkd up. i would never defend anybody posting this. but i still won’t throw her away over it. the rest i’ll take off twitter. had no idea. https://t.co/7uDlP1xwDL
— Don “bruh, you lost” Cheadle (@DonCheadle) December 4, 2020
Still, saying that he won’t throw her away isn’t necessary. No one’s asking him to do that, but folks constantly assume that accountability means “get rid of this problematic person completely.” And while it’s great that Cheadle’s saying that he’ll talk to her off Twitter, why is that the part we don’t get to have access to?
We always get to see someone wrongfully defending someone, and even correcting themselves, but when it comes to holding folks accountable? That’s private. And like, I’m sorry, but if you’re willing to put your neck on the line for someone, publically, and find out that they were wrong, publically, I kinda need some sort of “I don’t stand with them” statement to be said. Publically.
What we need is for people to not assume that someone’s being called out for some baseless reason. We need them, when they see the “I’m being canceled” tweet, to ask the simple question of why this is happening to their friend, colleague, etc. We especially need this to happen when it’s coming from folks who claim to be for defending marginalized groups, or when it’s something as serious as “celebrity shares a highly misinformed video about the pandemic during the pandemic.”
The (lack of) a real response
So did Wright learn anything from all this? You might think so since she deleted the initial video and even thanks Kendall for taking the time to educate her. The problem, to me, is that she keeps assuming that she’s being called out for questioning things and not acknowledging the real reason why people are taking the time to talk to her about this. It’s a little infuriating, to be honest, to see someone who is being given so much time and effort to not only leave up the “canceled” tweet, but to post one that only says that her intentions were good.
There’s zero acknowledgment of the actual reason why folks were going in so hard about this. There’s zero acknowledgment of the misinformation, the transphobia, none of it is mentioned. You have to search through responses to others that she’s had, and even then, none of it is really an apology or, at the very least, an admission of sharing a video that was entirely wrong.
Wright saying what her intentions are means nothing. That’s just an attempt to clean up the messiness of that prayer emoji tweet. It doesn’t show any sign of whether or not she gets the weight of what sharing that tweet could’ve done nor does it even show a basic “I don’t agree with the video.”
Like … does she agree with it? She keeps saying she shared it to raise awareness and illustrate the concerns she has and … that’s it, that’s all I have to go off of.
Letitia Wright. From one Black woman to another. You have to do better than this. Not just for your own personal growth, but for the sake of your platform and those who follow you. If you’re so adamant about raising awareness, you have to do it responsibly. You also have to acknowledge your missteps and reflect on the lessons you’re being taught.
Please don’t take this moment for granted.
(Image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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