Last night during the first and only vice presidential debate, a fly perched on Mike Pence’s head, immediately becoming the center of attention. Tweets and headlines went up at the speed of light, as people tried to create their own culturally relevant viral moments. Admittedly, it was hilarious, as were some of the remarks, and pieces of merch, made. But one thing that wasn’t at all comedic was the influx of comments referring to the fly as a Black person.
“This fly is Mike Pence’s only Black friend,” wrote a number of comedians on Twitter. Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett also posted, and then deleted, “Let’s go…Black Flies Matter” Again, I’m sure that the chance to go viral was at the forefront of people’s minds, but why do those kinds of tasteless remarks have to be made at Black people’s expense?
Black people have been called different types of animals for centuries, as a way to demean us. We’ve been compared to insects as well—“moon cricket” is a racial slur that originated during slavery. These juxtapositions are insensitive because they strip us of our humanity, which is what racism seeks to do.
Some believe that absolutely everything is an opportunity for a “joke” or a meme. Black people are often the butt of these comments, and then ignored (or worse, chastised) when we speak out about not finding the statements funny. As I said, it seems as if everyone is always on high alert, waiting for their shot at a viral meme, like that’s more important than the thoughts and feelings of Black people. But we’re worth much more than thoughtless comparisons.