op-ed: afropunk contributor danielle “jazz” noel received heartbreaking comments when she was featured in a viral video with her ex. she tells us how she handled it

February 22, 2016

Prior to the Elite Daily video, I had never gone to a casting. So when we found out Hack was selected to take part in a social experiment on exes, he asked me to come along. Despite the tone of the video, him and I are actually still best friends.

However, what started as a fun social experiment turned into a larger social conversation less than 12 hours after its release. The comment section was filled with comments bashing my physical features. Men were calling me an “ape” “gorilla”, “bitch”, “ugly”, saying I looked like the “dirt under their fingernails” and more. At first, it was a little disheartening, but then I really started thinking about how hurt someone must be in order to come all the way to YouTube and try to bash another for essentially no reason at all. You can watch the video and read the comments, here.

By Danielle “Jazz” Noel, AFROPUNK contributor

Colorism and bashing of black features is nothing new to me. I’ve experienced its effects my entire life whether dealing with extended family, or children at school. Certain family members clearly favored the children in the family with a lighter complexion or smaller nose. Kids at school made a point to call me names in an attempt to hurt feelings. But social media and the internet, as a whole, is a dangerous and evolutionary means of bullying. The lack of face-to-face interaction allows for those who would normally remain quiet—in fear of facing any consequences—to rapidly spread hate from behind a computer screen. Herein lies the danger of cyberbullying: Many of those attacking me for being born this way are really dealing with their own inferiority complexes unbeknownst to them, and gain a false sense of superiority by trying to make me feel like less of a person. But whereas, in the past, bullies might have handled the issues with a fight, discussion or something that made both parties reflect on either their actions or reactions; bullies on the internet have face little accountability for their words. With lack of accountability, they’re less likely to reflect on what caused them to be so cruel, which prevents them from ever looking on the inside to get to know themselves and understand their own hurt. Essentially, social media cyberbullying has ushered in a dangerous evolution of self-hate. I am eternally appreciative for growing up with such a strong family unit that nurtured my proper development and ensured my self-love, despite what anyone had to say. I’m someone who is very comfortable in my skin, and prefer my nose, lips and any other feature that makes me, me. I truly due pity anyone who feels the need to try to make me feel inferior. What concerns me are the countless younger girls and boys coming of age, who look like me. How will they be effected by this and other unnecessarily rude behavior and commentary? We need to have these conversations now, and forever; being reflective of the times and ensure that we teach every person to love themselves, regardless of what anyone else has to say.

I’m currently a post-bac pre-med student at Columbia University, as well as a researcher in the school of Social Work. Ironically, the bulk of my research focuses on racism and micro-aggressions that take place in social media comment sections. But, no matter how much I may have researched in the past, nothing prepared me for the reality of what it’s like to be dragged in this manner on social media. In my free time, I work as a photographer (JazzShoots.com) for music festivals and artists. The bulk of my work focuses on the beauty of black people, hip-hop documentation and public health projects.

After I read all of the comments, I thought about one phrase Erykah Badu told me after shooting one of her shows that constantly rings in my head, “Hate for anything stems from a fear of something.” Everyone has their own fears to face, but I propose we add one more statement to the AfroPunk flyer: “No Xenophobia”, and start a new trending topic, #MyBlackIsBeautifulBecause….

I know that My Black is Beautiful because it is unapologetic, bold and full of self-love.

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