Will Some Bloggers Say Anything To Get a Click?
We’d Like an Apology.
Shame on you…. Colorlines, Race Forward & Aura Bogado. Click-baiting, Race-baiting, Homophobia, Minimizing Ferguson Residents, Trivializing Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts & Distorting Facts to Get Views & Donations.
By now you might have seen it; the cute new video featuring kids from Ferguson, MO talking about how racism is not over. It’s going viral on the Internet with millions of combined views, sparking important dialog and people are loving and sharing its message. It was made by us, FCKH8.com, a social change activist T-shirt website that has put equality messages on over 200,000 people’s shirts with each one acting like a tiny billboard for positive change.
We’ve received literally thousands of racist comments, e-mails, phone messages and live-chat notes from racist white people in reaction to these Ferguson kids speaking out. If you like the N-word, you have to read our inbox.
With all the hate from racists that has been directed at these kids and at us, one of the most troubling sources has been a blogger named Aura Bogado at Colorlines, a blog put out by an organization you’d expect to be an ally called Race Forward.
Colorlines’ attention-getting headline is intentionally crafted to smell of scandal and generate views reading, “This is the T-Shirt Company Making Money Off of Ferguson.”
Aura Bogado begins the attack article by calling the kids from Ferguson “purportedly from Ferguson” even though she never once emailed or called to verify that the kids are local residents that were cast and auditioned on the sidewalk across from the shooting scene itself. She added, “Even if the children are from Ferguson, it’s unclear if or how they’ve been compensated.” Perhaps it’s “unclear” because she chose not to call or email us? Not once. It is however, clear that maybe her real interest is to call into question the authenticity of the children to create a sensational blog post. It’s a common thing some bloggers do. Had she wanted to print facts she would have found out that the local kids that were chosen from the street-side auditions were paid, that their parents participated and were there with them at the filming at the temporary studio in a downtown St.Louis hotel. Considering that one of the children’s older brother has trouble sleeping at night because a teen was shot in their neighborhood and his mother was witness to the scene itself, it’s troubling that an out-of-state blogger would try and diminish local residents’ response to a horrific tragedy for personal gain, clicks and attention.
Continuing the effort to create manufactured controversy, she wrote, “Five dollars from each shirt will supposedly go to unidentified ‘charities working in communities to fight racism.’ Which charities? Who knows! What communities? Can’t tell you.” Fact is that the charities benefiting are clearly listed on 7 different pages of the site. Seven pages and from the moment the site launched. So who knows she asks? We’ll anybody that actually visited the site, that’s who. It is strange that a blogger who would write a story about a site would seemingly never visit that site and see that a detailed list of the charities benefiting are clearly listed, with that info also included on every one of the T-shirt product pages themselves. Had she checked the facts and read the information on the site she would also see that we will be posting screen shots of the actual online donations or photos of the checks on our news page weekly for all to see.
It’s been roughly 72 hours since the video and T-shirt campaign were launched. Look for those update posts next week. Pretty transparent. We also state that the organizations we are donating to are not affiliated with us in any way and that we are simply making donations to them. Race Forward was originally listed among the groups we are choosing to support. We even included a link so our audience could get involved in their work. Not knowing that you had to ask permission to donate money to and drive supporters to an organization, we simply added another organization that asked us to benefit after the video launched. Was Aura Bogado’s choice to print false information about charities an attempt to get attention to her story? Is Colorlines OK with intentionally printing incorrect information just to click-bait their readers? Does anybody at Colorlines fact check their blogger’s posts that could open them up to liable suits and damage their credibility?
The blogger continues to fabricate controversy by saying, “FCKH8.com, has made a name for itself selling what it calls ‘LGBT Equality Gear.’” We’re not sure if mocking “LGBT Equality Gear” by placing it in quotes as if it is not real and legitimate is simply old-fashioned underhanded homophobia and trivialization but it looks like it. One thing we are sure of is that our empowering LGBT rights videos that have been seen and shared by millions, combined with our shipping out over 200,000 pro-equal marriage T-shirts (that’s several football stadiums full of people) to over 100 countries, is a great track record of getting the message out there to change hearts and minds and make a difference.
When Zac Efron is talking in media interviews about his “Some Dudes Marry Dudes Get Over It” T-shirt it is a great way to get the word out to LGBT teens that they are not alone and we are proud to do that. Additionally, Bogado attacks our LGBT advocacy work and passion by claiming we “sort of cover some LGB themes, but sort of leaves the T part out.” T stands for transgender and maybe she never bothered to see the very popular “Nodody Knows I’m Trans” T-shirt that has been flying off our warehouse shelves for over a year giving trans people a great way to speak out and come out. Here’s a link to the shirt she is ignoring: http://fckh8.myshopify.com/collections/lgbt/products/womens-fitted-trans-tee She might have also missed our videos as facts do not seem to be important, that star out and open trans activists. If you don’t like that we are proud LGBT activists just come out and say it openly. Does Race Forward know its bloggers are being dismissive of LGBT activism to gain attention? Is this misinformation intentional to attract new donations to the group? We hope not.
The blog post continues on to attack us as being “offensive” and “sexist” for wholesale manufacturing for a company called Buckeye Boob T’s, a project created by two women centering on a pink breast cancer benefit T-shirt. Had the blogger bothered to click on a link and see that the “Buckeye Boob T’s” is not a Hooter’s-like chauvinist shirt but rather a positive tool for empowering women in the fight against the epidemic, this could have been avoided. Is trivializing women’s efforts to raise awareness about a women’s health crisis, raise funds and save lives fair game just to get attention for a blog post? Is it OK to use cancer to click-bait?
The blog laments that everything can “be bought and sold—including racism.” We’d be the first to say it… blind consumerism is gross. We love getting the message out there on tees for the world to see. Beats a T-shirt with “Hollister” or “A & F” on it with no social value. We’re also, not sure if the blogger has ever actually spent time in Ferguson or just writes about it from afar, but had she been there marching those streets she might have noticed the many people selling different “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and other tees for $15 or $20 off the backs of trucks, on card tables and hoods of cars to the crowds. We’re not sure what, if any of the profit was going to charitable organizations but we are glad to see the word spread on people’s chests.
Being people who make social change T-shirts, we know the power that a positive message on the chest of thousands of people can carry. It starts conversations. It shows support. It breaks silence. We’re happy that our “Racism is Not Over. But I’m Over Racism” tee makes a powerful statement. Our team has given many away on the ground in Ferguson and we are happy to offer them as cheap as possible to get the word out. With a $5 donation to charities we love, a $13 dollar shirt is actually sold for $8. Our shirts themselves, plus the cost of printing them, cost around $4 each all added up. That small margin leaves about $4 over to cover the cost of packing staff, shipping and warehouse space, not to mention the production costs in the thousands with making a slick video that gets seen by millions. Do the math, no one is “profiteering” off of a $8 tee with a $5 donation. But money isn’t everything and we measure our bottom line in getting the message out on as many chests as possible.
Perhaps one of the most unsettling parts of this click-baiting blog post beside trivializing Ferguson kids, is the deliberate use of a screen grab of the only white person to appear in the entire video. This image is employed to misrepresent the heartfelt effort of 7 black cast members speaking out, a black producer, a black and Latino co-writer and a black editor. Is this race-baiting for attention? Out of a cast of 8 people, 7 of which are black, this photo seems to have been chosen with the devious intention to race-bait and drum up justified resentment of how many whites treat and marginalize blacks and other POCs, all to gain attention and be sensational. Using race in this way is disingenuous, offensive and reduces the voices of both the local children in front of the camera and the people behind the camera.
This video was our collective effort to make a statement out of grief and pain and turn it into something positive, that challenges people to face race and say, like the T-shirt says, “Racism Is Not Over. But I’m Over Racism.” It’s important to note that the only white person in the video appears to say these important lines on racism, “Us white people, we have to erase it and the first step is to own up and face it.” Is this not the kind of awareness we want more white people to have about their white privilege and the root of racist power dynamics? Was the video director a white guy? Yes. He’s directed videos on social issues which have received millions of views and we’d prefer that the video and message from the participating Ferguson families and kids be judged on the content of its character and not the color of the skin of the director who pitched in to help make it.
We are left with some important questions about Race Forward and the Colorlines blog. Does Race Forward condone this kind of insincere and disturbing tactic by a blogger to flare up tempers and click-bait readers to a blog post? Does Race Forward care that a writer representing them has misrepresented the truth and not bothered to do even basic fact checking on a story? Is this a way to drum up donations to the organization? As the work the group does is vitally important, we hope this was an isolated mistake that they will correct to preserve their credibility.
On behalf of everyone involved in the creation of the video and its message, and the families and kids who participated, we are calling on Colorlines to correct Aura Bogado’s story with the facts and repair its credibility. We also want a public apology.
-The FCKH8.com Team