My name is Zeena Moolla. Like you, I'm a part of your world, albeit my Word To The Mothers occupies a far less frequented space. I apologise for the unsolicited nature of this address, but I felt we needed to talk...
Let me start positively. I think it’s great, as you posted your black squares for #blackouttuesday, you asserted black lives matter. I think it’s lovely that you mumfluencers quoted from very credible books about race. And I think it’s brilliant you took the time to list recommended resources to help your respective, massive followings educate themselves and their children, in the ways of anti-racism.
But otherwise, frankly, and I make no apology for my angry caps here:
HOW DARE YOU.
Remember in November 2019 when your fellow white ‘mumfluencer’ Clemmie Hooper, aka ‘Mother of Daughters’, made racist remarks under an online alias about other influencers? Remember how she accused a mum blogger, concerned specifically with encouraging a diverse representation of motherhood across all media, of ‘weaponising race’? Remember her vernacular? ‘Aggressive.’ ‘Social-climber.’ ‘Shady.’ Remember how then, YOU, her online gang of elite, all-white ‘mumfluencers’ said NOTHING to condemn it?
‘But I know her in IRL,’ protested one of you, when you were taken to task by a tweeter brave enough to challenge you for still following and being ‘brand-associated’ with Clemmie. ‘I don’t do politics,’ said another of you, pushed after days of silence, to address the woman who’d previously peppered your feed, as you’d holidayed and hung out in beautiful, gifted clothes together. ‘No comment,’ was the response my journalist-friend received from every, single, high-profile influencer and blogger, when she tried and failed to find just one of you mumfluencers to speak out about Clemmie’s comments.
So, I’m curious; why were your voices so loud and proud last week? Why say stuff like:
‘We need to speak up and know that speaking up is only the start?’
‘We have to talk about racism and support marginalised communities.’
‘Racism should not exist and I will not avoid talking about it for fear of getting it wrong.’
Where was this ‘support’ last November? Where was this vow to ‘talk’, when you stood mutely by the perpetrator of racism? Why have you YET to ‘speak up’ directly about Clemmie’s racist remarks? Because, however poignant and sincerely-meant those Blackout Tuesday words were, they are hollow without acknowledging your prior lack of allyship you’re so vocal with now.
Maybe you’re wondering why someone like me is quite so angry with you? Allow me to elaborate for you…
I’m half-Indian, don’t particularly look it, but am it and very proud of it, I am too. My name is Arabic as my father is Indian-muslim and although I’m atheist, I’m very proud of this aspect of my heritage, as well. And while I’m completely aware of my own privilege – I am fair-skinned, middle class and lead a pretty quiet, suburban life – I know what it’s like to be ‘othered’ and subjected to racism. Believe me, this shit cuts very deep.
Some of my experiences for you:
The time, as a teenager, someone telephoned my house, racially abused my dad and hung up. The time a girl in my year threatened to ‘wait’ for me after school, because I had the nerve to object to the racist ‘jokes’ I regularly received from her friends. The time some random American bloke, while I was on holiday in Ireland, angrily informed me in a bar that the ‘moss-lems’ had declared ‘war on the world’ and as such, I owed him some sort of explanation. The time a flatmate’s boyfriend told me he couldn’t stand ‘p*kis’ particularly the ‘muslim ones’ , and when I angrily challenged him, told me I could fuck off (out of my own flat!), if I didn’t like it. And there are other experiences I could list, largely from my school years, some of them too personal and hurtful to share.
So, you see, for me and many other people, this is all too familiar; Clemmie, the bully, the rest of you, the entourage the bully surrounds herself with.
Look, I understand that we all get stuff wrong and make mistakes on occasion. But we need to own those mistakes, apologise specifically for them and then look at how we can make direct amends. And dear mumfluencers, it’s not too late for you to do this. Although, I have to say, your intentions don’t look particularly promising when you disable the comments under your black squares, or restrict the visibility of comments calling out your hypocrisy to leave just the praise from dedicated followers, applauding the positive use of your platforms. To my more cynical mind, it looks very much to me like you’re using your platforms to exploit a campaign. It looks to me like you’re commodifying anti-racism for your respective brands.
Before I sign off, I want to clarify why, apart from Clemmie, I haven’t named any of you specifically. That’s because this is about ALL of you. All you, white mumfluencers, who had the opportunity last November, relevant entirely to your online world, to demonstrate across your mammoth platforms, just how anti-racist you claim to be – and you chose to be silent.
Until you address that, you are as complicit with racism now, as you were then.
* Zeena Moolla is currently writing a book with The Good Literary Agency, founded explicitly to represent underrepresented authors. You can find Zeena on Instagram at: word_to_the_mothers