Young People’s Politics Can Go Beyond Facebook Posts

have a Facebook account that I use in strange ways. Currently my profile photo is some
stock photo of Rick Santorum posing for a portrait in front of an American
flag. While the combination of my queerness and his anti-gay politics could be
funny enough, the image doesn’t stop there. The thing about this photo is that
in place of his mouth, someone has photoshopped an anus. If you know the
subcultural definition of “Santorum,” then this image does everything you need
it to. Except stop him from running for the presidency.

has become a problem for me in recent times. I—and I’m sure many Pomona students feel the same way—would like to consider myself as being on the “right” or the “good” side of things. I’m down for women’s rights, so, sure, I’ll
repost a Barbara Kruger image saying, “70% of anti-abortion leaders are men.
100% of them will never be pregnant.” I feel like I’m an anti-racist, so, sure, I’ll wear a hoodie and take a photo and put it online. And I’m super
progressive when it comes to sexuality, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Rick Santorum’s anus mouth is my profile photo. 

Clearly, there’s some sort
of issue here. Calling systems of oppression out doesn’t automatically grant
women legal control of their bodies, wearing a hoodie doesn’t stop black men
from prejudicial violence and as much as I would like them to, pics of Richard
(Dick) Santorum don’t make him nicer toward gay people. 

This isn’t just the way
I feel. I’ve seen students in my generation and in my social sphere post things
like “I can post emotionally manipulative videos without looking into the
organization they come from, too,” regarding KONY 2012. Or things like “I
wonder what would have happened if instead of Bus Boycott’s civil rights
activists just took a lot of pictures and talked about them,” regarding the Trayvon
Martin “#millionhoodies campaign.” The question becomes: do we as students,
children of the Internet, hipsters or whatever have the capacity to enact our
politics beyond the image? I think we do, but I don’t think we’ve been looking
in the right places.

The Trayvon Martin incident happened some distance from us,
Rush Limbaugh isn’t our local radio host and Santorum is beyond my scope of
engagement, but if you look right here in Claremont, you can see that students
are doing much more than sitting down typing, “LOL racism” onto Facebook. Two
students were caught up in the Occupy frenzy earlier this year and were held in
jails for some time. Seventeen employees of Pomona College were fired in the wake of some
mysterious community member’s suspicions about Pomona’s hiring practices and
ASPC has passed a resolution to request an audit of that whole thing. And
though that was officially unrelated to the unionization effort, I think that
the students involved in Workers for Justice show us most clearly that our
generation is not so suffused with irony and cynicism that we can’t recognize
when it’s time to play ball.

5 a.m. marches that make people uncomfortable, to standing in the dining halls and
getting people to sign petitions, to a full-on 800+ person march around campus
with a “dining hall in the streets,” Workers for Justice and the related
students and young people demonstrate our capacity for “real” politics. And I
think they provide hope for all of us who hold disdain and cynicism for the Facebook
fiends. As my semester and Claremont career come to a close, and despite the
failures and successes of this particular organization, I want to recognize
that WFJ has been a presence that is inseparable from my experience as a Claremont
student. And without getting too serious, too sentimental and too unironic, I
just want to say what I normally would in this situation, and that is “Keep on
truckin’, you jive-time turkeys,” courtesy of Jamie Foxx.

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