Shaming vs. Accountability

I don’t purposely intend to, but a couple of times a year I get involved in some “internet drama” on Facebook. This year’s first occurrence came early over the first weekend in February.

A friend reached out to let me know someone was using my Soul Liberation logo as their own. I had my logo custom-made specifically for my brand, so someone else using it is a big problem to me. I reached out to the person privately to let her know it was mine and asked her not to use it. Her response was that she’d been using it for seven years (untrue), that her family member made it for her (maybe true), and that my image is all over the internet so anyone can use it (the true issue). Then she blocked me.

Things got real after that.

I made posts about the situation in two Black Yoga Facebook groups as well as on my social media pages, complete with screen shots. Folks were made aware and they chimed in. And eventually, the person unblocked me and also engaged, mostly to say she was being harassed and that she can use anything on the internet because it’s not protected. There was a LOT of back and forth, with me refuting every lie and piece of misinformation she presented, until she finally removed my images from her accounts.

It was not a pretty ordeal. I didn’t expect it to be. I was making my grievance public when private communication failed, and I continued to advocate for my Self without backing down.

Eventually one of the threads was removed from one of the groups. An admin also made a post saying that issues weren’t to be handled publically there, and that it wasn’t the place for bullying or shaming. Lots of folks agreed, including of course, the person who’d been using my logo.

I sat with that “S” word for a moment. “Shaming.” Is that what I had done to her? Brought on a public shaming?

But then came the bigger question: When does accountability come into play?

I think of shaming in the context of trying to make someone look or feel bad about something they’ve done that was actually valid. Folks try to shame others when they don’t like or agree with someone’s actions, but the actions aren’t necessarily wrong or unethical. Shaming is trying to push your ideals onto someone else, to mold them into what you subjectively think is “better.”

Accountability is different. Accountability, specifically public/community accountability, is calling out a person who has done something objectively wrong and holding them to a higher standard to fix it and do better. It is saying, “This thing you’ve done is destructive to your Self and others, and we won’t tolerate it.”

The thing with accountability, though, is that it’s uncomfortable. It’s confrontational. It can be ugly. But it’s necessary, on both the individual level and the community level. ESPECIALLY in the Black community.

We’ve been raised and conditioned to keep quiet about the ugly parts of our lives. We call it “not putting your business out in the streets.” It’s no one’s “business” to know what goes on behind closed doors. If there’s a problem, handle it privately or not at all.

This kind of mentality does no one any good. Because the “business” we’re often hiding includes someone being victimized in some way. And that victimization continues as folks turn a blind eye and deaf ear to it, fearing that acknowledging a thing is worse than the thing itself. Cycles continue, harm continues, and no one is held accountable.

Personally, I’m done with that.

I’m an advocate for clear, open, and direct communication. I believe that things need to be discussed in order to be truly healed and resolved. And when that discussion is not fruitful privately, it can be done publically. Not to “shame” a person, but to inform others of what is really going on with people. The idea that it’s nobody else’s business what harm a person is causing is dangerous, because that allows the person to go on harming others. It gives them an open path to continued destruction. Destruction that could be averted simply by talking about it. And when we talk about harmful behavior, we can hold people accountable for harmful behavior. And when we hold them accountable, we can help them fix it. We can help them heal the areas within them that has caused them to hurt others. And when individuals heal and do better, the community heals and does better as well.

By the end of the many hours of posting, the person eventually removed my images from her accounts. Unfortunately, it was mostly due to public pressure rather than her understanding what she did wrong. She still believes she did nothing wrong by taking an image from the internet and calling it her own. She still believes that I purposely harassed her and sent others to do the same. And I know that professionally, the ordeal didn’t make me look great to some people either, specifically people who believe that going public and calling her out was uncalled for and petty.

I can see why they think that. But I also know my intentions behind my actions, and I still believe that it was a suitable course of action in this particular situation. Will I go the same route next time? Probably not, at least not in the exact same way. This has been a learning experience for me as well as her, and even at its conclusion, I will think of ways to handle situations like this better in the future.

Because that’s what my personal accountability looks like.

Be well, spirits. 🙏🏾❤

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