“On my worst day I can’t think of this type of hate to put out.”
That was the response from Leslie Jones in July when she was bullied on Twitter by racist trolls who attacked her portrayal of a leading character in the all-female remake of “Ghostbusters.”
But this wasn’t the last attack on the actress. Jones’ website was hacked Wednesday in yet another twisted and targeted racial strike.
Her personal information was stolen, nude photos of her were leaked and a video of Harambe the gorilla was posted at the top of her site. The website was eventually taken down but the pain it prompted had already done enough damage.
Sickeningly, this is far from the first time racists have mocked Jones with pictures of animals and other vile images.
As a result, Jones declared her departure from Twitter in July and reluctantly decided to return to the social media site days later. She received a triumphant response from fans who helped to encourage her return through messages of support and the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ. Since July, Jones entertained fans by live-tweeting “Game of Thrones,” and she even landed herself an official invitation from NBC to tweet about the Olympics from Rio. After she assumed the role, she didn’t disappoint.
Despite her talent and wit, Jones ― like many other black Americans ― will only be seen to some as a black woman not worthy of even the most basic levels of dignity and respect.
The bullying Jones constantly combats as a black comedienne is emblematic of the larger racial issues America still battles today. Racism is so deeply embedded into the fabric of this country that it is far from surprising, albeit painful to experience, when it is so frequently and casually expressed online.
Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech by the late great civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., in which he said:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
The work it will take to dismantle racism is long, arduous and impossible without collective, practical change. Racism breeds everywhere, especially on open platforms like Twitter, and it will require a lot more than words to rid the world of its ills.
Since the hacking of Jones’ website, celebrities, fans and admirers, alike, have poured their support and shared their love for the “SNL” star through thoughtful and well-articulated tweets, which serve as a nice reminder of the good that still exists in the world. But it is not nearly enough to face a challenge as big and beastly as racism.
Jones is amid plenty of company. Black users on Twitter who are in the public eye are subjected to racism online frequently. As a black journalist who covers issues of race in America, I, too, have been victim to the same racial hate I seek to dismantle ― and, sadly, so have countless others.
Jones is a statuesque and strong black woman and these are features that should be celebrated ― but that has not always been the case.
In June, Jones called out designers who she said did not want to dress her for the premiere of “Ghostbusters.” Her callout, although not explicitly stated, reeks of the discrimination and body shaming that plagues the fashion industry.
Within the hour, American fashion designer Cristian Siriano responded to express interest in dressing Jones for the big event. In that moment, he stepped up to take action which is what we should encourage everyone to do every time any form of racism, sexism, bigotry or discrimination are exposed.
Hopefully, Jones’ worst days are officially behind her but, ultimately, that fate will be decided by the the actions of her fellow Americans.