Be Careful What You Stick For

You may not have the facebook  Bumper Sticker application added yet, but chances are there are several people on your friends list that already do.  When this app actually works, it’s a quirky little trove of ditties, pics and sayings that facebook users have uploaded themselves into the application to share with other users of the application. 

If you love baseball, love Barack Obama, hate the war in Iraq, want a picture still from your favorite movie, care about “sober kids in India” or you just “can’t wait till summer ‘08!” Well, you can upload a sticker onto your profile that will inject some color and spunk while announcing this to all and sundry whenever they visit your page.  Want to send a subtle message to an ex that’s cute, quirky and unbelievably succint?  Upload a bumper sticker! Bumper stickers after all are only so big.  You’d be surprised what you can squeeze into an image that is not a whole lot bigger than a thumbnail.

Speaking of images…There seems to be a great deal more bumper stickers that send negative racially charged messages about black people than any other ethnic group.  These are a great deal more popular than many of the other thematic concerns of stickers that you can find while trawling the app.  More popular than “everyone loves an Italian girl.” More popular even than the “proud to be a cracker” sticker (insert pic of cracker there, not the actual word), which at last check had been uploaded over 1,098 times by fellow users on facebook. Some racist image stickers are uploaded way more than that already, a few thousand times over already.

You frequently find these stickers high up on the “browse stickers” link pages, because the more a sticker has been downloaded, the easier it is find on the application’s earliest pages. There’s the sticker with the spoof on “Piglet” of Winnie-The-Pooh fame, which is hugelyridiculously popular. It is essentially piglet, colored black, and titled “Niglet,” which is also obviously a play on another derogatory word for people of African descent, and enough people found that this sticker was amusing enough to upload multiple thousands of occasions.  There is also another version of the ever-popular “niglet” sticker, with black piglet holding a wedge of watermelon under one arm and thrusting a bucket of KFC chicken, up into the air with the other, with a huge wide cartoon grin super imposed over the face. Piglet plus the N-word makes for some good humor apparently. 

There’s also the sticker of a menacing, dark-skinned black man declaring “I will rape you”. Then there’s the sticker of another black man, arms enveloped lovingly around an array of many watermelons (yes, watermelons) and the tagline says, “Oh Lawds, is I in heaven?” Complete with bad english and all.  In fact the proportion of bumper sticker images of black people (who are not famous) that involves images of “coonery” are astounding.  You can find watermelons, lots of references to chicken—specifically fried, so-called black vernacular with bad spelling in broken english and plenty bad teeth. Sometimes, bumper sticker is a cold place to navigate. 

All the while I’m there mumbling to myself as I go from page to page, “who thinks these things are funny?”  Who indeed? There’s the black ‘n white sticker of the close-up of a black man face’s, teeth bared in an angry sneer, with a line of forest behind him. Superimposed across his face are the words “Bitch!  Go up to the counter and tell a nigga I want a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries!”  Who uploads this stuff and for what purpose? Now you can see the name of the person who uploaded a sticker but you can’t see them  through the application. 

You can however do a later facebook search for them.  A white guy named Nick uploaded the aforementioned black and white sticker.  There’s one of yet another black man, eyes squeezed tight, in a sharp ole school hat showing off his wide, gaping mouth with the requisite less than perfect smile. This one espouses the tagline “ya dig!”  seemingly spilling from the man’s more-or-less toothless mouth. This one is also uploaded, by a facebook name search possibility, of select white males.  So many people seem to think that all these images of black people and perceived blackness are quite hilarious.

Bumper sticker (again when it works) is this interesting experiment in the kinds of things that people think are funny or at least relevant (or something).  It’s not on your car after all, so it’s not just simply that you believe seal clubbing is wrong. It’s about you as you are perceived through your page, what you think and like and enjoy. It’s about your personality more than anything. Like whether you’re a self-professed bitch, or you love shoes, partying with the girls, you love chocolate, you’re a loyal friend, you put dicks before chicks and what have you.

It’s just another way to dress your page up—the subliminal messages are just an added bonus. It’s about community too. It’s not just that some one person uploaded a certain image of a black man with watermelons, but furthermore, that significant amounts of people share the same outlook enough, to share it with their friends and upload it themselves.  You do feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside, when you see that someone, from who-knows-where, uploaded a sticker that is a still from the movie My Girl 2  and then you feel this swell of belonging.  This rocks, because maybe you think that My Girl 2 rocks too.

 Furthermore, you just happened to stumble upon it, while doing a general sticker browse, so it feels extra exciting.  You weren’t even looking for something so cool and you found it. Largely because the category listings in bumper sticker, are painfully inadequate and inept anyway, so this is how people mainly find anything in there. You get sucked into it too, like the Matrix and next thing you know, you are on page 97 and seeing double. And you wonder where you’ve seen this watermelon grin or cat rolled up as a “purrito” before? Three, four, twelve pages back? Who the fuck knows anymore.

I am not necessarily advocating all-round censorship because part of the fun is in fact the input that the users themselves have to play in the success of the application.  It’s like one great pic swap shop in the cyberworld of facebook. You can mark a sticker as offensive of course but that doesn’t mean that someone else, will not reload it again later or that the one you flagged, was not one of several.  Sometimes, images can be found uploaded multiple times by different people, especially if lots of people like it.  Like the niglets in pink.  Anyway, you can also make it a point, if you are likewise concerned, to upload your own positive, representative images, to combat the rampant negative stereotypical ones in this application.

Then of course there’s the whole matter of who’s doing the uploading and who’s doing the downloading. I’m going to guess that more college students and certainly high school students, participate in this particular application on a whole.  Lots of people across the board might Superpoke, but let’s face it, some apps just appeal to certain demographics faster.  When I wanted to send a really great “black girls rock” sticker, first I had to stop and think, ok, what black girl friends of mine do I know, that even have the bumper sticker app. The end result was not that many.

I’m also going to make a guess about demographic based on the hugely popular “I love my black man” sticker.  You know quite well that black girls are not the main ones trading that one.  (Just kidding!)  But seriously, a white girl uploaded that sticker. Serious. Anyhoo. So if all communities are a microcosm of something larger, then all of us in bumper sticker are in some ways a microcosm of the dark side of our humor, the racist legacy of our past (and in some cases future) among other things. 

Question what the images mean to you, say to you, about you and others.  Most of all, be careful when you ‘stick’ something on your profile, because saying, “well it’s supposed to be funny!” is not always reason enough and quite frankly, it never should be.”Three white girls in a car + nothing to do = trouble” might be funny (and/or scary) but it’s not derogatory. Even when a sticker’s humor is tongue-in-cheek while pertaining to other groups—it’s not derogatory but many with black faces are. Think about it.

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4 Responses to “Be Careful What You Stick For”

  1. anonyjw Says:

    I personally try to keep my Fb profile as App free as possible. The Apps developers have access to your info, and some apps are so poorly written that ‘anyone’ (aka a hacker) can read your profile even if you’ve set it up with the Fort Knox of permissions, etc. Ppl have been impersonated using their profile data, so I try to keep that down to a minimum as well…

    Just look up “facebook hack” in Google!

    I wrote something similar on the representations of blk ppl here: http://boboleechronicles.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/of-monkeys-and-men/

    Good post!

  2. anonyjw Says:

    Just found this:

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/08/bob_schaffers_son_apologizes_f_1.php

  3. soyluv Says:

    wow. good link. lol. bumper stickers totally reflect a person’s mind-set, vaues and outlook. that’s why i have “everyone loves a trini girl” and “tree hugger” ones! 🙂 so anyone who tries to get out of offensive ideals AFTER they’ve posted them and gets busted for it, is full of crap!

    it also bothers me to see what some people that i know have posted in their bumper sticker–not close friends anyway but still. this trini guy i know of [friend of a friend] has a bevy of offensive stickers on his prof inluding “niglet” and i was like whoa..so inappropriate.

    i usually click and flag them as offensive but then the pop up says IF enough people tag this bumper sticker as offensive well THEN they will look into it…no word on what constitutes enough flags though, and you’re dependent on other people, when droves of people clearly don’t even see why it’s offensive in the first place! you would think the application would look into a sticker that’s flagged even once and not wait till the magic number, if they even have one and if they even remove anything. *steups*

  4. anonyjw Says:

    people’s online persona is a small subset of who they really are. maybe he thought that ‘niglet’ was a positive affirmation of his identity? don’t laugh… i’ve had to bite my tongue when ppl i know use the n-word to describe themselves.

    otherwise, like my pops always tells me… when ppl tell you or show you who they are; believe them.

    great post!

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