“I’ve had a lot of people talking at me the last few days. Everyone just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I’ve finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don’t. This bothers them….You guys didn’t come all the way from England to determine whether or not I was good enough to be let back in. You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives some semblance of meaning.”
-Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Checkpoint
So this weekend, I had to chance to catch up with an old buddy, V, and she was telling me about how things have been for her. I was happy to hear that her relationship with her boyfriend was going well and she just got a promotion at work. I lied. I wasn’t happy for her. I was ecstatic. Because I know how hard she’s worked both professionally and personally to get to this stage in her life and she deserves all these blessings and many more to come.
Unfortunately, there has been drama at work. V has been the target of a vicious smear campaign at work. Rumor mongering, lies, the standard cliquey Mean Girls BS at work. Despite the fact that V is one of the sweetest souls you’ll ever meet, being a successful woman of color has incited racism and resentment from many of her white female colleagues. And sadly, because many people act like lemmings, opinions become facts and lies become truths if enough people claim it.
And while she’s done her best not dignify that BS, it was obvious that it was getting to V.
I told V the story of an ex friend of mine who basically engaged in the same kind of jealousy. One Friday in particular, he and I got into a heated argument over a bad situation. To take my mind off of things, I read through my weekly batch of comics. At the conclusion of Ultimate Spider-Man #38, there’s a scene where Peter is watching a video that his father made for him when he was an infant. Reading this issue, I felt like I was Peter receiving a message from God (Peter’s father).
“Oh Peter. I have all these things in my head, things I think as your father you’ll need to hear. You’re going to find there are people who you are going to look at and say: why is this person like this? Why did this person do that to themselves?
And I swear to you, if you stare at them for 50 years, you’ll never understand why they are the way they are. I have people like that in my life, people who are just their own worst enemy.
And instead of dealing with it. Coming to terms with it, all they can do is lash out at you. Blame you for their own problems, for their own —- whatevers.
Don’t let them, Peter. Don’t let other people blame you for what they do to themselves. I feel that as your father that I have to warn you of the chaotic mess you are growing up into. And it’s a mess. People everywhere reacting without thinking. Lashing out. They don’t even know why.
Everyone trying to be more than they are, which would be fine if they actually earned it. But more and more, that isn’t the case. And that’s what drives me nuts. I find myself surrounded by people who will do or say anything just for the appearance that they are better than they are. More than they are.
Never for a second do they actually try to be better. They just want to appear better. They want to be special without going through the trouble of actually earning it.
And if you have millions of people running around like this, well then what do you have? What kind of world is that? …
It’s been a rough year, Peter. But I tell you, no matter how crappy things got with this whole mess, I found myself not really caring all that much. Because, end of the day, bottom line, no matter how bad the day is — I get to come home and see you. I get to watch you grow up. So how bad can my day be?
Just knowing I get to watch you become the man that I know you will grow up to be. All this other stuff — it doesn’t matter. All that matters to me is you Peter. You and your mom. And I can’t wait to see how you turned out.”
Interestingly enough, my friend and award winning activist Monica Roberts posted this amazing piece on her blog on Friday. And while the entire post resonated with me, the following passages really stood out:
‘You hate me because you wanna emulate me.’
“It lets me know I’m on the right track in doing what I need to do. It lets me know that you’re ‘scurred’ of me for whatever reason in your minds. It lets me know that you are so bothered by the fact that I am speaking my truth, uplifting a longtime downtrodden community and fear me doing my part to get Black transpeople to see themselves in a positive light.”
“When I’m getting inspiring e-mail from people around the country and the world telling me they appreciate what I do, a post I wrote inspired them, or a post I wrote dissuaded them from committing suicide, that means more to me than any sniping or derogatory commentary you haters can come up with.”
Recently, a friend forwarded me this excellent article by Jake Shannon which also gives some sage advice on handling haters:
“My father’s advice was particularly funny. He suggested you thank the “haters” for spending so much time thinking and talking about you since it proves how important you really are to them. The odd thing about most haters and muck-rakers is that they are seldom producers, that is, they seldom produce anything but negativity and hate…..
So, when confronted with nasty criticism, remember two things first:
Always remember first, what are YOU proud that you’ve produced of value or earned?”
I shared all of this with V and I think it helped her. At the very least I think it was comfort to know she wasn’t alone. As I reminded her. Haters are gonna hate, liars are going to lie. It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to. Let them. At the end of the day, they’re still going to be miserable, in Hell and still looking for someone else to blame for their failures. For all their lashing out, it’s never going to be enough. It’s still going to eat away at them. When all is said and done, she’s still going to be successful and coming out on top.
Because that’s how champions roll.