Let me tell you a story. The barbershop is the place where ideas swarm, from the hotep-ian and bizarre work of Tariq Pee-Peed to the great philosophical work of Big Neitzsche (no Larry Hover). Ideas vary from the purely foolish to the very necessary. Normally, I try my best to keep my opinions to myself, especially while in the chair. (You never know what the outcome will be. You can end up on with a 1999 Boosie fade or in a fist fight.) So, after waiting for Bibby, my barber, to get my fade tight, he tries to spark conversation. “It’s Martin Luther King weekend. You have any plans for the weekend,” he asked. “Nah, I’m resting.” He then yelled, “Martin Luther King is a BIIIIITTTTCCCHHH!” The remaining hairs on my neck rose as I tried to stay calm. “How the fizzuck are you in living the birthplace of Martin Luther King disrespecting the man’s legacy while you benefit from it?” He went on talking about how George Soros wrote MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and how he set his people up by leading them into a “burning house,” a misconstrued interpretation of Dr. King’s last days. I left without giving a tip. And I spent the whole night contemplating. Should I continue to patronize his business? If I tried a new barber, I’d probably end up in the same circumstance. But worse—with a jacked-up fade.
I went back. Things were calm. A couple of barbershop cycles passed (2 weeks…3 weeks when I don’t feel like). Parkland had occurred and there were student walk-outs happening. My conspiracy theorist barber said it was a setup with fake actors, Michelle Obama was going to be the next president and that Obama is the anti-christ. I wasn’t gonna let him get a rise out of me. But I asked him, “Do you know who Alex Jones is?” He said no, “But he sounds like a smart man.” He sounds like a smart man?
I’m telling this story because this is how misinformation spreads. Many people don’t even know the sources of the lies they tell. But they’re repeating them. My barber got his information from a YouTube documentary pushed by the looney Alex Jones himself. He may have never even seen the documentary, but that’s how it starts, using token representation to spread nonsense.
And this is the new form of voter suppression. It’s no longer the counting of jelly beans in a jar or just photo ID. It’s informational. It’s psychological warfare, and it’s building mistrust in the tool that gives us the right to change the system we (with great reason) mistrust—that tool is voting. What’s the solution? I’m not sure, but it is disheartening to see your own people actively participate in voter suppression. From political candidates asking Black people to “withhold their vote” to activist actively campaigning to get people to vote one way or to not vote at all, it’s imperative that we meet every lie with the truth and every truth with evidence because sometimes…it be your own people.