When is a “Boyfriend Haul” Like a Slave Market?
The impact of a toxic TikTok trend
I’m going to be talking about enslavement, so if you’re a Black descendant of that experience and this is going to be triggering, feel free to skip it.
A while back, there was a “boyfriend haul” TikTok trend. It basically meant pretending you’d purchased your significant other and listing his attributes as if you’d bought something like a car.
In some circumstances, it might be funny, but forgive me if a meme about purchasing people doesn’t sit right with me, which brings me to the now infamous TikTok video where a white woman was showing off her Black boyfriend as part of the meme.
Now I get it, they were participating in a bit of TikTok fun. And yet it still sticks in my craw that they were both - for he appeared to be a willing participant - so devoid of historical knowledge that it never occurred to them how this could and would be read by people descended from the experience of enslavement.
As my sister Lisa Hurley said on LinkedIn:
“This is why teaching ACTUAL history is important. Because AIN’T NO WAY you could know history and perpetrate this kind of disrespectful mess!”
I tend to agree. Even though I know the context and the origin of the meme, this turned my stomach. I found it hard to watch. I fail to understand how the woman could think it was ok, and I also fail to understand why the man went along with it.
This supposedly funny meme was something that actually happened to my ancestors. They were bought and sold, either privately, or publicly in marketplaces, and they had their attributes listed and their bodies handled and examined like cattle. And that’s only the part of the story. The history of Black people in the Americas (but not Black people as a whole*) also included trafficking and enslavement, brutalization and death. And that’s without considering all the trauma that happened after the “official” end of enslavement.
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Even several generations removed, thinking about that time, reading about it, or seeing it portrayed in films, is often traumatic. No matter what the intent of this TikTok video, the impact was reawakened generational trauma.
I’m not the only one to feel this way. You can see the video and comments on Lisa’s LinkedIn post, and my reshare of her post. (If you’re so minded, you can also watch the video, which I refuse to repost here.)
As we say in Barbados “everything ain’t for everybody”. If a meme has even the potential to hint at the traumatic history of enslavement, it’s one to stay away from, in my opinion.
People, think twice or three times before getting involved in something like this, then think again. Don’t do it. And stop your friends from doing it too. Nobody needs to see this. And Black people don’t need to experience additional trauma just because some people don’t know their history. That is all.
Thanks for reading
*Note that enslavement is NOT where the history of people of African descent actually begins - you’d have to go much further back and consider the scholars, thinkers, kings and queens who inspired much of the thinking later attributed to whiter populations, like the Greeks.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.