A newsletter was sent out yesterday, and it included a project that I released and wrote about on Are.na’s blog. I normally wouldn’t post something like this here, but I feel the need to speak up, because a lot has been going on behind the scenes that needs to be addressed.

For a few years now, I have been trying to raise concerns about Are.na and its community — on issues that include racism and misogynoir, elitism and exclusionary practices, plus harmful behavior that I have personally experienced as of just yesterday. I’ve addressed these issues on an individual level with specific Are.na users and on a higher level with Are.na’s leadership. After several attempts at trying in good faith to be heard, I feel undermined, dismissed, gaslit, tokenized, used, and harmed, and this has been going on for a number of years.

A handful of influential Are.na folks are very polite and eager to act like they’re listening, but by and large nothing changes in their behavior or in Are.na’s overarching culture. They think that by nodding their heads and saying “we hear you,” this signals change and progress, and they grow resentful when you try to push for more substantive action. I’ve heard a few people express concerns about Are.na being frictionless, and I can’t help but agree. There’s no room for real discussion or debate; everyone is expected to get along and pretend like social problems don’t exist in this virtual white cube.

Anyone who is Black and actively contributing to cultural and academic environments understands how difficult it is to speak up about sensitive issues, because our concerns are typically steamrolled over and met with harsh backlash. Many cultural and academic institutions insist that we should be grateful to be “included” and given access to their resources; we should be quiet and enjoy the things that our elders and ancestors never had access to, I guess. Are.na likes to position itself as a progressive sanctuary for thoughtful and inclusive people, but in reality, it’s engaging in the same harmful practices as older and more established institutions, for reasons that are beyond me.

I’ve been on Are.na for nearly nine years, and I’ve met a lot of great people on here, many of whom have become friends, colleagues, and collaborators. I’ve launched projects thanks to Are.na and learned a lot about my friends and myself after encountering interesting texts and references and connections. Are.na has been my favorite social media platform up until recently, and while I don’t use it as often as I did a few years ago, I appreciate the people who helped make it feel special and warm.

This is the last thing I’m posting on Are.na, because the bad experiences have come to outweigh the good, and I cannot continue to support a platform that stubbornly resists growth and improvement while performing inclusion on the surface. I’m logging out after I post this and won’t revisit Are.na for a while. I probably won’t revisit Are.na at all.

I sincerely hope that this community grows into the one I had hoped it would be, but either way, I’m stepping away and moving on.