A Running Joke Taught Twitter About Race & Pop Culture

We’ve long been a fan of Weird Twitter, the absurdist humor phenomenon that somehow manages to be so on point (#RIP @Horse_ebooks).

So naturally, when we caught on to @VidalWuu’s “wtf is _____” Tweets, which typically respond in real-time to current events in white-straight-dominated popular culture, we were DTF (that’s down to follow, come on).

The Twitter account belongs to Canadian writer Vidal Wu, a.k.a. @VidalWuu. The 23-year-old’s feed is a hilarious exegesis in aphorisms about his life as a gay Afro-Cuban and Chinese resident of Toronto, navigating its queer scene while immersing in a culture that doesn’t reflect him.

Wu uses the Tweets to carve out his own niche in the post-Internet art trend. At a moment in American culture where protests, political initiatives, and daily heated debates about race are dominating our discourse, finding humor in the struggle is a classically positive way to cope.

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“It was not lost on me that when white people express indifference it’s a matter of taste but when POC do it it’s a silent demerit next to their name,” Wu writes in “The Irreverence and Irrelevance of White Culture, in Tweets,” an essay on Medium about the ways that American pop culture makes young people of color feel alienated. “Yet those few moments when I could finally commiserate with my peers in the same way that we now collectively experience a surprise Drake mixtape was an experience I was willing to fight for.”


We wanted to know more when Wu wrote that he's made a huge "investment in whiteness" by keeping up with pop culture to feel connected to the culture he lives both inside and outside of, so we reached out to Vidal for comment. "By 'investment,' I mean the emotional and invisible labor of participating in white discourse as a marginalized/racialized body," he tells us from home in Toronto. "Any engagement in this sense is an investment in oneself that's supposed to 'return' as social capital. In implying a transaction, I hoped to imply a kind of shortchanging on the part of white culture, that we can never have enough fluency with whiteness to be compensated for the work put into being regarded as culturally-competent peers."

The message behind the joke says a lot about the ways that American pop culture can make young people of color feel alienated. What started as a joke born of frustration became a way to connect with others who feel the same. Social media can turn a joke into a meme that goes on to become something more, something that people actually form meaningful bonds over. It’s the kind of solidarity vibe that has contributed so much to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the greater framework of Wu’s WTF tweets.

Surely all of us millennials have had the same experience of feeling a part of something bigger than our limited environments thanks to the Internet. It’s inspiring to watch these seeds of self-actualization sprout into new forms of culture, right before our eyes.

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