That all changed last week when I excitedly checked out the comments section on a well known website that is syndicating all of our content.
Less than two months ago, the entire first season of Project Enye (ñ) was added to the video roster of a very large content provider. Our aggregated views have been off the charts at almost 100,000 views in less than 45 days! Needless to say, I was elated to see these numbers and went to the top two most viewed videos to bask in the glory of success. Pride washed over me as I admired how our videos were framed on the page. I noticed the social media bar at the top and to my surprise saw over 200 comments! I couldn’t stand it and decided to make a cup of coffee and get comfy while I read through every single one. We’ve never had more than one or two comments on the site so I was super grateful to have 200 pieces of feedback.
With both hands around my warm coffee mug I began reading, and reading and reading. After about 10-15 comments I stopped trying to push down the tears that had been making their way to the surface from comment number one. I kept reading, believing that somewhere there would be a person who had something nice to say.
I soon had a headache that aspirin couldn’t fix. I was distraught and hurt. About a quarter of the way through the comments, I realized the chances of finding something positive or even constructive was very small, so I closed my computer and tried to shake it off. The next day, I looked up another one of our well performing videos (according to our stats), and saw that that one had over 100 comments. “Surely this one had to be better,” I thought. So I got comfy and began reading again, only to find out that comments were the same.
99.9% of the comments I read were directed at people I know, people I’ve fallen in love with, people who gave their time to me and the Project because they wanted to contribute to the positive conversation about identity that we are having at Project Enye (ñ).
What’s important to know is that not a single person criticized the way we chose to tell these stories. What the loud masses seemed to be screaming about was the fact that they were seeing Latino faces and names on a high profile site. Their sharply worded criticisms were telling my subjects to learn English and go back to their third world ‘homelands.’ Ironically, all of our videos are in English and the people we interview are American sharing about their Latino roots.
I remember being bullied as a kid. For four straight years I was called a “spic” just because my family was Puerto Rican and I grew up in a predominantly white school district. All that constant hate directed at me had a profound effect – one I won’t soon forget.
The comments on the videos reminded me of those bullies, of a scary time in my life. A time when I questioned the inherent good of men and made a vow to myself that somehow I would become an agent of change. That I would do something great in the world to cancel out this hate that I was experiencing.
When I think about those four years of being bullied, it feels like it’s a million miles away. A completely different time and a totally different chapter. But unfortunately what was brought to the surface after reading those comments was the same confusion of a 12-year-old girl spending too much time wondering about hate.
The words “Trump 2016” were splashed all over the comments and for the first time since he began his presidential race, I felt very personally offended. I felt protective of my subjects and wanted to protect them how my mom did when she would splay her arm out in 2.2 seconds if she had to put the brakes on a little too fast in the car. I fought back so many feelings not knowing how to handle the situation.
Without thought, consideration or respect the ugly comments seemed to be directed at Latinos as a whole. All of us. Our videos were giving a platform to this hate and for a few days, knocked the wind right out of my sails. The thing that I was most affected by was not the rhetoric of one presidential candidate and his buffoonery, but how far and wide his words seem to resonate with a people who could then spread hate even further.
At Project Enye (ñ) we’ve been deliberate about telling human stories and not getting political. It felt like a slap in the face that the comments about our work had been reduced to hate speech fueled by such provincial thinking.
Some of you may think I should shake it off, not take it personal. Haters gonna hate, right? But this time, that positive self-talk just didn’t work.
So I took a few days to marinate on it and finally decided how I was going to proceed.
In case you’re wondering, I was concerned about our business deal with this website.I wondered about us being a little too controversial I’ll admit that I feared that we’d lose the deal. After a very positive conversation with them I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only were they were delighted at all the views thus far, but they strongly recommended that we not read the comments.
After that call, my eyes welled up again. This time with tears of joy and I was reminded of this my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt:
At Project Enye (ñ) we’re going to keep sharing great stories.
We’re going to continue finding and producing the stories of American children of Latino immigrants who deserve to be in this country – just like everyone else. We vow to continue looking for ways to distribute these stories to a broad audience so that as many people can see the human side of what it is to be American, and by doing so, educate hearts and minds everywhere.
Season Two of our micro docs are due to be released this winter and our documentary film is almost complete. We’ll be making our way across the country while we bring “The Enye (ñ) Experience” to 20 cities across America.
We will continue to be in the “arena” bringing life to this movement.
And to the critics I say a resounding, “No comment.”
-Denise Soler Cox