Ah, “hot takes.” Those up-to-date responses to an event that hit the news and social media every day like hail on a newly-waxed car. For some bizarre reason, when something happens – somewhere, it becomes necessary for everybody and their mama to comment on it as quickly as possible, which would be fine if things happened in neatly encapsulated bubbles of reality, which they don’t.
Instead, life on this planet is a big blue bunch of messy messiness. Things that take place (good or bad) have background, nuance, and include humans with problems and issues that are rarely covered by the time a hot take chills. Consequently, there is invariably more to the story and the people who are a part of them.
When a Hot Take Let’s out Noxious Fumes
Most recently, there was Keaton Jones, a little white boy “bullied” by a group of kids at school. Like the “typical concerned” mother (I hope my full sarcasm comes through), Kimberly Jones took video of her son’s misery and hit the net with it. Sympathy for the poor little Jones boy flooded social media, and his story became not only fodder for feel-good celebrities, but commentators salivated at his story and produced a conflagration hot takes. The story started off as your standard “look how cruel the world is” one, but in hot take world, nothing is ever that simple.
The Borg-like collective sentience that is The Internet went to work, and ta-da! It outs Confederate-flag-waving, gun-toting Trump-supporting mama Kimberly Jones, and just to be especially ironic, lays out her derision of the victimization of others. Oh, yeah, little Keaton is smiling next to the flag as well – so, there’s that. Add a shady LaunchGood or two and allegations that the crying Keaton had no qualms using the word Ni**er, and the feel-good hot takes about standing up to bullying started to sizzle and let out some noxious fumes that divided people globally.
Black Twitter was merciless, as expected when faced with apparent duplicity that values the pain of members of one race over others. After all, 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis killed herself less than a week prior and with little attention. Flags and alleged racial bias on behalf of the victim and family (no, I’m not giving an 11-year-old white boy a pass in a country where 5-year-old black children get handcuffed by police), and sympathy went up in a smoke puff of hot takes that left the boy undeserving of the compassion and money thrown at him and his family.
Right or wrong, there is now a huge bonfire of hot takes criticizing and over-defending a crying little boy that deflects from the original issue of bullying and the victims subjected to it every day.
Asking our Brightest Minds to Head into The Flames
A major problem with producing hot take responses is that experts are typically accosted for their opinions, which can be problematic. Take Keaton Jones; it would be at best embarrassing and worse discrediting for a black expert to take a stand on the issue when all the disturbing facets were yet to be revealed.Personal empathy aside, anyone asserting a voice for their culture and having the ear of society must be more responsible, especially thought leaders.
Numerous American Muslim scholars, leaders, academics, advocates and activists frequently receive appeals to provide a hot take on the latest combustible story. I frequently send requests to our best and brightest minds for their perspectives. Not only do I respect our fount of Muslim intelligentsia, they contribute dynamic standpoints that represent unique intersections of religion, race, gender, ability and national identity.
Normally, they are immediately responsive (some more than others), but there are times when my reservoir of vibrant Muslim thinkers is dry, and the takes are not so hot. I eventually learned that in addition to busy lives, they practice wise restraint in stoking the flames of the latest incendiary topic because there is always additional information yet to come out and change the dynamics.
It is also important to appreciate a philosophy of processing information to a level that optimizes the production of complex cogent responses among American Muslim thinkers, which takes time, and the 24-hour< news cycle waits for no one.
Hind Makki commented “By the time I have formulated my thoughts on a news item, there are 764 “hot takes” I feel I have to read that are often quite shallow, and by the time I finish reading those and incorporate any new insights, the news cycle has moved on [to the next thing].”
Nakia Jackson mentioned that she takes an expedient approach to important topics despite cooling hot takes. “My takes are leftovers that I heat up in the microwave.” She may be hitting the reheat button, but what she produces is typically a far more involved perspective than a multitude of surface-level, under-informed hot takes.
It only takes getting burned by a Keaton Jones or Yasmin Seweid to realize that immediately stomping on a sack of flickering news excreta left at one’s doorstep can lead to a mucky mess of chagrin. Frankly, with all American Muslims have to contend, it’s understandable if our intellectuals chose to let at least shallow hot topics sit and crackle.
P.S. Sorry for all the metaphors, but I felt the subject warranted them.
NbA Muslims’ managing editor, Layla Abdullah-Poulos has a B.A. in Historical Studies and Literature, M.A. in Liberal Studies, and an AC in Women and Gender Studies. She presently teaches history as an adjunct instructor and writing skills as a learning coach. Abdullah-Poulos also serves as a workshop facilitator and speaker on racism, gender oppression, and identity.