ARTICLE

One mom?s fame is not about race

Sometimes the littlest things in life can bring a whole lot of joy. That?s what Candace Payne reminded many with a simple, four-minute Facebook post that has since taken the online world by storm.


Payne, better known now as ?Chewbacca Mom?, quickly became an overnight Internet sensation after posting a video of herself gleefully enjoying a shopping trip splurge in the form of a talking face mask in the likeness of the beloved Star Wars character, Chewbacca.


Since Payne?s May 19 post, the video has received over 155 million views and more than three million online shares, making it the most-watched Facebook live-stream ever. As it turns out, the popular post has also brought Payne and her family their fair share of fame and fortune. According to reports, Payne has received gifts valued at more than $400,000, including money to travel, money from talk show appearances and a vacation to Walt Disney World. The Chewbacca Mom has also received a plethora of merchandise from Kohl?s, the department store chain that she bought the Chewbacca mask from.


And despite all the star-studded publicity and gifts that the mother of two has received thus far (and the four minutes of happiness it gave to me and a whole host of other Facebook users), many in the social media world quickly pounced with their claws out when it was released that Payne and her family were given full tuition scholarships from Southeastern University (SEU), a private Christian liberal arts college in Florida, claiming the gift was only given to Payne and her family because they are white.


Among the wave of posts claiming race was the reason Payne, her husband and two kids were given free tuition scholarships from the university, one social media user posted, ??for being a geek in a mask? Is there anything whiteness can?t do?? Another Twitter user said, ?No more crazy white ladies wearing Chewbacca masks or gorilla talk #overit.?


The Daily Dot writer and columnist, Gilian Branstetter, also recently penned an opinion column that has since been cross-posted on MSN, stating Payne?s whiteness is largely the reason she has received so much attention and fortune from her video, ?It?s true, free tuition is an oversized prize for such easily begotten fame. It?s also true that the real rewards typically reaped for online success tend to heavily favor insta-celebrities who are white. Content derived from black users of Twitter, Vine, or Snapchat is often sidelined as part of a monolithic Black Twitter. ?


Now, when I first started to see the race card played against Payne and those companies that have given her gifts as a response to her video, I was stunned by the meanness of the argument. However, after doing a bit more digging, I became more stunned by the sheer idiocy of it all.


First of all, with regards to her various talk show appearances and gifts from companies like Disney, Kohl?s and Facebook, let?s remind ourselves that these are private companies. They may give money, publicity and free merchandise to whomever or whatever they want. It?s their right as a private company.


This same argument can also be applied to SEU. As a private university, they may deal out scholarships to whomever they want for any reason they want and in whatever amount they deem appropriate. Furthermore, according to reports by USA Today and Fox News, it?s clear race had nothing to do with SEU?s decision to grant free tuition to Payne and her family. Payne has deep ties to the university, as well as to the Christian faith. According to a USA Today report, SEU?s vice president of strategic partnership founded and formerly led the same church Payne regularly attends in Texas. She is also an outspoken Christian, talking openly about her faith in various social media posts and media interviews.


SEU?s executive vice president, Brian Carroll, has also been quoted on Fox News saying, ?Over 90 percent of our students receive institutional aid. We?ve had the privilege to increase that aid from $6 million to $25 million this year. If we can help her (Payne) in any way, we want to do that,? Carroll said. ??So race has nothing to do with it, but her faith and the school?s connection to her church surely does.?


How or why anyone can jump to the conclusion that race played any kind of a factor in Chewbacca Mom?s recent social media fame or fortune is beyond me. Perhaps some are a little too jealous of her, so they feel the need to point to race as the reason she found monetary reward for something as simple as a Facebook video. Or, perhaps some are too focused on racial biases instead of seeing the human race as a collective body of equally important, uniquely made individuals who each go through times of trial and times of success. Whatever the reason, I really hope people can stop and smell the simplicity.


?I was thinking, ?I?ve got 30 minutes before I have to be responsible and pick up my children from school and once they see this I?ll never get to see it again,?? Payne recalled in a Good Morning America interview, explaining why she posted the video in the first place. ?So I thought, I?m going to share this with my Facebook friends and family, and if anybody wants to see it, they?re going to have to see it now.?


Let?s face it, the video is four minutes of an adult laughing in a toy mask. It made me happy for a few minutes, as it did for thousands of others. Does it warrant full-ride college scholarships, trips to Disney World, or the chance to meet the likes of talk show host, James Corden? I don?t know. But does it matter? That sort of thing isn?t up to people like me who don?t own giant corporations or run universities.


This woman just made a video to showcase a purchase she had made at a department store. How celebrities received the video or who decided to give her expensive gifts as a result is out of her control. Her overall fame has nothing to do with her being white. It likely has more to do with people wanting to do something nice for a woman who seems to find joy in the little things because deep down, we all know that is something we could all be better at.


So, for all those out there that want to make this woman?s success into something that it is not, I advise you take a chill pill and just enjoy this silly online video for what it is - a silly online video that makes people laugh.