Kristin Brey's 'Below the Fold' Is a Fun Introduction to Engaged Activism

Advocating for social progress isn't a game, it's a civic duty.

In the realm of political commentary on the leftward side, it’s a bit of a struggle to pick out who’d carry the most consistent message, with the uttermost societal impact. Hbomberguy — to choose an example all too familiar — is someone who definitely treads carefully on the line of punditry — it’s not so much his desire to see the world change, as much as an unadulterated will to express ideas without the space for rebuttal to be of affordance. That’s in part why his videos can range from twenty minutes to upwards of two hours. If you’re not discouraged at the moment you see the runtime, you’ll definitely shiver at the time it must take to mount a response — which is why at least in my opinion, his discussions aren’t particularly inviting. They comprise of themselves a level of literacy that is simply out of the question for anyone who values their free time even the slightest. To make matters worse, he’s usurping much needed space for women, queer people, and people of color to speak their mind on issues concerning them — something especially straight white critics of the wider culture haven’t been able to adequately deliver on, despite their best attempts.

This is where taking a moderate, but proven approach may prove to be fruitful. Kristin Brey is a YouTuber who I subscribed to when the channel was still in its infancy. She broaches topics of social change with a twist that doesn’t seem all that obvious when examined on first sight, but it starts to make much more sense the more of her content is consumed.

Intersectionality is an issue a lot of social justice advocates on YouTube struggle a fair bit with. ContraPoints in an infamously held live on her now-purged livestream channel, conversed with what I’d archetypally describe as an “Angry Ex-Muslim”. Those who tend to take out their frustration on the community, more than the specific teachings of the religion they’ve been conditioned to think are inherently immoral. It landed in some pretty uncomfortable territory and was basically just the confused murmurings of a begrudged ex-religious who’d then gained a platform on a white woman’s channel to further spew their hatred and Islamophobia. That’s just one example of a misfiring where a YouTuber with massive notoriety unjustly abused their power and spread forth a view of a repressed minority that is not representative of their struggle, nor of their daily trials in a society that actively antagonizes them. This is but a recurrent pattern in white people’s YouTube channels — which have more subscriptions than any other demographic subset by design — where opinions of questionable intellectual integrity get propped up and are afforded loudness not theirs to claim.

Kristin Brey curtails that notion and proposes very thoughtful analysis of intersectionality on her channel.

In discussing the historical and societal significance of Black History Month, Kristin did an incredible job of contextualizing why such a cultural event is important to acknowledge, and why demands of a white history month are unwarranted, if not borderline racist. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect from the melanin-deficient to even weigh in on, but it brings such a refreshing flair to the conversation when white people are seen assuming their responsibilities in the larger context. She’s not condescending — nor does she not have to be — and her case is just as inviting as it is compelling. It is the sort of standing up for black people you see the majority of white people shy away from, afraid of assuming pre-existing privileges as a way to achieve the greater good. There’s a lesson in that for all to learn, and I think beyond all, Kristin not only managed to make a good case for why no one should be pedantic about descendants of a colonized Africa, or otherwise those enslaved, being afforded the space to speak, and be listened to, but also, acknowledging her space in the conversation as a privileged class, and not the most crucial asset in the fight against racism.

Elsewhere, she talks about inequality, and why should everyone care about it. I try to often convey this notion as best I could, but those who’ve been trained in the classical sense about racism don’t seem to acknowledge that those who propel ideas of racial disparity are the most to be disadvantaged by them in the long run. No one benefits from a society where inequalities are most pronounced — whether it’s financial, or socially birthed, the impact is long-felt, and about as strong, if not more tangible than a slap on the face with a blunt stick could ever be. There are invisible forces guiding our judgment, and steering the vehicle of emotions wherever they may head, and when racism is so pervasive, and normalized, that people stop noticing it and take it just as a fact of life, the brunt of influence from these issues prevail and they only keep creating a bigger rift between the dominant and oppressed groups, discouraging the adoption of pluralism as an all-encompassing sociopolitical resolution.

For International Women’s Day of 2019, Kristin re-emphasized the importance of upholding a promise we keep letting down women on — the promise of a fair shot at a job, and the end of discrimination in the workplace, prior, and after hiring. She discusses henceforth the concept of gender quotas, and whether encouraging an equitable distribution of the prominent binary genders across the workplace is valuable a pursuit, or is it yet another knee-jerk reaction of an approach to a much more complex issue. Kristin offers an alternative — acknowledging the systematic disadvantage women are put at, while force-feeding the current of change to industries by reshaping them around the employment of women as standard procedure. There’s definitely a lot of merit in the idea that when women occupy much more of the space they seldom hadn’t thought much of joining, things turn unequivocally for the better — men are incentivized to becoming more inviting to diversity, less homogenization is to be perpetuated, and the pickle where men get to decide what women can or can’t do, is easily offset by a brand of peer pressure and standard human empathy encouraged through exposure they’re not able to elsewise avoid.

Do you notice a theme here? Nuance is Kristin Brey’s brand. And while her ideas might be dubbed by the bigger names in social justice around YouTube as “moderate”, or “distilled for the masses”, I will have to voice a staunch and vehement disagreement to that notion.

Cultural impact in YouTube is often measured through statistics and notoriety, and it is seen as standard that since the most extreme voices are to rise, the ones where we get to hear a less reactionary and more veritable thesis are to be left battling over scraps. But I think YouTube is capable of a much larger cultural shift where it can encourage those holding of views less based on self-ascribed righteousness, thus emboldening mutual understanding and acknowledging there’s a bit of validity in each one’s experiences. The truth may not be all that absolute and clearly defined. Social progress isn’t monolithic, nor is the road to it singular — and such is the way the debate should shape as.

Hbomberguy — as a symptom of a larger problem — predicated his brand on animosity and contempt for whomever disagrees with him that it’s now impossible to pick him apart from any other right-wing troll — he’ll scold the “moderates” for their appeal to the status quo, but he’ll not stop to realize that his methods further amplify the voices of the politically polarized, without offering any substantive solution to the issues presented at hand. Many of his fans in fact, present an islamophobic, occasionally misogynistic, and oftentimes markedly non-intersectional view of how politics of progressivism should be carried out. It’s less about participating in the quest of change, and more bashing of whomever presents a challenge — intellectual or ideological.

Kristin Brey is not only incredible because she doesn’t play into this trap, but she’s honed an incredible skill through years of studying the game of promoting progress and equality, until she was able to nail a formula where her voice isn’t becoming a liability marginalized people are aching to get rid of — she’s rather a very strong asset everyone should be aspire to be as skillful as.

There’s definitely a sense on part of the greater public to demand that inviting façade of a woman — after all, we’ve been conditioned they’re the one to take up most of the emotional labor. And it’s sad to see that even though men have hijacked the halls of academia for as long as we can remember, they haven’t been able to make much good use of it. Women have to come in and clean behind them — only in the proverbial sense nowadays. It’s borderline depressing to see the job of a femme de ménage never truly go extinct — if only for the remainder of a century we’ve mistakenly considered to have already been a success, when in reality, there’s still much work left to do, many more spaces to entertain for women, and even moreso, a radical change in the way we think about black women, and other women of color’s role in modern society.

What I think makes Kristin Brey conversely so appealing, is that she’s able to pierce through these barriers, and provide as deep an insight on the hottest topics surrounding social justice as any. The dislikes, and the hateful comments be damned — she’s one of the most pertinent critics of the status quo on YouTube, ever. I don’t think she’s alone in this position, but she’s definitely one of the very few. It doesn’t seem so like she’s going to sell her soul to the (capitalism) devil any time soon, and while that stream of great content is continuing to pour, I advise everyone to go subscribe and check out more of what she does because she truly deserves it.

“Propping up more of who deserve it” is a common theme I try to strike with the few past times I’ve highlighted a creator. Not because I think there’s an inherent right to any of them in order to garner more social clout, but because they’ve done a far better job than those with hundreds of thousands of more idle fans standing by, waiting for the onslaught of edgy memes and provocative controversy-fishing to sail their boat. I noticed the political YouTube space has been infested with faces who’ve been consumed by capitalistic lust, and are only focusing on the most marketable of conflicts to make a quick buck from — and if not, endorse a fraudulent campaign to bankroll a Patreon account from the pockets of a confused youth. The fact there isn’t more rigorous regulation on the exploitation of youth by political commentary figureheads is insane, and while I think many have come to reach a healthy equilibrium with it currently, most of them remain at the mercy of perpetuating a cycle where YouTube gets to benefit from their constant endorsement of discord, and a bajillion other right-wingers posting in response — further increasing the reach these nefarious actors wouldn’t have otherwise had were they not referred to by the typical “edgy left” channel.

I’ve got to talk to many of who’d consider themselves loyal followers of reactionary left YouTube, and a good chunk of them do not absolutely represent the views of their idols — if anything, their mentorship leaves a lot to be desired. There’s this prevalent theory that if you throw a dump of political theory at a crowd of young people, they may assimilate its core values instinctively, and may start acting according to its tenants. What ends up happening however, is many assume on the same radical traits their right-wing counterparts exude of. They’re not only content with removing a right-wing government from power to establish a socialist, or communist rule of law — they’ll also show of some of the most heinous, and Twitter-typical displays of toxicity and resentment in the process.

I’ve been at the heart of many major controversies. One where asexual people were considered to be secret-homophobes, another where anti-Christian sentiment was used to berate the faiths of all religious people, and others far too many to count, where it seemed like the issue of “fear of the other” was only endemic of a much larger problem we seem to be having with modern politics — we’re not able to discuss the facticity, and individual merits of our ideas without instinctively looking to jump, fangs exposed, on each other’s throats. What that environment ended up birthing, is a constant cycle where if anyone doesn’t say something “woke enough”, they’re to be scheduled for a hearing in the court of public opinion. Puritans now rule the leftward political sphere on social media, and it remains as hostile an environment as any, especially for young progressives who may be already off-put by the idea of having to fight a different dozen guys each day just for the sole fact their caretakers haven’t provided them ample education.

Kristin Brey is thankfully none of that. She stays her hand away from the whims of extremist political discourse, while solidifying herself as a well thought-out, composed, and perfectly level guide in areas murky of social progress. It may not be shot with RED cameras in 8K, with a microphone worth the value of an old Cadillac Escalade, but it’s got heart, and substance. It’s candid and real. It’s earnest and authentic. It doesn’t play make believe to people’s lives — it takes on progress as a collective project where any, and all individuals are active participants.

You aren’t being vindicated against, nor is there an invitation for stones to be thrown at you by Kristin, or her community. She’s just here to educate, and learn, and I commend her for putting such great efforts in what could seem at often times like a stalemate of an endeavor.

Follow Kristin Brey on Twitter, and subscribe to her on YouTube.