In an article for Vice published earlier this week, staff writer Gita Jackson, formerly of Kotaku, wrote about the “Who’s next?” meme and how it directly speaks to a moment where abolition, upheaval, and the end of white supremacy seem truly possible.
The meme, if you haven’t seen it, is a video clip from a kids show called Hip Hop Harry, in which a circle of kids and the titular man in a yellow bear suit cheer on a kid sort of doing the stanky leg at its center. “Who’s next?” everyone shouts, and another kid takes the center. “Who’s next?” they yell, and another one goes in. The cycling of new faces in and out of the spotlight mirrors the greater reckonings with systemic anti-Blackness playing out in the news, Jackson writes: “If you’re afraid of Hip Hop Harry’s Harry the Bear and his pals, then you know that somewhere in your closet there’s a skeleton that your Black colleagues are deciding whether or not to reveal.” In a matter of days, we’ve seen everything from the Minneapolis City Council moving to dismantle its police department to Audrey Gelman stepping down from the Wing following revelations of a toxic, racist workplace from her Black employees. We see all this happen, and we wonder: Who’s next?
As this “Who’s next?” energy has only grown in strength, I’ve noticed a similar competing energy at play, one that can also be described using a meme. Earlier this year, a screenshot of a comment left under one of Dua Lipa’s characteristically stoic live performances made the rounds on Twitter. “I love her lack of energy,” the comment reads. “Go, girl! Give us nothing!”
If “Who’s next?” seeks justice through abolition, “Go, girl! Give us nothing!” tries to placate with meaningless reform. It’s black squares to cover up anti-Blackness. It’s Joe Biden instructing cops to shoot people in the leg rather than their hearts. It’s news that Anna Wintour won’t be stepping down from Vogue, despite the cluster of racist scandals plaguing Condé Nast and her own admission that she hasn’t done enough to “elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators” in her decades at the company.
On Friday, Page Six reported that Condé execs were standing behind Vogue’s exorbitantly paid editor-in-chief, who also serves as Condé Nast’s artistic director. They promise she’ll do better. She promises she’ll do better. But a promise to do better can easily amount to nothing, and we don’t want nothing right now—we want more.