A Twitter hashtag, #FindSai, shifted from shared panic amongst Twitter circles to locate a young Black trans woman into another intense “dragging.” It was shared on Twitter that Sai was kidnapped and being held hostage in a man’s basement. Naturally, Twitter took it into their own hands to create hashtags and raise awareness, mobilizing their platforms to locate Sai. However, it was later revealed her whereabouts were a scam, that Sai was never in danger; however, the situation did promote Sai’s GoFundMe account, which gained an extra $41,000 following the events. Sai has been labeled as a scammer, “strategically” using her identity as a Black trans woman to garner sympathy, yet if that were the case, then why was Sai’s crowdfunding not already at its goal?
Sai’s actions are not without precedent in a world ruled by a never-ending pandemic and the vast amount of media centered around organized crime. In her apology video, she stated, “It wasn’t a lie, because as a Black trans woman, I’ve been in these situations. I’ve been in the most dangerous situations with men. It wasn’t a lie, per se. It was definitely a delayed emotional response; it was also a cry for help, a cry for reassurance.” For Sai and many other trans women, their flowers are only given in death. It was the decision of those around her who chose to donate to their GoFundMe, believing that throwing money at a problem will fix it. However, their actions would be correct; throwing money at most problems will fix them, or at the very least, allow them to be fixed.
How can Sai be faulted for the actions of those around them? They chose to donate as if that was the only viable option when her life was at risk. The real question is, why would faking such an incident be what she needed to garner her peers’ support? With billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk getting richer as the poor continue to get poorer, the only viable way to garner any real capital is through unethical means.
Sai is yet another victim of the system and one that chose to fight back. If their means were directed at the wrong group, fair, but they aren’t alone. It was less than a year ago that looting was used as an act to fight against the same system that disenfranchises Black people, the same system that has Americans under siege in general. This entire situation is a part of a larger conversation of why trauma guides people’s empathy, the feeling of doing something only in the final hour. Sai is a victim; the art of scamming isn’t something she crafted at a moment’s notice but following the glorification of crime led by billionaires, Netflix’s La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), Ocean’s Eleven, and many others.
If scamming is such an exciting act to witness on our screens, why can’t it be understandable in a real-life context? There are plenty of others who cannot gather the funds to better their lifestyle even in the direst of situations. While this isn’t necessarily advocating to mislead your fellow pieons to support your lifestyle, this is a wake-up call to look into the institutions built around us. Ask yourself, “Can my financial gain be achieved through hard work and skill or, is my fate at the mercy of others?”
Sai had not yet met her goal and she needed a scenario in which people’s empathies would be heightened and tested to fulfill something that should’ve already been met, or rather something that shouldn’t have to exist. That’s the sad reality of our culture, and people won’t do anything until they feel they will benefit, “clout” will always take precedence over genuine compassion.
Last summer’s push of Black-owned businesses and talks about representation ceased the second media coverage of the protests ended. It was then people understood, or at least pretended to, the necessity of supporting one another, yet that tip-toeing into socialist ideals became reduced by an overabundance of black squares. In the eyes of hardship, the importance of community gathering and support was right in the grasp of American thought, so who are we to blame, Sai?
These events are a reflection of the failures built by the institution of capitalism. A transition fund shouldn’t have to be posted, hoping enough people will care because it should already be readily available. It’s the same way people should not be homeless and starving because it’s entirely possible to feed and house those without access to those resources. This is where lying comes in; if the system is manipulating us, we can manipulate it to survive. It’s the wicked way of “eat or be eaten” that society has placed upon itself.
This is not necessarily pardoning Sai for her actions; it’s not something we should make commonplace, although it already is. Instead, it is an understanding of why scamming is such a thing and why it is an action with years of precedence. Scamming is allowed for those who control these systems that force the other 99% to fight amongst themselves. People will not fight until they feel they can gain some self, or outside, gratification from their peers. This negligence is why Sai’s plan worked and could’ve been avoided altogether if society as a whole banded together not in the final hour but simply because it’s the right thing to do. Unlearning and undoing the systems around us won’t happen overnight, but genuine and authentic human empathy can be learned a lot quicker, and that’s when we can abstain from lying to gain because we will be a lot closer to having.
Anthony Devone is an English Major at Morehouse College.