Hello, Amy Schumer! What’s up, Blake Lively!
It was brought to my attention that both of you reposted something I wrote; a post which has since gone viral. Thank you, genuinely, for the signal boost. I am grateful to know it struck a chord with you, and I thank you for sharing it.
I wrote the piece after the 2016 election — more specifically, I wrote it after the Women’s March.
I saw a picture on Facebook which inspired me. It was a photo of a group of women I went to highschool with, who had attended the 2017 Women’s March together. These are people who haven’t been involved in politics much in the past. It was likely their first protest. As someone who has been going to pride parades and anti-racist action protests since I was in my early teens, I was proud of them for their willingness to get involved.
Too many white people haven’t said enough about Philando Castile, or John Crawford, or the school-to-prison pipeline, or the systemic racism which affects everything from how much pain medication black children are given to the birth experiences women of color have.
But, suddenly, having a Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief inspired many to act for the first time.
There are plenty of people on social media asking us to stick to “positive” stuff, urging us not to get political because it’s jamming up their newsfeed and they find it annoying. It is often our privilege which makes us immune to these issues. That is, until something which affects us is pushed so far that we can no longer fail to respond.
So, I wrote an explanation about why we get political and why some of us don’t have the privilege of opting out. A lot of people could relate to it, and it was shared widely in my community and beyond.
I have to admit I was honored when I first learned you’d both shared my writing. Every writer dreams of having their work read by people of influence. It was exciting to know that I had reached women whose movies I’ve seen. It was even more significant to know that my message had an impact on people in positions of power.
I don’t write because I’m especially good at it; I write because I have a marked desperation to share information that will make our world better. I believe we need to inspect and analyze humanity, making choices based in wisdom in whatever ways we can. I don’t create characters and stories the way some great writers do; I don’t write brilliant poetry or prose. I just have a pressing need to make the world a better place while I’m here, however I can.
While I was thankful my writing had in some way impacted you, enough that you found it worthy of a repost, instead of fan-girling, I was conflicted.
I was conflicted because both of you have done some racist shit, and I don’t believe either of you have tried to make it right.
That’s why I’m writing to you.
Blake, I’m a fan. Your family is beautiful. I felt confident in sharing the exciting news that you’d posted my writing, so it stung to learn more. I learned that you posted a red carpet photo of yourself on Instagram and proclaimed that you have an “L.A. face and an Oakland booty.”
No. Just no.
There are lots of ways to describe your beauty, because you’re a glorious ethereal gorgeous goddess. Co-opting black culture is unnecessary and harmful. I’ll amplify what MTV News’s Ira Madison III so graciously explained to you after you made the comment:
“Remember all the drama from the line ‘Becky with the good hair’ from [Beyonce’s] Lemonade and how Becky is a catch-all term for a white girl, and ‘good hair’ refers to the racial connotations that come with straight, European hair being called ‘good’ and the kinky, natural hair of black women being ‘bad’? Well, ‘L.A. face with the Oakland booty’ operates the same way.”
What you implied with your photo and quote was, “I’ve got a euro-centric white girl beautiful face [which is weaponized against women of color], and the ass of a black woman [no], making me an absolutely impossible standard of beauty.”
Words have meaning. That is what “L.A. face with an Oakland booty” means.
You got called out, of course, which is why I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that celebrities continue to do this stuff. You know the Internet exists. You know you will get called out. I suppose it’s the fact that moments like this don’t seem to affect your careers.
You said you didn’t mean to offend anyone. You said you didn’t know. You said you were just trying to celebrate your curves. I understand.
But here’s the thing about apologizing after you accidentally say or do something oppressive, harmful, or racist: Saying “I didn’t mean to offend” isn’t enough. Your intent doesn’t matter when you’ve done something hurtful.
And it’s not just “offensive,” as though someone got their feelings hurt for no reason. There is a long history of women of color being oppressed because they do not look like white women. There is a long history of white women co-opting black culture for their own benefit. All of these issues work together to create a culture which oppresses women of color on a daily basis. It absolutely, without a doubt contributes to hateful racist attitudes.
And saying “I didn’t know” isn’t enough either.
I would know, because I responded that way recently when I learned that you got married on a former slave plantation.
I had posted on Facebook that you’d shared my words, and a friend graciously took the time to educate me on this fact. She said, “She chose to have her wedding on a plantation near where I lived. That plantation is one of the darkest places I’ve ever visited. I was nauseous, found it hard to breathe and felt restless. The energy in there was strong, sad and full of pain. It is not a place for celebrating anything.”
My immediate response was, “Thank you for telling me! I didn’t know.” I quickly followed it up with, “That’s really disgusting and disappointing.”
Because “I didn’t know” can be an effective way to sidestep guilt. It doesn’t really matter if you knew or not; what matters is what you plan to do about it.
And you must have known that the location of your wedding was a former slave plantation. You had to have known, and you chose it anyway. You deliberately chose to get married at Boone Hall, a notorious plantation which has original slave cabins on a row called “Slave Street.” And you felt comfortable with this. You somehow felt good about having one of the most important days of your life in a place with a horrific history.
We all make mistakes — like not knowing that the words of an infamous rap song had a deeper meaning and shouldn’t be co-opted to describe women’s bodies. We mess up; we get called out. What’s important is how we respond. As tempting to say “I didn’t know,” or “I wasn’t trying to offend,” we need to acknowledge the mistake and do better.
I don’t say this to be unkind. I just want you to do better. I want us all to do better. Your choices make your message of solidarity seem empty. Reposting a recognition of privilege isn’t quite as powerful coming from a white woman who chose to get married on a plantation.
Amy, you’ve said blatantly racist stuff in your comedy routines. From what I’ve gathered, I believe your excuse is that the joke is supposed to be “LOL look at this ignorant racist white girl;” a sort of mockery of racism itself. But if that is your intent, it is not clear enough. And intent doesn’t matter when you’re hurting people.
You’ve said stuff like, “Nothing works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans.”
And “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.”
And you’ve admitted to making “jokes about AIDS” and “jokes about black people.”
And you took a racist jab at the movie “Get Out,” which was a monumental film for many black people. You implied that the real reason a person should “get out” is if she’s a white woman having sex with a black man, because their penises are too large.
In defense of this, according to the Washington Post, you stated that you enjoy portraying the character of an “irreverent idiot” who says “the dumbest things possible.”
In the Washington Post article, you state, “Playing with race is a thing we are not supposed to do, which is what makes it so fun for comics. You can call it a ‘blind spot for racism’ or ‘lazy’ but you are wrong. It is a joke and it is funny. I know because people laugh at it.”
Friend, stop it. You don’t need to do that. You actually don’t need to be a racist asshole to be funny. I saw your parody song, Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup. It’s good. It’s funny. It’s important commentary. Do more stuff like that. There is plenty of content waiting for you in a world run amock with Donald Trump, white supremacists, so-called Men’s Rights Activists, and college frat boys.
A comedian who has to rely on racism for laughs has failed. You can do better than the racist jokes you’ve done in the past. You should stop making excuses and do better.
I’ve messed up before too. I wore a fake Native headdress when I was a teenager because I thought it looked cool. I didn’t have the internet to teach me; no one called me out. I’ve since learned that cultural appropriation is not just “offensive” but also harmful; I’ve copped to it, apologized, and done better.
You need to do better.
So what can you do? Admit your mistakes and apologize.
Blake, do some reading about Euro-centric beauty standards and how they affect women of color. Learn about slavery and plantations, I guess, although I can’t fathom how you’re not already aware… Consider the statement you’re making when you imply, “I know slaves were kept and tortured here, but it’s so pretty; I must host a party here!”
Amy, find better content. Stop saying racist shit. You are now officially contributing to a hateful, contentious, and dangerous atmosphere for people of color. There’s a simple test you can use to figure out if your content is racist or not: Will a white supremacist love this joke? If so, reconsider. Dedicate your life to making jokes aimed at racism and white supremacists, rather than black people and Mexicans.
Here are some other steps you can take to actively fight against inequality:
Call out racism when you see it. Call out racist “jokes” and comments, even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t let these comments slide. Make racists afraid again.
Talk to your kids about these issues. And not in a way which frames racism and Nazis as a problem of the past. We need to teach our kids that these are present problems, and we will need their help in calling it out.
Center the voices and feelings of marginalized people. Read the writings of people of color. Do not take it personally if someone calls you out. Listen and strategize for change.
Give freely of your time and money. Show up at rallies. Donate to:
- The Safety Pin Box
- Nice White Ladies Reparations
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- Solidarity Charlottesville Anti-Racist Legal Fund
- Charlottesville NAACP
- Or your local anti-racist organizations.
Call your representatives. Get involved with local politics. Show up. Vote, not just in the presidential elections, but in smaller local elections as well. Learn your options if you’re unsure what to say.
Blake and Amy, I do appreciate you sharing my message. I don’t think everyone who’s ever made a mistake should be barred from speaking out in solidarity. I do think it’s hypocritical to post an image about privilege and politics without taking the time to deconstruct your own white privilege which keeps you from understanding why your racism is problematic.
Thank you for posting my words, and please do better.