Episode 8!!!! This week, Black Girl Dangerous Mia McKenzie and guests Jamie Nesbitt Golden and Cate Young discuss Patti’s Pies, Empire, why white women don’t need to have opinions on how black women celebrate each other, Aziz Ansari’s new show and non-Black PoC f*ckery!
Full transcript below!
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MM: Welcome to the Black Girl Dangerous podcast! I’m Black Girl Dangerous, Mia McKenzie! This week’s podcast is gonna be dope. Later, Cate Young will be here to talk about Aziz Ansari’s new show, Master of None, and some issues it has with diversity, ironically enough. Um, we’re gonna be talking about Aziz’s all-white love interest pool and why that’s problematic. We’re also gonna address some pretty unfortunate sentiments expressed on the show in regards to hypervisibility, black people, and non-black people of color’s expectations of free, non-reciprocal labor from black folks. Non-black people of color, y’all are gonna really wanna listen to that segment, please do. But first, Jamie Nesbitt Golden is here and we’re going to talk about white women’s issues with #BlackGirlsAreMagic and really any space where black women and girls are celebrated. Um, we’re gonna talk about last night’s episode of Empire and where the hell this show’s going and do we even care anymore? But before we get to all that, we gotta talk about the phenomenon that is Patti’s Pies. Jamie, girl, have you tasted Patti’s Pies yet?
JNG: I have not and I don’t understand, I really don’t get the fascination, unless, y’know, these pies make you like hit notes like Patti, I’m not really sure, I’m not really sure. The ingredients seem pretty basic. It’s your basic sweet potato pie, so I’m not sure if she’s adding Rihanna tears or whatever like, I don’t know what’s in these pies and I’m not really sure I’m willing to spend the money to find out because I’m cheap. [laughter] But no, I’m watching the craze take over, but watching from afar because I can’t step into a Wal-Mart without feeling violently ill anyway. So I’m just gonna continue to watch it. It kinda reminds me of the Beanie Baby craze of the 90s. Everyone had to get their hands on a Beanie Baby and they wound up on EBay for like, twice the value and I think that’s happening with Patti’s Pies too. People are like selling them for $25 a pop and I’m like, dude are you serious? I need to get on this, I need to get in on this hustle. Because apparently, she got white women’s tears in that pie.
MM: Right, so in case our listeners don’t know, so Patti Labelle – I don’t know how you can not know this, but maybe you don’t – Patti Labelle has a line of Sweet Potato Pies out at Wal-Mart and last week there was a YouTube video by a man named James Wright and James is a singer and he made a video review of Patti’s Pies that’s part video, part review, and part musical, Patti Labelle musical and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this video is absolutely everything. Like this video is just everything. Oh my God. It’s so amazing. So it went viral and now Patti’s Pies, which have been around since September but were just selling okay, are suddenly flying off the shelves, selling out everywhere. So like, that’s the backstory. Now I also have not had a taste of Patti’s Pie, I was planning on getting one so I could review it for this show but I ran into an unforeseen obstacle: laziness.
MM: I was too lazy to go to Walmart so I haven’t tasted but I’m fascinated by this story because you know I feel like black people across the country basically saw this video and were like, “Say no more! [laughter] I’m all in! I gotta get me some of this pie!” and it’s just, it’s fascinating.
MM: And what I love about it is that, first of all, the video is so black. Like it’s the blackest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. James Wright is so familiar to me, in his sequined jeweled baseball cap, y’know, singing Miss Patti Labelle songs and it’s just so… I’m obviously not the only black person who instantly connected to it because like, the pies are now selling on EBay for like $40 each and they’re like $3.50 in the store. It’s this cultural moment, y’know, that’s happening and I just love that. I just find it so funny and fascinating.
JNG: Didn’t she call him or something like to…?
MM: Oh did she?
JNG: Yeah, I read something where she called him just to sort of thank him for like, this accidental viral campaign. Um, marketing campaign, which is great like… [laughter]
MM: Right, right and Kimberly Foster from For Harriet and probably some other folks on Twitter were saying that man needs to get a check from Wal-Mart and I agree. Like he really just, like, that shit nobody was checking for Patti’s Pies forreal and now you really…. people are going nuts for it. It’s just so fascinating to see like, I don’t know. Like you mentioned Beanie Babies and stuff like that where these big sort of crazes happen and I might be wrong and I might be forgetting about something but I feel like this is the first time I’ve seen something particularly black and particularly, like, in this sort of internet kind of way that’s been something that people have been – one video and it’s just like millions of things that are sold.
JNG: Yeah, I think you might be right. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of the last time something that’s y’know, sort of culturally related to us take on this much attention and I can’t really think of anything.
JNG: This might truly be the first time! [laughter]
MM: right. This really, like I said, distinctively black way. It’s not like it’s, it’s not kind of Huxtable kind of video.
MM: I’m not trying to- that’s also black. In this very distinctly kind of familiar black, y’know, way that people are just like, love and just feel super connected and feels familiar and hilarious and to have that then lead to this like millions of dollars for this pie, which y’know is just millions of dollars for a corporation but it’s a fascinating thing to see, I think.
JNG: I kind of enjoy it. I really do and I look forward to, again, all of the people on social media ready to, y’know…prepared with their own reviews and takes on Patti’s Pies. [laughter]
MM: I’ma get me one, I’ma get over my laziness at some point and I’m gonna get me a pie and I’m gonna do a review on it and maybe it’ll be hilarious.
JNG: You let me know, I need to figure out what I’m gonna do desert-wise for Thanksgiving. If I have to set foot in a Wal-Mart for Patti’s Pies, I might just do it.
JNG: I might have to get over it.
MM: Yeah that’s part of it too for me. I’m just like Wal-Mart? I never go there. I’m just like Wal-Mart, oh my lord. The moral of the story is, I love black people, we’re amazing, and this is great.
MM: So, did you watch last night’s Empire?
JNG: Of course I did! Of course I did! I can’t stop! Like it’s literally like, y’know, Looking at a train wreck or, you can’t look away because it’s so huge and fantastic, I mean like not in a good way. But it’s just you can’t take your eyes off of it. So you, you keep on looking, you keep because you want to see just how bad it gets. And man listen, like…
MM: I thought last night was a lot better than most of the episodes so far this season.
JNG: I had [French recently] with a friend of mine who works on the show not too long ago and I was, basically like, “[dude] what’s happening here?” “It’s what we do! It’s, y’know [laughter] I don’t have any other explanation for… this is our show, this is what we do, and y’know we’re just y’know. We want everybody to just enjoy the ride.” For the most part, I think we are, except like 50 cameo appearances from random celebs and throwing every plot device into, y’know, like 45 minutes of show and last night they toned it down, which I appreciated, like we only saw Marisa Tomei and the Pepsi product placement thing or whatever. I’m a Pepsi fan so I don’t have a problem with that per se.
MM: Oh right, right, you love the Pepsi right?
JNG: Right! I love the Pepsi, it doesn’t love me back though which is why I only have it on occasion. Not really sure what we’re gonna do with Grace Gealey’s character, Anika, the pregnancy storyline is where we’re going.
MM: I guess, I guess.
JNG: This is something so creepy about this right because the story is that she’s got knocked up by the youngest member of the Lion Tribe and y’know this is after the broken engagement with Daddy Lion and I mean I just feel like this is the wrong direction. Like we could have done anything else but have her be pregnant by like, the most funny looking dude in the cast, no offense. [laughter]
MM: Yo, hold on, hold on. [laughter] I just gotta break in here because, how you gonna… look I like him! I think he’s super cute, you don’t think he’s super cute?
JNG: Uh-huh, okay. [laughter] Let me just say that I think he’s very talented. Like he’s got a lot of personality and it shines through. Aesthetically though? There’s a lot going on there that I just cannot get with. Facially like, we’re just very… It’s, it’s very complicated business up in here. So I mean like, I appreciate that there’s room for people who look different than others. [laughter]
MM: Alright, we gonna have to agree to disagree on this one. [laughter]
JNG: I think the pregnancy storyline, I just, I don’t know if you saw towards the end where she’s got this Mary J. Blige blonde wig on and she picks up Hakeem’s new boo thang.
MM: Oh I saw it!
JNG: And we don’t know, and we’re like what’s happening here? Why are we wearing a chauffer’s outfit? What are gonna do with Keem’s boo? What’s happening here? It’s too much. I felt like, again, I really felt like she should have just, apparently the new rage is carrying around your pregnancy test, your used pregnancy test and plopping it down like you just got, like you just got the biggest spade or whatever. So I felt like maybe she should have just threw that sucker at the rap battle. I feel like that’s I feel like that’s one way to be like “I was trying to get your attention and I couldn’t, so here bam you gonna be a daddy”. I feel like it should’ve gone in that direction. I don’t really feel comfortable with the idea of a grown woman, a grown ass woman, such as Boo Boo Kitty like, y’know kidnapping the new girl and attempts to frighten her or whatever. I don’t know what’s going on there. I do enjoy, though, I will say, I do enjoy Dej Pumpernickel. That’s not the child’s name.
MM: Is that Freda Gatz?
JNG: Yes, Freda Gatz! I call her Dej Loaf, Dej Pumpernickel, Dej Rye. But people call her Fantasia Loaf because the hair.
JNG: I thoroughly enjoy her character. I do hope that they keep her away from Lucious. Maybe we shouldn’t have them hook up, y’know, knowing that he offed her daddy. So…
JNG: …hopefully they keep it all business.
MM: There’s this thing happening when I’m watching ever since Freda, ever since the beginning of the season where Freda showed up. It’s like, I watch it with like, a, I have this like sort of fear looming over me about Lucious and there’s gonna be some scene and suddenly her and Lucious is gonna be up, ughhhhh. I’m always anticipating it, like oh my god, please don’t let this happen. Please don’t let this be the episode where that happens.
JNG: [laughter] Right! There’s a really weird energy there. Like last week with the almost-threesome, but like we almost had a threesome and then we have some sort of flashback to our childhood and then we go and we grab a gun and come up with a really great song just off the fly and we call Dej Pumpernickel in and this is like the only time that I’ll ever be happy that Lucious saved us by rapping because…
MM: Right? Thank you!
JNG: To see him and Marisa Tomei and this poor unfortunate girl who’s gonna have this on her IMDb credit [laughter] about to fake get it on like it’s just my lady wood was kinda soft.
MM: Just when you think there can be no scene worse than Lucious rapping…
MM: Hey, but how bout this?
JNG: Right, like, Lucious sexing? No I will take the rap, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead. Drop a hot 156 dude go ahead.
MM: Last week I reached the point where I was like, I don’t know if I can watch this anymore just because of the sheer…it was so all over the place and I was just like this is gonna be the worst episode I’ve seen, this is terrible and this week it was like, they toned it down and they took some time to do some stuff. Um and Vivica Fox showed up and so that’s always interesting.
JNG: Serving Guy Fawkes face! The girl was serving Guy Fawkes face! I was just like, wow that is a face that does not move! Go! Work!
MM: So true, oh my God.
JNG: So it was great to see her. Two guest star appearances compared to 50 is great. I really do hope this signals that they’re going to focus more on the storyline and not so much on sort of top themselves every week because that can get exhausting and it kind of overwhelms the viewers as well so, y’know if you have… If you just stick to the stories, if you just stick to the characters, if you make us care about these core characters, and not in a way that makes is want to rip out our hair, you’ll have a loyal following and hopefully that’s something that they’ll keep in mind the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see, y’know, like how this all comes together.
MM: And please, more Cookie! [applause] Please more Cookie! We need more Cookie! There’s not enough Cookie, we need more Cookie! Whenever y’all are writing a scene, just think how can we put Cookie in this scene? That’s what y’all should be doing!
JNG: YES! Yes! I am all for that! I feel like, I think like the storyline, y’know, Cookie looking for her sister and maybe caring for the kids or helping to care for the kids her sister left behind is going to be kinda interesting. I will say as much as I’m not a fan of Lee Daniels…
MM: [vomiting sounds]
JNG: [laughter] As much as I’d like to have a slapfight with Lee Daniels on occasion, the storytelling when it comes to family in relation to family dynamics I think it’s really fascinating to watch. I like the way Cookie relates to her sons. The way, y’know, even Lucious – he’s not entirely a monster, right – he’s dealing with his own sort of messed up past and a mother who was struggling with mental illness and being homeless and you get to see the humanity of these characters. It’s really good to see that and it’s really great, I love the scenes between the brothers themselves.
MM: Right, me too
JNG: Right? It’s so great because regardless of their father trying to tear them apart or pit them against each other, they know when to – y’know – set aside whatever petty rivalries they have and come together when it counts.
MM: Let’s see what happens next week, we’ll see how it goes. Okay, so the other thing I want to talk about is…so the other day on the Twitters, I don’t know if you were around for this, if you saw this, or if you got caught up on this but the other day on the Twitters some white girl was mad because apparently she went on the #BlackGirlsAreMagic site or was scrolling the hashtag or something and she felt like there were too many beauty shots.
MM: She felt like #BlackGirlsAreMagic was too focused on beauty and she didn’t like that so she tweeted some garbage about and then she wrote a piece on Medium and, full disclosure, I did not read this piece because LOL no.
JNG: You love yourself.
MM: Right, I love myself. [laughter] I did see some of her jackass tweets and my question is, I have a lot of questions, many questions but one of my questions is why do white women think that they need to have an opinion on #BlackGirlsAreMagic at all?
JNG: Um, I feel like and this might be a little bit…maybe I’m being too cynical about the state of mainstream feminism, or white feminism to be exact, and the current state in which…there’s some heifers in this game [laughter] that are not really in it to foster sisterhood or build a bridge or do the intersectionality thing. There are some broads that are just really in it to get crazy stupid fame and to be the go-to. And I think Quinn Norton is one of those people. I feel like she, y’know, because I peeped game when she was rambling off these tweets. Wednesday, um, and she started off on this tangent. The creator of #BlackGirlsAreMagic, PBG, came “if you have any questions, just ask” and ol’ girl engaged PBG for like a hot minute, basically y’know and whatever PBG was saying we were just [countering?] and trying to shut shit down or whatever. And we weren’t really listening and we didn’t want to listen. A few minutes later, oh look! There’s a Medium post! And I’m like, so are we doing this to get your numbers up because I feel that this is what we do now. To get our numbers up, we will pick a fight with some subset of Black Twitter and then let the games begin, let the shit just blow up and I think that’s what happened here. I think Quinn Norton does not have any interest in what we, any interest in any counterargument that was given to her. She was more concerned with getting some page clicks on her crappy Medium post, which was basically reiterating what she was saying on Twitter and there’s something… I don’t wanna, this might be me being too cynical, but there’s something really just gross and insidious about folks who claim to be one of the good guys and then turn around and do something like this. I feel like we talk a good game about wanting to, wanting to make feminism more welcoming for all but when it comes down to it, we really don’t. We want to make sure that certain people still feel like they’re not part of the group and we will do whatever it is, whatever we can, to make them feel less than and that’s what Quinn Norton did and she did it for page clicks or whatever, because I really do – again – I feel like we really tried to use this particular argument, however shaky and horrid it was, to get our weight up in order to get whatever book deal, thing that we’re working on popping off. But I’m just kind of over it. I’m over folks who are going “Oh, I need to do something to get my numbers up. Oh I know! I’ll pick a fight with somebody on Black Twitter and let’s see what happens” and BOOM! Controversy.
MM: And it’s happening not only, like, because we see it happen all over like the, y’know…that’s what Time Magazine does, that’s what all these news outlets are doing, like trolling black people constantly for clicks. Even now the so-called “journalists” and “writers” themselves are doing it just to get their shit up.
JNG: To go back to the main question, I guess, why white feminists feel that they have the right to dictate how we see ourselves or how… it really has a lot to do with them centering themselves in conversations that don’t involve them.
JNG: Y’know, I feel like there’s… There’s a girl I follow on Twitter that nailed this perfectly. @FireinFreetown, I don’t know if you follow her-
MM: I do!
JNG: Oh, great! Cuz Leslie Ann is just dope. She went on this tangent about second-wave feminism being bullshit. I mean, that’s exactly what this is. She’s really giving this, “why focus on beauty?” If she went through the tag thoroughly as she said she did, she wouldn’t have seen just “boobs”. I feel like we exaggerated that point, again, to get some attention because if you look through this tag you’re seeing all sizes, all shapes, all colors, all hues of black girls being celebrated, it’s not just about boobs. But boobs should be celebrated too. We have a good pair, y’know? All boobs matter, okay! We should be…we’ve been shut out of the beauty conversation for so long, there’s nothing wrong with us celebrating what we have and we’re not saying that it’s the only thing we should celebrate. It’s just one part that makes us amazing. And we don’t need Miss Ann to come in and try to tell us what we should be doing or what we should be focused on because they don’t have these problems, they don’t have… even the plainest – and I don’t wanna name any names – but I will, no I won’t [laughter] But even the plainest white woman still fits the mainstream ideal of beauty, so our realities are completely different and that needs to be acknowledged. Any time, I feel like, between Quinn Norton and Megan Hess who apparently had a hard-on for a good year over at Slate because she couldn’t understand why Beyoncé would write something about pretty hurting, y’know…bitch it’s not your reality! It’s not for you. If it’s not for you, you don’t have to understand it. Some things are just better left like, “Oh wait, this doesn’t have anything to do with me, maybe I should just stay in my lane!” So really the moral of this story of all this is stay in your goddamn lane.
MM: Right. Exactly. Stay in your goddamn lane. This is…yes. I feel like I’ve reached this point way back where it just feels like whatever a white feminist says about a woman of color, I don’t wanna hear it. That’s it. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t like…just stop talking. There are criticisms and critiques to be made, we can make them, we do make them, we’re always making them, but you don’t need to have a say. You don’t need to have an opinion because, again, like you just said, like we were talking about on the podcast last week, everything is not for you. I know you’ve been raised to think everything is for you, that everything that exists, everything that’s created was created for you and it’s just not so. Some things are not for you at all and among the things that are not for you is #BlackGirlsAreMagic and another thing that really annoyed me about it was, yes, there are beauty shots and things that are about beauty in it and the things that are about beauty and celebrating black women’s beauty are terrific and should be there and you don’t have to have a say about that, but also she’s talking about like “the male gaze”. Now you know, I’ve been following the hashtag for a long time, since it started, and most of the people I see retweeting it and most of the people I see really engaging with it are other black women. It has nothing to do with the male gaze. It’s so much about us celebrating each other and celebrating ourselves, that’s most of what I see in that hashtag, so not only are you chiming in on some shit that has nothing to do with you that you don’t need to have an opinion on, you just fundamentally don’t understand it because like I said on Twitter, you don’t understand black sisterhood. You don’t understand it. You have no idea what it’s about, that’s why you think we’re always a hive. You don’t understand how we relate to each other, you have no idea. And okay, fine. You don’t have to understand that but SHUT THE FUCK UP.
JNG: [laughter] I can’t agree more.
MM: Aziz Ansari has a new show on Netflix called Master of None, the show’s been getting good reviews but it has some issues. Particularly, it’s a show about a South Asian American guy that in one episode tackles diversity on TV and calls bullshit on the idea that white actors get all the roles because they happen to always be the best and that in fact it’s discrimination to never have actors of color. But then the show itself mostly casts white women as Ansari’s love interests. For that, and some other reasons, folks are giving it a little bit of the side-eye. Joining me now to talk about this is Cate Young, creator of the feminist blog Batty Mamzelle. Hey Cate!
MM: How are you?
CY: I’m great! Glad to be here.
MM: Awesome. So first of all, what do you think of Aziz Ansari’s new show overall? I watched a few episodes and I thought it was pretty funny overall despite its issues, which we’ll get to.
CY: I generally like it, I really do. I thought it was very funny and I thought it was very poignant. I relate a lot to his exploration of race, especially.
MM: Right. And what in particular about his exploration of race did you feel like you related to?
CY: I thought that his exploration of race in Hollywood was especially interesting because I do a lot of work specifically when it comes to representation in pop culture so it was great to get a perspective directly from someone who works in Hollywood. The episodes “Indians on TV” in particular deals directly with the issue that there can’t be too many people of color in any given production otherwise it becomes unrelateable to white people essentially because realistically, when we say that, that’s what we’re talking about, that white people wouldn’t want to watch it. I thought it was really interesting the way he directly confronted this issue that white people are allowed to have several people in the cast or a completely white cast and it’s not a white show but if there are even two people of color in any show then it’s whichever designated minority show and white people won’t want to watch it.
MM: Yeah, it has, y’know, what I liked about it – the episodes that I’ve seen. I do think that it’s funny and it’s on point in a lot of ways but then with what you’re talking about in diversity in television, it is then odd, is it not, that almost all the women in this show – particularly the love interests of Aziz Ansari on this show – are white women and when criticized about this he said, “oh well, there’s one episode where there’s an East Asian woman.” But this woman doesn’t even have a name, she’s clearly not somebody who’s being presented as someone he’s actually interested in. She’s kind of a throwaway, a comedy throwaway. It’s kind of a little bit Mindy Kalingness going on in this because I feel like I feel like they seem to be really aware to a certain extent of a lack of diversity but then there’s a point where it sort of stops, where they stop. Where they stop is where the analysis stops. So Mindy Kaling or Aziz Ansari can talk about why aren’t there more South Asians, Asian folks, people of color in these TV shows and movies but when they get there, they cast all white love interests.
CY: Yeah, I completely agree and I’m glad that you mentioned Mindy Kaling because I was reading up on some coverage on the show and she came up because people asked Aziz on this very thing and I found it curious that he invoked the whole “we picked the best person for the job” thing.
CY: Which, to me, that’s strange because that’s the exact excuse that white people use and I think that for someone who tackles race so well in so many other ways, it was strange that that was a blind spot for him.
CY: Exactly. And then when it comes to Mindy, she will in the coverage of Aziz’s case, she tweets out this very defensive thing about the idea that because she’s Southeast Asian she’s been also knocked for only dating white people on her show and I think that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to date white people, that inherently in and of itself isn’t a problem, but I think that when you are dealing with issues of race, especially as directly as Aziz does and you choose to only present your character’s love interests as white, as desirable, then that’s making a choice when you meant to or not. You’re specifically saying something about what this character wants and what this character finds desirable.
CY: I was thinking about that when I initially read the article and it occurred to me that it’s not just that they’re white it’s about the different ways that he approaches those characters. By my count he dates about 4 different people over the course of 10 episodes. One is Rachel, played by Noel Wells, who becomes his girlfriend eventually. I believe the actress is not white but her character is coded as white, so his OTP is white. He also dates Claire Danes, who is a married white woman who desperately wants to sleep with him for some reason. She’s also coded as incredibly desirable, so he is very attracted to her and wants to sleep with her but he finds out that she’s married and feels bad and there’s an entire episode dedicated to whether or not it’s ethical to sleep with her because her husband is apparently a huge douche. Then there is also the bartender that he meets when he’s out with his friends one night and there’s also an episode dedicated to the fact that he really wants to go out with her, he has tickets to a concert and doesn’t wanna go alone and invites this particular bartender but she can’t make it because she has to work and he starts inviting random girls in his phone but when he has already accepted an invitation from someone else, her shift changes and she’s suddenly available and there’s specifically a line in there from his friends saying that she’s the Holy Grail and “you deserve to date her”, things of that nature that really put her on a pedestal as someone that’s basically a catch for him and it turns out that she’s a horribly grotesque person and he doesn’t enjoy the date at all. The point is that we have three white women in succession who the audience is meant to see as someone that he aspires to be with whereas the one Asian woman is basically a huge leech clearly only there to get food and completely disinterested in him and he’s very clearly disinterested in her. So I think that you have to, I find it very strange that he wouldn’t recognize that making that contrast between the good white women that he desperately wants to be with and the one Asian woman who turned out to be a huge dud and a leech. It’s a very, very, very strange oversight in my mind.
MM: I feel like, for him, for Mindy Kaling, and a lot of people like this in real life, if you’re obsessed with white people and you just wanna date white people in your life, ok fine, go ahead do you, it’s really none of my business, but when you’re making media and in particular when you’re making media, as in the case of Aziz Ansari, like you said that’s supposed to be so on point and informed about race and you’re still doing that, having your characters do that same thing, and you’re not making that part of the snow, like you’re not analyzing that for your character either, like you’re not having an episode where you’re like “Wait, why am I dating all these white women?”, y’know? Why don’t I wanna date people of color? Why don’t I wanna date other South Asian people? What’s that about? Then that’s what’s really weird about it. It’s sort of like your analysis stops where your desire begins and then everything is just fine to do what white people always do. And, y’know, when Mindy Kaling was responding to that the other day on Twitter, kinda saying “Why doesn’t somebody write an article about how many white lead characters date outside of their race?”, which okay maybe they don’t, they definitely don’t – most of them – but also so just be like the white people?
MM: You do all this complaining but now you’re just saying “I’m gonna do what they do”.
CY: I know, that was such a cop out because it’s, the whole point is that we’re supposed to be trying to open up avenues for people of color that don’t reflect the white majority and their ideals and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with having the occasional white partner, or even majority white partners, but the idea that it would be so glaring and that it’s not commented on and that the excuse that’s used is basically “well, white people do it”. We’re supposed to be doing than them. That’s the reason we want to get into these spaces, to change their norms. The idea that we just rest on the fact that they do it too, that really bugs me.
MM: Right, right. So that’s an issue. [laughter] Another issue that people are having with this show is that there’s an episode where, I mean they basically say in so many words “when something happens to black people, it makes the news and when something happens to Asians, it doesn’t”. The quote is, “People don’t get that fired up about racist Asian or Indian stuff. I feel like you only risk starting a brouhaha if you say something bad about black people or gay people.” Which, really? Really? [laughter] I just take issue with this, so so much. I feel like non-black people of color love this line. They love this kind of…you know you find them on Twitter all the time talking about “something happens with black people, if a black person gets killed, it’s all over the news, everybody’s talking about it, but let that happen to an Asian person and nobody’s doing that.” And it’s incredibly frustrating because folks don’t seem to understand that when something happens to a black person, some terrible violence happens to a black person, they seem to have the idea that it’s all over the news because people just care about black people so much and everybody, and CNN and the Washington Post are just like “Oh My God! Something has happened to a black person, this is horrible everyone! We have got to talk about this!” When in fact they don’t give a shit, they’ve never given a shit, and the only reason that it’s talked about is because black people mobilized. Because Black people mobilized in huge numbers all over social media and they talked about it, and talked about it, and linked to it, and retweeted, and were there, and were doing it, and were basically saying to them “This is a thing, this is a thing, this is a thing, when are you gonna talk about it? When are you gonna talk about it? When are you gonna talk about it?” We’re all over the place mobilizing when something happens to us and then sometimes, and still not all the time, sometimes mainstream media will be like “Oh, okay. Maybe something’s happening. Maybe there’s enough people talking about it that we’ll pay attention to it.” But people seem to think that’s not happening. They’re completely unaware that that’s happening and it’s just like magic or just how much people care about black people so much that we’re in the news and what non-black people of color don’t seem to get because then what they do is then what they do is when something happens to Asian folks or there’s an issue with somebody who’s not black, it’s black people’s fault somehow that they’re not getting the attention that they deserve because black people apparently, we owe them a whole bunch of stuff apparently.
MM: Like, you have to mobilize for your community if you want white media to care, because they don’t and we know that and that’s why we mobilize. This shit is just like extremely frustrating to me.
CY: I completely agree with you and I share your frustration. I think that…it’s funny, I was just reading a guest post on Angry Asian Man last night about Shondaland. Basically a man was writing a piece about the fact that he won’t be watching any more Shondaland shows because there aren’t enough Asian-American characters. While I agree that there definitely could be more Asian American characters, the way that his argument is framed is essentially that it’s pretty clear that his issue is that there aren’t any straight male Asian characters on her shows and he kind of sidesteps Christina Yang who was essentially the second lead of Grey’s Anatomy for a decade, you know? She was a huge character that people hugely missed, she had a whole season dedicated to her leaving the show, and it was very clear that because she was a woman, it didn’t really count. The scene with, I believe her name is Catherine, on the current season of How to Get Away with Murder. I understand the need for representation of straight Asian men, especially because demasculination and desexualization is one of the stereotypes they’re dealing with but I also think it’s incredibly strange that he puts the onus on Shonda, who is one of the greatest purveyors of diversity in media today, to create more representation for him specifically as opposed of holding [a council] any of the millions of white people. He even concludes in the end that there are shows without any Asian people that he’s still going to watch because he likes them but he’s not going to watch any Shondaland shows and it kind of just speaks to that idea that black people are just supposed to carry the burden for other people of color and it’s frustrating because I feel as though, if anything, the fact that we sometimes get results or sometimes get media coverage should tell you that you can do it too. That as far as your concern, it works. So follow our tactics and do the same thing, get the same kind of exposure for issues that you care about because, for me, I feel as though as a black person it’s not my job to spearhead other issues of other people of color. I don’t know on a personal level what their issues are and how to relate to them. I feel like it’s not my place to speak for them. My job as an ally to them is to look at what initiatives they’re spearheading and lend my support to them.
CY: I feel like it would be very, very out of place for me to just decide that I’m going to start advocating for, say, Native Americans because I don’t think they have enough representation – and they don’t – but it’s not my place to do that. Like, I don’t know nearly enough about Native American culture to just randomly be saying you need to do this, this, and this. That’s not my place to say, my place is to support the initiatives of Native American actors.
MM: Right, exactly. It’s like if I see a campaign that’s being spearheaded by Native Americans or by Asian Americans about representation in media, then I’m damn sure gonna be retweeting and supporting that.
MM: Supporting the hashtags, doing whatever I can do but it’s not my responsibility as a black person who’s in a community that’s survive, that’s trying to be represented, that’s trying not to get people killed walking down the street, it’s not my responsibility to take on your thing for you. You can do it.
CY: I think, too, that people forget that hypervisibility means violence a lot of the time. When you talk about this increased coverage of black suffering and black death, that’s not because they care, that’s because it’s a function of consumption. They are regurgitating our pain for their own entertainment. It’s not because they care about us or they’re trying to illuminate the terrible tragedies befalling our community, it’s because it’s good for the news cycle, it gives white people the chance to talk about “black on black crime”, it’s not because they care that we’re dealing with these life threatening things and I think that people too often conflate hypervisibility with genuine care.
MM: Right, exactly, and I think if you’re on Twitter and you’re listening to these conversations when this stuff comes up, people tend to have this weird jealousy that it’s only dead black people whose bodies are being strewn across the internet. Like, do y’all understand what’s happening? Do y’all understand that this is us dying? That this is us having violence against us? Us being attacked? Us being unsafe and that that’s what you’re seeing on the internet, not like something to be really envious of? Because, it’s not like what you’re seeing all over the news the great things black folks are doing in communities. Like that every time there’s something great happening in communities, community building with black people that the news is there and it’s on CNN. That’s not what’s happening. Like you said, it’s black death, it’s black pain, and folks just really need to, non-black people in particular, just really need to get it together with this. Like you said, they always bypass white people as the source of repression. They always bypass that. It’s always black people’s fault somehow, it’s not white people’s fault, it’s not white media’s fault that they’re not showing up to talk about your thing, it’s somehow black people’s fault they’re not showing up to talk about your thing.
CY: There’s this one trend of putting the onus of labor on black people, and usually black women specifically, that I just find so… It’s very, very frustrating because not only give us responsibility for things we really shouldn’t be leading, it also kind of plays into the narratives of us being workhorses for other people. We don’t do that for white people anymore, why would we do it for you? It’s not something that we should have to do. It’s actually borderline offensive that people think that we should. I think that for a lot of other minority groups, they kind of think they want to take advantage of our hypervisibility to bring light to their issues and I can understand that impulse but you attach yourself maybe to the momentum that we built, but you don’t just put it on us to create momentum for your issues and I feel like I understand the irritation that can come with feeling as though your issues are invisible to the public eye, but to be honest, I know that for me if I had the choice between being invisible and being safe or being hypervisible and being subject to violence, I would choose invisibility every time.
MM: Yeah. You know, it is, for me, it’s more than borderline offensive. It’s just straight out offensive. I have had non-black women of color basically attack me for not talking about their thing. And let’s be clear, these aren’t women who are in my corner, these aren’t my non-black women of color friends who have been showing up for black people and are like “Hey, a little reciprocity here”. It’s not that. It’s women who that say shit about black people, who don’t show up for black people in any way, who aren’t retweeting when something happens, aren’t doing any of that. They only show up when it’s time for you to work for them. “I have something I need you to do, why aren’t you doing this work?” And that’s what’s offensive about it. It’s not about relationships, it’s not about reciprocity, it’s not about mutual solidarity, because these folks usually don’t actually care about me or other black women or black people, but when something happens that they feel like isn’t getting enough attention for their community, it’s our job to make it news. They really do, they just see us as workhorses, they see us as mules. “Oh, hey, let’s get these black women to do this work for us”.
CY: I don’t understand how other minority groups who are often times dealing with similar issues, if not the same issues, don’t understand how they are replicating racist systems of oppression when they demand labor from us. So, it’s just, yeah.
MM: Yeah, I mean, you know, the answer is long. That’s a whole other podcast. In my experience non-black people of color don’t see black people as human any more than white people do. It’s not hard if you spend a day on Twitter and it’s very, very clear to see or just in the world it’s very, very clear to see. The effects of white supremacy are such that we are dehumanized in everyone’s gaze. We are not real and complete people to anyone. So non-black people of color, y’all need to get y’all shit together. I’m sick of having to explain this stuff and you need to understand that we’re not here to do your work for you. Real solidarity is about showing up for each other but like, y’all need to get over the fact that black people owe you something because we don’t.
MM: So! That is our podcast for this week! Thanks to Jamie Nesbitt Golden and thanks to Cate Young for joining me! Thanks everybody for listening, until next time!
MM: The Black Girl Dangerous Podcast is a production of Black Girl Dangerous Media.