Reflection.

How the Fuck Can You Stay Silent? An Open Letter to Brands & Celebrities

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Dear Silent Brands and Celebrities (D-List Bloggers incuded),

I understand it can be intimidating to comment on an issue surrounding race—everyone, after all, has an opinion, many of which are likely to differ from yours. As a white girl, who simply cannot know the full experience of what she’s trying to comment on, I really do get that fear (will I offend someone? Am I being “that white girl?” The one whose attempts at being woke simply grate other people?) But the potential for ego-bruising, or disagreement, pales in comparison to watching an entire group of people live their lives walking through proverbial flames that are set off, largely, by people who look like me. I’d rather speak out about injustice and look like a fucking idiot doing it, or slip up and learn something more about the nuances of discussing race, then turn a blind eye and drown out reality with something more idyllic. And I’m a nobody, in the scheme of things, doing this not because my opinions hold much weight in the world but because maybe an ignorant family member will stumble across them or someone will learn to think twice before falling back on All Lives Matter.

You, on the other hand, have a lot of sway—the ability to impact large groups of people with the simple click of a button. For whatever silly reason, people look up to you—it’s something about the way you contour your face or the shape of the sneakers you sell. Maybe it’s just your great Snapchat presence. Regardless, people have found comfort in these behaviors, these trends, and deemed them holy—they co-opt them, they chase after them endlessly, they can’t get enough. And maybe you didn’t sign up to be holy, but don’t pretend like you don’t revel in that fact, and milk it when it suits you. That holiness is not a switch you can turn off when reality strikes and looks uglier than you’d have liked, when a significant portion of your fans and customers’ lives are at risk because much of the world sees them as less-than. In many cases, the world probably sees you as less-than too, even if you’re rich and famous. Don’t let your wealth and fame shade you from that reality—it doesn’t have to, and we’ve seen that in celebrities like Beyoncé and Solange, women whose children will likely never be shot at, who have no skin in the game other than their own fucking empathy and awareness.

Sure, you can call their stance “good for their brands,” but if that were such a given, why wouldn’t other celebs/brands be falling on their Louboutin swords to comment? After all, the Beyoncé-way is thought to be paved in gold. Beyoncé has a lot of blindingly white fans, too, fans who fucking LOVE Lemonade but aren’t willing to excavate it for deeper meaning, or to look in the mirror and ask themselves how they, despite enjoying her music, are actually working against Beyoncé’s cause. They obsess over the trivial, but Beyoncé serves them something harder to swallow. And she keeps serving it—it’s not a phase. Will it open all their eyes? No way. But will it cause ripples in places that could use a little shaking up? Sometimes, yes. And that’s better than the alternative: throwing a tarp over a reality you’d “rather not” comment on, creating a safe space for you and your fans—your collective, blissful ignorance.

Fuck your tarp and your despicable silence. To sit on so much power and not use it for the greater good IS a crime—one that renders you especially pathetic and out-of-touch. Our country is stupid enough to carry you forth anyway, to coddle you in your aimless shilling of whatever-the-fuck-you-shill. You’ll be fine, but you’ll probably be losing a lot of your smartest defenders along the way.

No love,

Jessica

2 replies »

  1. Jess

    I am angry too. Eric Mike Dyson and Charles Blow wrote powerfully in NYT today. Maybe there is some merit to a little time and distance. Words, after all, are cheap. You and I spill a decent amount of ink in our respective blogs. Actions are important. Check out Jessie William’s acceptance speech at BET awards. Sometimes, also, people may not know what to say. This has been a numbing week. Response times vary.

  2. Good for you, Jess. Have you seen Hamilton? Mostly white audience, mixed race cast and the messages are so strong. Then read the book about the musical and it’s an eye opener for those of us old white people who don’t understand rap– the references in the show to other rappers and literature are just amazing. But I see no end to this violence until guns are acted upon.

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