Day 4. Or 5. Don’t tell me I’ve lost count already…

I am exhausted. I have a horrible cold today and I stayed home sick, but have of course been doing plenty of work, while updating Beauty Dummy’s social media (did you hear about my new blog with Hannah Faulkner?!) and browsing Twitter for the latest fucked up shit Trump and his demons have enacted. Let’s just say I don’t feel powerful. 

I marched on Saturday in New York and while there was an amazing turn out all over the world I couldn’t help but think of the folks the protest largely ignored: women of color, black lives, trans lives… And then I thought about how the whole protest would probably just be ignored by those in power. It’s not enough. 

Lately it’s felt like the whole world is shouting into the void. 

Another thing that’s bothering me is that underneath all my external fears I am still worried, as always, about my own self worth, my own happiness, and my own success. On bad days it can feel like my doubt is ping-ponging, one moment aimed at myself, and the next at everything around me, the world, the future, the powers that be.

At times I honestly feel like getting out of bed in the morning is my one-woman show. Written by me, performed by me, rehearsed for years. Just not that funny.

But I am motivated. I’m overwhelmed by my own ambition. There’s so much I want to do, and there’s so much I am doing, but it isn’t done, and it isn’t moving fast enough, and I’m afraid I’m not working hard enough, or that I’m working too hard.

But then I think, what a luxury to get to be ambitious. What a privilege to have any opportunities at all. I should be grateful to be a runner in this race, and not in the one for survival. 

So what do we do then? How do we come together and fight and still have energy to devote ourselves to ourselves and our dreams? I don’t know. 

Maybe I just need a coffee. And a DayQuil, and a hot bath, and a different president, and some soup, and my mom’s HBO Go password, and for the world to change, and 12 more hours in each day. I’m gonna go get some of these things and think about this, and I’ll be in touch. 

In the meantime if it could fucking stop raining that’d be great. 

Shout Out To Resilience —Just Some Thoughts From a Whiny New Yorker

It was a typical September night in New York, chilly-ish and humid as hell, and I was returning home around 11:30. I’d spent my evening making notes on a pilot, practicing improv and eating a large pile of greasy onion rings my body hardly even craved, let alone needed in the slightest. I was tired, and I had to get up in just a few hours for an early meeting at work.

I was already in NO MOOD to take bullshit from anyone. And then, not five feet from my doorway, a figure scurried quickly across my shoes and brushed against my bare ankles. That’s right. A rat. A rat touched my skin. Before I could realize what I was doing, I jumped in the air and yelped like a Looney Tune who’d be stuck with a hot poker. A parody of a Woman In New York.

Perhaps it was my exhaustion or the onion rings flaring up, but as I was washing the possible (likely) plague off my skin, all the drawbacks of the city started getting to me. For most of my time here, though it’s been stressful, I’ve shrugged off things like insane rents, rodent corpses and #commuterproblems as merely a price to pay for living in such an exciting place. I figured soon enough the stress would pay off and it would all be worth it. Typical transplant delusion.

Now I’m in year five, working a day job and several unpaid side hustles, sometimes wondering if the other shoe is ever going to drop. I know it will, I tell myself, if I just keep working hard and don’t quit. Eventually I’ll succeed, and get to be one of those happy New Yorkers (they exist, right?) who don’t have to run into a random man on their block holding a giant pet snake, or worry about getting crickets thrown on them on the D train. Maybe things like this and this will stop happening, and I won’t be so angry at this place and everyone in it. Maybe, in the meantime, I should stop reading Gothamist (but I can’t. I can’t stop.)

I know, I know. I complain about my life as a ~creative in NY~…but I’m aware I don’t have it that bad. I’m a white girl with a job, her own apartment, two cats and a few friends. I eat, like, 4 meals a day. And I have cable, for Christ’s sake! It’s not convenient, but no one is making me live here. I made a choice. Maybe it’ll pay off, maybe it won’t. The grass is always greener, ain’t it?

But I sure do love this place. I love the diversity, the skyline, the opportunity. The feeling that your life could change with the turn of a street corner. The people. Our spirit and resilience when we are targeted by terror and face that risk every day. The people.

I also love North Carolina, where I’m from. I love it in spite of Pat McCrory’s hateful ass and HB2 and the oh-so-many laws against queer rights and black rights and reproductive rights. In spite of the ignorance and anger and violence towards protestors in the wake of the murder of Keith Scott.

I have family there. I have friends there. I grew up there.

But injustice, well, that’s everywhere in this country. Even your so-called “blue state” is full of “blue lives” who will murder someone for being black. It’s really happening. And it’s happening over and over and over again. I count my privileges every day.

I stand in solidarity with black people in my home state and everywhere fighting for their right to live. I stand in solidarity with New York as we continue grinding in the face of the threat of violence toward our city.

I left North Carolina, and I may even leave New York someday. But both places are forever dear to my heart. I even think I love America, as hard as it is to do. It just has so much potential, you know? Like an absent father who keeps promising to show up. And I’ll keep coming out to the doorstep, hoping for things to turn around. It’s why I’m not writing in “Beyoncé” on the presidential ballot. That, and I’m not a fucking idiot.

I admire those who continue to show up, who aren’t just waiting but speaking out, sharing their influence, shouting in the streets and refusing to take shit from this broken system. I admire those who thrive on ambition, who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams, even when it seems like the world is set up to make them fail. I also admire those who have failed, those who are tired, those who don’t know where they’re going or can’t take anymore. We are only human.

I respect you and I am here for you if you ever need.

To all my friends, everywhere, look out for one another and take care of yourselves.

100 Things White, Straight Men Can Do With Their Time Instead of Starting Ignorant Arguments

Spaghetti Man

Hey there white, straight male. Things are getting pretty crazy for you these days, huh? It seems like everywhere you turn people are mad at your kind for something. Sometimes it’s for raping women and getting away with it, sometimes it’s for killing innocent black people and getting away with it, sometimes it’s for upholding the system that allows for everyone but those like you to have their lives as they know it taken from them. I mean, where will it end?

I get it. You didn’t create the world we live in. Must be tough for you to just sit back and listen to all these people express their outrage at the Straight White Man for killing their black brothers and sisters, for putting guns in the hands of homophobes, for telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, raping them, and then doing nothing when they come forward. I mean, they’re talking about you, right? And they don’t even know you. That must be why you’re so upset.

Maybe you’re upset because you voted for Bernie and you hate that people don’t see you as “one of the good guys.” Maybe you want to learn more about inequality but instead of educating yourself you see that as the burden of the oppressed. Maybe you’re so blinded by your own privilege that you can’t help but give the benefit of the doubt to a system that is so far beyond it. Or maybe you really are, deep down, so rooted in your own weakness and hatred that you don’t even believe in the right for black people, queer people, women and those that intersect to be as free, as alive as you.

I don’t know. I don’t know what it is exactly that fuels you to be so loud, so indignant, such horrible listeners when shit hits the fan. I imagine one might be a devil’s advocate if they were the child of the devil himself. But I really don’t know. I tend to keep my distance from those of you who refuse to stop talking, refuse to stop inserting your feelings where they don’t belong. I block you from my social media and from my life. But sadly, I see people I care about having to engage with you every day. I feel for them, because we shouldn’t have to shield ourselves from your ignorance, your hatred, your entitlement, your ego that compels you to share your opinion like it’s some heroic act when literally no one even asked you. You should just know when to stop talking.

The thing that baffles me most about all of this is you are the most privileged group of people on the planet. If you don’t want to help our causes, there are so many other things you could do with your day besides clog up our timelines with bullshit. All I can deduce here is that you just can’t think of any. So, I’ve decided to help you.

100 Things White, Straight Men Can Do With Their Time Instead of Starting Ignorant Arguments

  1. Shave your face
  2. Play ultimate frisbee
  3. Watch an action movie! I think a new Independence Day just came out or something but I really…I really don’t know.  
  4. Take yourself out to a nice dinner for one, or bring a date. Or bring a friend. No homo!
  5. Go to a strip club
  6. Work on your physique. For all the time you spend criticizing women’s bodies, you should all be in perfect shape.
  7. Travel to another country. Literally any country. Even North Korea! Just don’t steal a poster.
  8. Sleep for 10 hours a night and show up late to work without getting fired
  9. In fact, go job hunting for any of the thousands of opportunities out there for you to work with other people just like you turning money into more money
  10. Go actual hunting
  11. Smoke marijuana in the comfort of your own home
  12. Smoke marijuana on the street where it isn’t legal and get a slap on the wrist
  13. Adopt a dog
  14. Go to the beach
  15. Enjoy a leisurely bike ride
  16. Enjoy a Coca Cola
  17. Have someone take a picture of you in hiking gear standing in front of a mountain
  18. Binge-watch something. I can recommend so many things. Have you ever seen House of Cards? Have you ever seen The Sopranos? Have you ever seen Mad Men? They’re all wonderfully written shows about white men abusing their power that I think you’d find very relatable.
  19. Get on ancestry.com and find out which European countries your great great grandparents are from!!!!!
  20. Buy a plant
  21. Call your mother
  22. Hydrate
  23. Take your vitamins
  24. Barbecue something
  25. Watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (it actually is a great show)
  26. Get a journal. I find it really helps me when I’m feeling like an anxious entitled baby to write my thoughts somewhere no one will ever see them.
  27. Pumice your calluses
  28. Go condom shopping. There’s no excuse for running out of condoms.
  29. Skiing
  30. Water skiing
  31. Jet skiing
  32. Wakeboarding
  33. Surfing
  34. Fishing
  35. Sailing
  36. Powerboating
  37. Get really drunk and fight another annoying white guy
  38. Attempt to flirt with a girl without harassing her. This is a tough challenge for you but I just know you can do it.
  39. Shop for clothes. J. Crew is having a sale, probably. If that’s not your thing, try REI. Target always has great prices. And you can usually find old “No Fear” t-shirts in the bins at Goodwill.
  40. Walk around your neighborhood at night wearing a hoodie.
  41. Buy cigarettes
  42. Just get a hot tub for like, no reason
  43. Have children!
  44. Adopt children!
  45. Get a vasectomy!
  46. Get tested for STDs
  47. Shoplift something
  48. Stroll confidently down a dark alley
  49. Go to a brewery, or a beer hall, or a gastropub. I don’t know the difference between these things.
  50. Learn a new language
  51. Apply for a loan
  52. Have a house party
  53. Get an adult coloring book. No one has to know.
  54. Have a game night with your girlfriend and her best friend and her boyfriend and play Cards Against Humanity and giggle your hearts out at offensive things that people would otherwise find extremely problematic
  55. Clean out your closet
  56. Clip your fingernails
  57. Get a massage
  58. Enjoy different ethnic foods and over-congratulate yourself when you pronounce a menu item correctly
  59. Gentrify something
  60. Change your hair. The man-bun’s getting kind of old.
  61. Watch a historical film that takes place in an African country but stars people who look like you so you feel more comfortable
  62. Masturbate
  63. Have consensual sex
  64. Have a consensual threesome!
  65. Have a consensual orgy!!!
  66. Try some butt stuff, on your end this time. You know you’ve been wanting to do it and there are plenty of women out there who would love to touch your butthole. Really.
  67. Drive around with a broken taillight
  68. Change lanes without signaling
  69. Get wild and grab a cop’s gun. He’ll safely disarm you and you’ll spend a couple nights in jail but everyone will know you as a badass from then on.
  70. Get really into graffiti
  71. Hitchhike across the country
  72. Play that game where you try to name all the states and their capitals
  73. Hit up the 7/11 for a Coors tallboy and just spend the afternoon playin video games
  74. Golf
  75. Bowling
  76. Watch sports on the tube
  77. Play fantasy sports with your bros
  78. Obsess over male athlete’s physical characteristics without even noticing how homoerotic it is
  79. Learn to skateboard. If you already know how, skateboard.
  80. Swipe on Tinder for hours and hours and hours until you can’t remember what your standards are or why you thought you ever wanted to date in the first place
  81. Call a phone sex line
  82. Monster Truck Rally
  83. Look at old pictures and get really nostalgic for the Good Times aka Undergrad With The Bros
  84. Go be the weird lonely guy at a bar
  85. Get really into your dental hygiene. You really can never be too into dental hygiene.
  86. Hit up the aquarium
  87. Stare at a wall
  88. Check your horoscope
  89. Meditate
  90. If you pray, pray
  91. If you don’t pray, try praying. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
  92. Go for a run
  93. Cook a meal for someone you care about
  94. Sing a song
  95. Learn an instrument
  96. Read. Read the news. Read a novel. Read a memoir. Read a comic book. Read the white privilege knapsack.
  97. Call that one black friend or that gay cousin you keep bringing up and ask them how they’ve been feeling lately. Then just listen.
  98. Look inward. Dare to be critical of your role in the world. Dare to be critical of the hand that feeds.
  99. Be still.
  100. And if and when you’re ready to contribute something productive, speak up.

Fab With A Conscience


When I was in college at UNC Chapel Hill I was lucky enough to make friends with some of the most intelligent and fabulous people that walk this earth. We called ourselves Team Big Things, among other monikers that were bestowed upon us (Fruity Rebels, Benetton Club, etc). These names derived from a few simple facts; that we are all highly ambitious, flamboyant individuals of varying races and backgrounds. Many of us identify as queer,  and all of us make up an educated, socially-minded group looking to better the world through art and/or service, and to look & feel good while doing it.

Even though we’ve experienced a diaspora since graduating–we’ve got members in NYC, LA, NC, DC, and one member is even in China right now–I still keep in close contact with these guys through a private facebook group called TBT. We share funny gifs, stories about almost pooping in our pants at Trader Joe’s, and links to articles. Sometimes it’s “Best Golden Girls Quotes” on Buzzfeed. Other times they surround more socially charged topics which we then debate and discuss with each other. This week we talked about Britney, Miley, and the relationship between fashion, music, gender, queerness and race. I felt the conversations that followed were beyond relevant.

It began with this image, Mykki Blanco’s Twitter response to the new Britney single, “Work Bitch,” which aside from being another god awful piece of EDM garbage, borrows from the lexicon of ballroom culture (and thus from queer people of color) in a way that has upset some people.

Moe: Thank you

Kat: I’m curious though, haven’t female pop singers always had a large gay fan base? Cher, Whitney, Madonna, Katy Perry, Gaga, Britney. I can separate an artist’s sincere relationship with their queer fan base from the more contrived relationships just by the way it feels. “Work Bitch” is clearly a tactic. But what is the dividing line? What actually separates something like Gaga’s songs, often hailed as gay anthems, from being under this same scrutiny? Is it the artist’s actual involvement with the LGBTQ community? Personally I was irritated with Katy Perry when she came out with “I Kissed a Girl” because I thought it fetishized bisexuality but I’ve since changed my perspective on it and thought of it as like, pro bi-curious. Basically I’m just on the train and rambling and would love to hear more of what y’all think of straight females as queer icons in the media.

Hannah: I agree with you. But I do also think that since the LGBTQ community has become more openly accepted into mainstream culture, pop stars take it as an opportunity to “reach out to/support” them and therefore get a wider spread fan base. Clearly there are some icons (such as Cher) who I think more properly helps represent the gay community because she supported them before it was fetishized like it is today.

Kat: Not to mention the whole “playing bi” tactic that young straight pop stars (Christina, Britney, Miley, Katy) use to break out of their pristine Disney/Christian image. And don’t even get me started on Macklemore.

Hannah: IDK if Macklemore can fall under the female pop star category… but he might as well considering what a little bitch he is.

Kat: I think about this a lot as a white woman who wants to have a strong voice in the media as a writer. Although I identify as queer and a feminist I still heavily scrutinize the validity of my voice in relationship to many of my characters who are queer people of color (aka: y’all). This is sort of off the subject of pop music but not really at all. The reason Orange is the New Black was given so much praise for it’s portrayal of QPOC is because it gave agency to those characters outside of the white narrative. It is unethical to use the experiences and cultures of another to further your career. It does nothing but reinforce the status quo to try sum up the lived experience of an other in your own voice, to tell someone else’s story in order to spice up your own. Ultimately we need more queer voices telling their own stories, taking center stage for their own lived experience and being their own icons. Not treated by the industry as a market for culture consumption. And as a white, straight artist, if you can’t get down with that, then you are not an “ally”. Thus Mykki’s outrage.

Austin: Everything Kat said p much.

Jamila: Kat, yes. All of it. That being said, I’m also thankful for these white women who advocate for “the others” because when others do it, nobody gives a goddamn

Austin: Yeah ^ there is a way to use one’s privilege in a good way and that is it.

The next topic was one that has been beaten to death over the past few weeks, Miley’s appropriation of black “ratchet” fashion to enhance her fun new image. If you’ve been on the Internet (and not been completely clueless) any time in the last two months you’ve heard more Miley arguments than you can mentally process; those condemning her and those in her defense. This time we wanted to talk about the stylist behind Miley’s fashion choices at the VMAs and in her controversial video for “We Can’t Stop.”

Ratchet is Dead: Inside the Mind of a Miley Cyrus Stylist

The article introduces Lisa Katnic, Miley’s stylist and a host of the Vfiles webshow LisaTV, which is basically a docu-series about different fashion communities. In the article Katnic is quoted as follows:

“Somebody said that it was racist for a white girl to have three black girls as props onstage to benefit herself. It’s misinformed because [those dancers, the] L.A. Bakers are in the [“We Can’t Stop”] video. At this point, Miley and the L.A. Bakers are friends, and Amazon Ashley? They’re friends in real life. They go out to lunch. That’s so demeaning to [the dancers] for somebody to say that. Here they are doing something that’s awesome and fun, and [people] shit on it.”

Since we’re all major Vfiles fans, and many of us have adorned ourselves with the gold chains, mesh and Air Forces of the “ratchet” look for long before Miley jumped on the bandwagon, I thought this woman’s work was worth discussing.

Kat: Some people are saying that this person is responsible for the whole Miley Debacle and I can see why they are offended by her quotes dismissing the issue….is it wrong that i think she’s fucking fab, style wise? Her Vfiles show is funnnnn.

Brad: IDK IDK IDK IDK how to feel. I do like her style tho lol

Bill: I think it’s great she has a voice in all of this. To each her own.

Brad: I meannnnn IDK if “to each her own” is the right approach to this. I still think this chick is blinded by her privilege.

Kat: I don’t think she’s as blinded as Miley is tho, and I think her relationship to the trends and lifestyles she uses to express herself is more authentic and more informed. I’m kinda here for her.

Bill: It’s interesting because she comes form the world of style which has ALWAYS appropriated looks from culture and society.

Kat: Yeah, not that that’s necessarily okay, but if we call that into question I think we have to maybe put ourselves on the cross a lil bit too lol

Bill: Exactly.

Brad: I agree that she’s def not as blind as Miley but in the end she’s still perpetuating this appropriation for a paycheck.

Kat: I feel like if Miley came up to me on a night when I was wearing my weave and my jersey and a ton of gold chains and said “I want you to style my video” I’d be like “sweet.” The term “weave” used loosely, as always. God I can’t help it I’m just culturally appropriatin’ all the time. But I still think Miley’s weak, prolly cause it’s obvious to everyone that she’s full o shit.

Brad: lmao. No I mean I feel u cuz same prolly. Ugh this is why /we/ should be famous cuz we’d do this shit da right way.

Bill: It seems hard for me to believe that anything in our culture isn’t appropriated. We live in the country that has appropriated pretty much everything but American Apparel from other places and peoples around the world.

Brad: IS THERE EVEN A RIGHT WAY THO IDK *SIGH.*

Austin: Not here for her and I think a lot of her explanations whitesplain away the problematic nature of wearing blackness as a costume. Also I think conversations about appropriation (and race in general) center white people’s feelings and ideas too much. I honestly don’t care if Miley shares a few laughs with these poor black women on set. WOOHOO RACISM SOLVED. How do black women feel about it? What happens to actual “ratchet” people when the term/trend are done? It’s all so absurd and we can localize this to Miley if we want, but there’s a looooong history of white folks putting on black “cool”/folk culture to advance their own careers, while white culture at large systemically shits on black folks/culture. IDK y’all. I think Bill is missing the distinction between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. It’s a thin line but there is one.

Bill: Austin, does that apply to fashion and style- is that exchange or appropriation? Is there a way to share these things at all? The nose ring was originally a Sikh tradition… it has now been removed from that cultural identity to be a part of style. Help me flesh this out.

Austin: Bill, I think conversations about cultural appropriation are hard because they center a PoC narrative instead of a white one. Sometimes it’s not /about/ individual white persons relating to something but how WHITENESS relates to something, ie: how are Desi women treated/seen for wearing bindi? How are black folks seen/treated for speaking vernacular English? How are artists of color viewed in the canon of art history? How many people of color get to use their cultural output in the mainstream? It’s a hard conversation because it doesn’t necessarily center whiteness or white feelings, and I think a lot of people don’t realize how often we do center whiteness in our convos about race. How many people of color get to control the use of their culture in the mainstream? Like, we can’t blame Justin Timberlake for being inspired by black music, for instance. But we can talk about how society/media values his work over the myriad black artists who have done the same thing.

Bill: The White Systemic Oppression of All That Isn’t White. It makes sense- but you and I aren’t Desi women so does that mean we cannot talk about it at all? Yes these issues are ‘hard’ to discuss but CAN we discuss them outside of that paradigm of whiteness?

Austin: We can’t speak directly from a position that isn’t ours, but we can speak about oppression/privilege sure. We’re all oppressed and privileged to varying degrees. INTERSECTIONALITY. Try to think how your oppressed parts feel in relation to the mainstream and be EMPATHETIC to the experiences of others. Bill, as a white man, you certainly have something to add to race conversations, but you have to decentralize whiteness before you can get to the empathy/understanding part.

Kat: It would also be a different thing if Miley was using her status as a wealthy white girl to give more of a voice to the the women of color she’s borrowing from. I don’t see that. I always draw up a comparison between Brooke Candy and Miley in my head when I think about this. If you’re a white woman entrenched in and promoting the culture you are inspired by I don’t think it’s criminal to borrow from it….but maybe I’m just defending myself here.

Austin: I think that’s interesting Kat. Like I think about Terry [our good friend from home, a white man], and he’s IN poor communities of color. Like, I don’t think he’s appropriating simply because it’s not a costume for him. He’s not approaching it ironically or thinking that he has a “proper” culture to return to.

Kat: What about using it as a way to reject the so-called “proper” culture you are from? I would argue that’s what Miley’s doing, and while it’s fucked that she’s able to do that in a way that people of color will never be able to (and then returning at the end of the day to the california king sized bed in her mansion), it makes sense that she’d use it to reject a lot of the bullshit ways the patriarchy says she SHOULD exist as a young white woman (pure/responsible/desexualized). I actually kind of identify with that. The problem arises when we define the antithesis of “pure” with black female bodies…….ruh roh.

Bill: I mean we’ve had this conversation fueled by a seemingly never-ending cocaine high several times over. I just like coming from an anthropological standpoint- I am just thinking that we need to get out of the whole oppressor-oppressed dualism in order to do anything about it… like stop giving it power somehow. I have been learning how to decentralize whiteness without dismissing my own inheritance of the concept. Where do I reconcile the attitudes of white men who shaped the conversations that we are having right now?

Kat: I don’t know that anyone can take an objective standpoint on any issue. No one can shed their privilege or the perspective that it gives them. The important thing is to call attention to it and accept responsibility for it. The opposite of whitesplaining is not objectivity but awareness.

Austin: Yes, Kit! I hope no one feels attacked. One can’t convey tone via Facebook. But I also hate the fact that I feel the need to say that (centering white feelings).

Kat: I don’t think anyone feels attacked. I think we’re all here to learn and understand how the work we produce as artists affects the world, and what responsibility we have as people of our respective privileges.

Austin: Back to the original question, you shouldn’t feel bad for liking her style. She’s fly. Anyone who consumes media consume problematic media. The key is recognizing that, and hopefully making something better.

Kat: Exactly! If any of these artists had a response other than “no, no way I disagree” to any of the accusations and maybe listened and contributed to a productive dialogue… think of how things would be different. At that point I think it becomes messy because of how much money is involved.

Austin: I should find that article about like 90+% of media being produced by white folks. I think we all “know” what systemic means, but don’t really /know/ what systemic means.
Bill: That’s why I love folklore- the stories coming from the people the stories are actually about. I really want to say “FUBU” right now.

Austin: Lmaooooooo ^^^ I mean sometimes that’s necessary. That brand was actually a response to designers who made a shit ton of money off of black folks saying that their clothes weren’t really “for” black people so…..

Kat: Wow

Danielle: I’ve had a similar conversation with my close friend Aila when we talk about what it’s like to be a PoC in the theatre community. Which of us is at an advantage when it comes to getting consistent work and which of us is at an advantage in life. As a multiracial actress (white dad, Indian/Desi mom) she’s able to shift between different “shades” of brown people with ease- at this point she’s played Iranian, Puerto Rican and now a French Joan of Arc. Yet she’s begun to envy my privilege as a black/Jamaican/”thick” woman since there seems to more work for actors who fit that description. She explained that regardless of how many roles she’s offered she is still not seen as Indian because of her hazel eyes, light skin and European features. I wanted to be upset with her since her dad’s an oil man and her mother’s parents are a bureaucrat and a choreographer… she’s had a trust fund since the day she was born… she’s lived all over the world… and society calls her exotic and beautiful and dudes buy her mad drinks when she goes out to bars. So why would she want to look like me? The answer was crazy: her lack of community. She always feels alone because she’s seen as too exotic to be considered white, and too white to be considered truly Indian. She’s just labeled as pretty. Another part to her argument was the people who are closest to her also happen to be black so why couldn’t she be a part of the group? As much as I want to punch her lights out for wearing oversized hoop earrings and answering my phone calls with “where you at, grr,” I can’t come up with a reason why she shouldn’t be able to. After all, she’ll shut down folks who try to randomly touch my hair. Do I want to be the one that denies the basic human need for belongingness? Doesn’t that make me into another kind of oppressor?

Kat: This also brings up the concept of appearance versus race and how each affects lived experience. I’m a white girl with white parents of European descent (people are often surprised when they find out my mom is blonde for some reason?) but I have dark hair and tan skin which sometimes leads people to label me “ethnically ambiguous.” I think I kind of get to experience the benefits of exoticism without any of the negative treatment of being racially othered. On the one hand, the unfairness of that makes me uncomfortable. On the other hand, I like to be as tan and curvaceous as possible and play up that ambiguity to benefit from some of the hypersexualized stigmas people have of brown women.

Bill: I’ve recently been brought to the light by dear Austin that I was possibly commenting in a way that was defending my own privilege, earlier. I haven’t caught up on the comments since I went to class earlier but I apologize if I offended anyone. I see this space as a comfortable place to discuss these kinds of things. Earlier I was playing more of a devil’s advocate role because I wanted to mirror the perspective that this white society that we live in has… And I know it is implicit in me because I am white- but if you were personally offended know that I don’t believe all the things I wrote. My intention was to provoke conversation and further the dialogue. Apologies… I am not trying to feign my responsibility and I was not annoyed by anyone in this group calling out white privilege. I love y’all. I was never trying to defend whiteness. I agree with the black feminists’ opinions about this subject. It probably wasn’t my place to do this at all, but I think that having a conversation where everyone agrees and is reinforcing their own opinions is just a rant (definitely has power to it though) and I was trying to provoke the conversation for my own desire to hear a great academic study/conversation about race.

Kat: I think sometimes it’s important to ask questions that you feel like you already know the answer to so that you can know /why/ you feel that way. I take a lot of stances on issues I feel strongly about, but I don’t always know exactly why that is. Sometimes asking a “devil’s advocate” question can help you better understand a topic.

Austin: I get that. I also, first of all Bill, I appreciate you being receptive to hearing that you might have approached a race conversation wrong. As a white person (or really any person in a privileged position) it’s SUPER important to listen to folks who don’t share your privilege. Kudos on that. Anyway, I get the idea of offering a different perspective. It’s like a mini checks and balances system I guess. But I also think that everyone who contributed /did/ offer a different perspective. We can build consciousness and raise awareness towards a similar end, while filling in blanks for each other and fleshing out ideas. I love that this group of friends can joke and party and ~look rly cute~ but also talk about and do Things That Matter.

Bill: I see how it is confusing for a white person to play devil’s advocate about whiteness in a race conversation.

Kat: Totally. But yes, I think a checks and balances system is really important, especially in liberal communities where sometimes we take for granted certain truths. It’s important to rediscuss and redefine what we know to be true sometimes. For some people, simply saying America Appropriates Everything is a great way to blow off this entire argument. Being given the opportunity to say “yes, BUT” is really helpful in convincing others who are perhaps further to the right than we are.

Bill: I was merely looking for a way OUT of whiteness and the systemic oppression of a white world.

Kat: I often feel like I want to find a way out of the white world also. I’m deeply ashamed of white culture because I don’t feel it represents ME and what I believe. But I /am/ white, so I am allotted certain privileges that even I believe are unfair simply due to that fact. And as much as we’d love to completely restructure society, it won’t happen in our lifetime. So we just have to make sure to remain aware of its problematic nature and use dialogues like these to take realistic baby steps to improving the world. You guys rule.

Austin: Whiteness and white people are two different concepts. Don’t confuse the two. No need for white guilt or shame, but you can try to side step whiteness. READ THE WHITE PRIVILEGE KNAPSACK. It’s one internet page long and an easy google away. It’s a great refresher/starting point, and written by a white woman.

Kim: I’ve been thinking a lot about race issues here too [as an Asian-American in Shanghai]. It’s such a difficult thing sometimes I don’t know how to feel. The foreigners here in Shanghai disgust me sometimes at how imperialistic their attitude is. There is this feeling of camaraderie over their ‘superiority’ that they feel entitled to as (mainly) white people among Asians. Instead of feeling a sense of inferiority as a minority the way many Asians in America do, it somehow has turned out the opposite. And what’s most confusing is how I identify with them often! I feel so ashamed when I have this attitude, but I can’t help it. Like many of you have pointed out, I can’t escape my background and how it’s shaped me. Lately I’ve been trying to take race out of the picture and just look at them as human. Because it gets so fucking annoying when all you are is where you’re from.

Austin: Yeah that makes so much sense. I was talking to Bill last night about ways to stay racially aware/conscious without letting all the negative aspects of racism bog you down emotionally and spiritually. It can be really hard to navigate.

I know I usually regale my readers with stories of hilarious missteps on the road to Glam Life, but I’m thinking about including more posts like these. I hope you gained something from it and if you’d like to join the conversation I encourage you to comment or email me using the contact form in my About section. I’ll be back with a Disaster Story next week.