Amy Schumer has stepped in it again — she did a parody video of Beyoncé’s Formation that wasn’t very funny, wasn’t at all enlightening, and most eye-rollingly of all, once again let a white woman pretend to be synonymous with being black. There was an awkward event in which Jessi Klein, Schumer’s producer, tried to defend her against the charge that she was racist. It did not go well, as described in this article by Nikki Gloudeman.
Because here’s the thing: Yes, Amy Schumer is racist. Amy. Schumer. is. racist. She’s racist because we live in a society founded on racism that has afforded her racial privilege, and she’s racist because she’s said some racist shit. Last night, Jessi made it clear that she’s racist, too.
And yes, I am white, and yes, I am racist too—because we live in a society founded on racism that affords me racial privilege, and because I haven’t always fully acknowledged how I move through this world differently because of the color of my skin, and I’ve done some racist shit. I’ve thought “that cop was nice!” when I got off without a ticket, instead of “How would that have been different if I wasn’t white?” I’ve viewed black men and white men walking behind me at night differently. I’m trying to be more aware every day, but I fuck up. I’m still racist.
So if racism can happen in contexts outside white-hooded vigilantism, and if it indeed perpetuates our entire society, what now then? It’s not quite as simple as saying “Yep, I guess I’m racist like everyone else!” For one thing, that ignores the nuances and degrees of racism. For another, that’s not really going to affect anything.
The most important step is owning that shit.
Yep. I’m racist, too, and I’m also sexist, because I take advantage of all of the immense privilege of being a white man in a racist, sexist culture. You take every advantage you are given, as well. It shouldn’t be so hard to acknowledge that fact, but I do know what is really difficult, and that is…changing it.
I also don’t often know how to “own it”. When a traffic cop doesn’t give me a ticket, in part because I’m white, it wouldn’t help to demand that I be punished; that I don’t get pulled over as often because I’m driving while white isn’t going to be corrected by pulling up to random patrol cars and insisting that I really should have my plates run and hey, officer, maybe you should check my trunk or frisk me? The goal of us privileged people shouldn’t be to share the injustices given to others, but to make sure we all get the same justice.
I think the first step is simply to listen to those who have been oppressed and honor their requests for respect. Schumer and Klein don’t seem to be able to do that.