Cody wrote yesterday about the current Jimmy Kimmel controversy and I posted about Tina Fey and 30 Rock pulling four Blackface episodes. Last week, Howard Stern went on the air to address his past use of Blackface and the n-word. This was in response to Donald Trump Jr retweeting an old video of Howard doing Blackface and saying the n-word. Howard said that he’s grown and isn’t the same person anymore.
When Jimmy Kimmel did his racist impressions and when 30 Rock aired their Blackface episodes and when Howard said the n-word, there was no outrage at the time…because those of us who were part of the culture were complicit and complacent. And that tells you everything about how systemic racism is.
Back in the 2000s, during the early years of this blog, celebrity internet culture was cruel and crass. I was an early participant in that space. When I wrote the racist, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic things that I wrote, I became popular, even celebrated. Which was, admittedly, gratifying. So I fed into it and it became performative. Over time I learned and changed, and this site changed, and I am grateful to those of you who’ve been reading all this time who’ve also grown and changed. I appreciate your messages this week acknowledging this. But that content is still there and I have pointed to it often, because, as I wrote in my apology post, erasing the past is self-absolution when accountability should be the goal.
The culture has been changing because those who’ve been oppressed, Black and Indigenous people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, they’ve been fighting for this change, and they are owed the change. They’ve been doing the work. Their work is for good – they are advocating to save lives, they are agitating for justice, and they are demanding equality and opportunity. These are pure and legitimate motivations.
To use the Howard Stern example, though, he addressed his racist past last week in response to Donald Trump Jr’s tweet. Howard has been critical of Donald Trump, the older one. Last month, Howard called for Trump to step down from the presidency and told MAGA voters that Trump actually hated them. Many believe that this was the impetus for people calling out his past. Kimmel touched on this in his “apology” yesterday when he said in his statement that while he is sorry for the racist behaviour in his past, he “won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas."
As Cody pointed out, for Jimmy Kimmel to put that in his apology statement yesterday wasn’t the right way to apologise. “Apologies with anger aren’t great. Even if you feel you’re being called out by the far-right internet trolls looking to cancel any liberal celeb. They weren’t the ones who painted your skin black for a bit.” He’s right. Howard Stern, in the way he addressed his past, did not lash out in anger at Donald Trump Jr. Instead he owned what he did, expressed regret for it, and focused on how he’s changed.
Jimmy Kimmel, Howard Stern, and Tina Fey may not be in any position to point out those who “feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas”. I may not be either. But is Donald Trump Jr doing the work though of the activists who’ve been pushing for justice and equality? Is he really in-line with their beliefs?
White supremacists are using the past racist history of public figures who have been supporting the work of legitimate social justice advocacy to claim that systemic racism doesn’t exist, holding up these examples to be like, look, one of your champions for change is a hypocrite, so how can we believe any of you? We’re the ones who are right. That’s what they’re saying about Jimmy, and Howard, and me.
This is a consequence that I’m now living with. Because much of my work has been on improvement and change, and documenting it, and supporting the movement for change, my sins are being used to discredit the work of others who are the true champions, whose efforts have actually been effective. I apologise for that too. I apologise for hurting the cause. But I can still support the cause. I can still use this space in support of the cause while eating more sh-t. Thank you to those of you who are still here and believing in the cause too.
Yours in gossip,