Megan Amram is a comedy writer whose work has been featured on The Good Place and she also created the webseries An Emmy For Megan. She was called out on Twitter a few days ago for past problematic tweets. You can read about the situation here. Megan has apologised and the people of colour who have worked with her, like William Jackson Harper and Manny Jacinto, have had to perform the labour of speaking out about the situation. Which is the burden that marginalised people often have to carry when people do this sh-t, think this way, “joke” about these things.
Been wrestling for a while with how to respond to Megan Amramâ€™s tweets. And I effed up. Those tweets shocked the hell out of me. I wanted to give her a chance to respond and apologize, but as I waited I realized that silence was complicity, whether I meant for it to be or not.— William Jackson Harper (@dubjackharper) June 19, 2020
Megan’s tweets, which were anti-Asian and gross, are about a decade old. And there are those who, quite rightly, have pointed out that even though they’re not recent, she was an adult and should have known better. Whether or not you cancel her, then, is your decision.
Many people object to cancel culture. My personal opinion on it is that while cancel culture is not always judiciously applied, it does have value. Sometimes people should be cancelled. And if you visit this website often, you might be thinking about whether or not to cancel me. That’s fair.
I too have written shameful, horrible things. And today those things are being highlighted on social media because Ben Mulroney, husband of Jessica Mulroney, announced he’s stepping down as anchor of Etalk after Jessica used her white privilege against Sasha Exeter. You’ll recall, last week I wrote about the situation – the article is here. That article generated a lot of attention and other things I’ve written have generated a lot of attention. So, like Megan Amram, it’s time for me to “eat my food”, as a good friend of mine always says.
As I acknowledged in my piece about Sasha Exter and Jessica Mulroney last week, I have been conditioned in white supremacy, and I have enabled white privilege, even as a person of colour myself, because we too, given that white supremacy is so dominant, can have bias. This is why Van Jones referred to racism as a “virus”, it lives within us. When I started this site back in 2003/2004, I wrote misogynist things and slut shaming things, and racist things. And as the site grew in popularity, it served as confirmation bias, that there was an appetite out there for this kind of content, and I wanted to keep delivering it. Over time, I learned and grew, along with many of you who have learned and grown. And through it all, I have talked about my progress, calling out my past mistakes and leaving much of that content on the site instead of deleting it. There are some things, though, that have been deleted because I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to be part of it and obviously didn’t want to perpetuate those thoughts. But in the process of doing that, I realised that that would be erasing history – and for marginalised people, their pain and trauma is constantly being erased and invalidated. My leaving it there to be eventually called out is nothing compared to their experience.
That said, mentioning this now will likely be read as self-serving, and rationalising, and I’m willing to eat that food too. But it should be there to be reckoned with, reflecting back to me, and to everyone else, the ugliness and the hurt that was caused. So I’m looking at this now, right in my own face. This is part of the work. Here is one example:
Not that you need this explained, but the shame must be named. My shame must be named. “Ghetto” is a racist term for describing Black people. Also, I was body-shaming Janet Jackson when in fact that was my shame.
There’s another reason I have to write about the changes in the writing and the site though. Because doing better, in my case, involved other people. People of colour and LGBTQ+ people whose voices are part of our team, who have done great work here, work that I’m proud to host, so please do not go for them. They are amazing.
Then again, it’s possible that in my even talking about these wonderful contributors, I’m trying to make myself look good. I see that too. Too often, Black and Indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ+ community are doing the work of protecting the very same people who hurt them. And too often, Black and Indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ+ community are doing the work of teaching those of us who need to improve. Their efforts should be acknowledged. I want to say their names but at the same time I recognise that saying their names can be seen as me saying “I have Black friends” as a justification. All I’ll do then is to let them know how appreciated they are.
What’s even more complicated is that I’m so proud of what the site has become. And articulating that is complicated in and of itself. Because it could be interpreted as me trying to save my ass. But I do want to acknowledge those who’ve been visiting LaineyGossip faithfully over the years and the emails I’ve been getting especially over the last few weeks from people who have also been confronting their ugliness, their racism, doing better, being better – so many of you have been doing the work together with the site and we have to keep it up.
So in this moment, as power structures are being challenged, those of us who have been complicit and complacent in upholding those power structures must be called out. I must be called out. I must be prepared to face the consequences. This is what the movement towards equality and justice is all about – for people to be held accountable. I must hold myself accountable and you should hold me accountable too.
What, then, does accountability look like? Right now, it’s about addressing this directly. Again, naming the shame, what I would like to read in an apology if someone else was addressing their problematic past. But I do know what the site is now and I do know how I want it to improve in the future, which is nothing like what it looked like years ago. As for consequences? It’s not up to me. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to engage with my writing, along with the imperfections and progressions. Last week, at the end of CTV’s Change & Action: Racism in Canada, during our closing remarks, I said that I have made mistakes, encouraging viewers that if they want to be an ally, to remember that allyship cannot be perfect. Part of effective allyship is to own that imperfection. Is that self-serving too? Can something be self-serving and still make things better for others? Too often, Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour and marginalised groups, even when they are right and feel tall in their truth, expend energy to maintain their truth because they’re gaslit all the time. The reason for an apology is to validate the people who were wronged. Of course, they don’t need your confirmation necessarily, they’ve already known. But the fact is they felt unseen. An apology is to validate that truth and acknowledge the wrong. It means they are being seen. And that’s what we’re doing right now, in these times. Making sure the people who have not been seen should be seen.
I apologise. I am sorry. I will eat the food, and when more food is served to me, I will eat that too. And the work continues.