An Open Letter to Timothy Goodman from BlackDahria
I apologize for the delayed response. It’s nice to meet you.
And I do mean that as sincerely as one person can meet another online. I chose not to introduce myself at your presentation, as I wanted to leave and collect my thoughts on both art and race. Also, in that moment, I would have had nothing to say to you other than, “Nice talk.” So there’s that.
Let me lead by saying that while I did mark the pure coincidence of my attending your talk and the Boston Herald incident, my point wasn’t to put you and the cartoonist in the same category. (For the record the “butt of a white man’s jokes” comment was directed at him.) Whether it’s playfully benign as is your art, or ugly and awful like what that other guy did, the commonality I wanted to highlight was the agency that each of you have as Caucasian males. Not your choices.
As for the things I did not say:
- I did enjoy the talk. Quite a bit, actually. I would imagine that at this point you probably wouldn’t trust me when I say that. And I wouldn’t fault you for that lack of trust. However, if ever there were an opportunity to use my art (writing) and “flip the expected on its head,” as A Kid from Cleveland once suggested, this would be it. So, for what it’s worth, I did genuinely appreciate what you had to say about art and work.
- Thank you for sharing those articles in your response. Those statistics are depressing but real, and I’m sorry I did not verify them in my original piece. Just as your life experience reflects the reality of those numbers, my life experience as the daughter of two African American parents who have always been in my life and given me every opportunity they could … doesn’t. So, I questioned the data because it is utterly bewildering to me. But false it is not. I stand corrected and I respect your perspective.
- I never said you didn’t work hard. And I absolutely never said the fact that you are white is the ONLY reason for your success. But, yes, I do believe it is a factor. It seems, based on your response, that we may agree on that. [shrug] Or we may not.
- And if I may clarify, I also did not call you naïve. I am well aware of the fact that I don’t know you. And, outside of making additional inferences from your response, I have no way of judging whether you are naïve or not. The “naïve white people” I was referring to were people I have yet to meet (and a couple I already have) who just don’t understand the complex implications of race. And they don’t try to. And no amount of me explaining how my race affects my life and my opportunities seems to get through to them.
Again, my goal was to point out that you, as a Caucasian man, are more likely to get away with stuff than I am as an African American woman. And it could be easier for you too. Also, I know I referenced her once already, but there’s some shit that even Oprah can’t do. Maybe that’s not about race. But maybe it is. And that really sucks.
At the discussion it felt like the concept of getting away with stuff was something that you thought anyone could easily do. I happen to believe that getting away with stuff is not a universally attainable goal for all demographics, at least not at the same level that it is for a Caucasian male. So, for me as one of very few minorities in a predominately white listening audience at your presentation, that was a really unsettling thing to hear projected to the group. And I said something about it. And I chose to use humor, specifically sarcasm, to illustrate my point just as you chose to use humor to illustrate yours. (Dick jokes + design = getting away with stuff. … Yes?)
Finally, I don’t know if you saw the pilot of black-ish, but I specifically chose that reference because I felt the same level of “What the hell?!?” shock turned disappointment that the character Andre felt upon hearing the label “urban.” Do I feel that level of shock and disappointment now? No. (For the record, Andre got over it too. And it seems that once again we may be on the same page, this time with regard to the definition of the word “urban” as opposed to its connotation. ) Did the use of that term feel like a let down on the day of the event and at the time I was writing my first piece? Yes. And that feeling, perhaps common among many African Americans (if a television show is any indication of majority opinion), and the thoughts that followed shaped both my experience in the auditorium and the retelling of it later. But sure. When I find a better word to use, I will let you know.
Tim, I appreciate your vote of confidence in my future success. Thank you. And so you know, this article and this conversation and the general practice of blog writing is my side project. This is the “one [project] that I do for me.” Blogging is not my day job. The freelance editing is a lot more on the “free” side of things these days. [sigh]
In any case, it has been nice getting to know the less flashy, joking, (literally) presentational side of you. And now (hopefully?) you have a better portrait of the less flashy, non-hyperbolic side of me.
All the Best to You as Well,
This letter is a follow-up to White People and Getting Away With Shit.
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