Where will white liberals go to learn about racism now that Jon Stewart is off the air?
Jon Stewart’s departure from evening television was commemorated by nearly everyone. After 16 years of making fun of the faulty and racist commentary on Fox News, nearly all news outlets (with the exception of Fox News of course) bid Stewart a grandiose goodbye, celebrating his time on television. Stewart’s knack for making fun of conservative homophobic, racist and sexist commentators around the country made him a vital component of liberal media. Hailed by many young white liberals as a good source for national news, The Daily Show was a place where they could go to have race issues broken down and simplified.
After Ferguson and the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, Stewart never shied away from discussing race issues. His commentary on race circulated through the Internet like wildfire. No doubt, much of the acclaim for his videos came from his long career and seemingly brilliant comedic critique. But what seems to be most fascinating about this trend is the tendency of white liberals to discard black voices in favor of white ones.
A few weeks ago, Orange is the New Black actor Matt McGorry officially allied himself with #BlackLivesMatter. His association with the movement received acclaim, adding him to the short list of white celebrities to speak on race and police brutality. Like Stewart, McGorry has become an outlet for white people to have race issues explained. But, similar to Stewart, McGorry is not voicing new opinions, he is reiterating and emphasizing the words of popular activists. His privilege is due to his existence as a white male celebrity, a position that affords him a respected platform in the mainstream dialogue.
After McGorry identified himself as a feminist, many hailed him as an iconic feminist voice. Again, he was not saying anything new on gender equality, but simply reiterated the voices of the feminists who went before him. McGorry is pumped up by the media as a feminist icon simply because he is a man. He, who is in a position of privilege, has rightfully identified a patriarchal system that favors men over women. But oftentimes this is taken to the extreme. His voice, which is respected and perceived by millions, overshadows the voices of contemporary womanists and feminists. McGorry made no deception of his privilege. In fact, he has spoken on it. Because of his position of privilege, he is heard and respected by millions. Like Stewart, McGorry and other white commentators on race are well received by white liberals, while the voices of black commentators are ignored and forgotten.
Unfortunately true. But I hope more men will use this "privilege loophole" to speak up about gender equality. pic.twitter.com/J2nuv9H1kE
— Matt McGorry (@MattMcGorry) July 20, 2015
McGorry’s rant on #AllLivesMatter was extolled by the Internet. McGorry’s flawless dissemination of the racist counter to #BlackLivesMatter seemed to open the eyes of many white Americans. But there was nothing original about his rant. Upon the inception of #AllLivesMatter, black activists have been dispelling the faux notion of equality evoked as a form of silence. Everything he tweeted has been said by many on Black Twitter. But when a white guy with a platform does it, it is hailed as brilliance. What Blavity writer Jayy Dodd describes as ‘unimpressive,’ white commentary, even when it is mediocre, is erasing a space for authentic black voices to be respected and heard.
Perhaps one of the biggest disconnects revealed in the last year is the detachment between racial groups. What many white people are just seeing as a problem in American society is far from new. In fact, it is as old as the inception of this country. The widespread killing of unarmed black people by the police has been a dominant fixture in American culture and politics. But, for many white people, Stewart’s nightly commentary was an introductory course on the generational terror black people have been subject to for centuries. While it is true that social media is largely responsible for pushing the human rights violations of black people to the forefront, we have been, for years, speaking on police brutality. From hip-hop music to distinguished writers and activists, the observations voiced by the black lives matter movement did not materialize overnight. The words have been articulated by black people, generation after generation. Nevertheless, the voices of black people speaking on their own life experiences are largely overlooked.
If you are reading this and you are a white person that finds yourself regularly uplifting and/or idolizing the racial commentary of white people while ignoring black voices, you should reevaluate the dialogue you favor. There is no white person in this world who can speak on the black experience like a black person. If you don’t believe me, listen to Jon Stewart tell you.
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