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The Unbearable Whiteness of Grifting.

Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

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Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

If you are a white woman, a journalist, a New Yorker, bored and on the Internet too much, or a combination of the aforementioned, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen the name Caroline Calloway pop up somewhere over the past week.

Something instinctively told me to leave that mess alone because I saw enough warning signs to know that Rich White Girl Goes Through Troubles Of Her Own Making was a ministry I was not prepared to receive. And then last night, I did it. I took a peek into the rabbit hole and went headfirst into the latest edition of Squandering White Privilege.

The long version is best told in these three articles, all of which I read straight through in a row at 2 in the morning while I was stressing out about being unemployed and paying bills. If you have the time and the fortitude, I recommend this order:

First: “The Case of Caroline Calloway and her Creativity Workshop Tour”
Here we see a rich white girl with no qualifications other than a popular Instagram putting together a nationwide tour in less than a month that inevitably falls apart a la Fyre Festival because neither she nor anyone else knows what needs to be done logistically. White girls across the country ponied up $165 each for the privilege of learning how to be yourself from a woman who was faking it. And there was supposed to be salad and orchid crowns.

Second: “The Story of Caroline Calloway and her Ghostwriter Natalie”
The ghostwriter herself wrote it. Caroline’s friend Natalie was so good at writing Caroline’s Instagram captions that she (Caroline, not the friend) landed a 6-figure book deal. In terms of writing, it’s one of my favorite first person narratives of the year. In terms of subject, both of these white girls are maddeningly ridiculous. It’s wild read, from a budding friendship at NYU to multiple near misses with sexual assault wandering around at night in a foreign country.

Third: “Who is Caroline Calloway”
Vox hits the highlights. If you want to know broad strokes and can’t sit through the details, Vox is it.

If you want to know the broadest strokes: Caroline Calloway is a rich white girl. Her dad is a retired lawyer, her mom is a retired data scientist, and her grandparents were real estate tycoons who owned most of Sarasota or something. (x) She took glamorous pictures of her life, her best friend wrote lonnnnng captions, and they became so popular she got a $500,000 book deal to write her memoirs. She couldn’t finish the book, scammed her followers out of $165 a piece to “workshop” with her for four hours, and now certain corners of the internet are obsessed with how a talentless nobody could swan dive into half a million dollars and a massive following.

IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S WHITE AND RICH.

How many times have we seen this? White person from a privileged background tries to leverage that privilege into even more money. They have no skills other than salesmanship, so they sell something that doesn’t exist. When people finally want to receive what they paid for, the emperor is found to be stark naked.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

At this point in my life, I’m almost numb to watching unqualified white people fail upward to ever loftier heights of success and riches. Knowing Caroline Calloway got a book deal for memoirs she wasn’t writing doesn’t even make me blink twice. But y’all. Y’all!! All she had to do was let her friend finish writing the book! Sit still and tell a few stories, either true or fictionalized, let the girl who had been writing your Instagram finish writing the book, and both of y’all collect that bag. She couldn’t even be bothered to do THAT.

If someone was trying to pay me half a million dollars to let someone else write a book about my life, you couldn’t shut me up. What do you need, Sis? You want me to tell you about the bully who called me a faggot in second grade so I ran home to write mean haikus about him in my Trapper Keeper? You wanna know about how two of my friends and I set the carpet on fire in the guidance counselor’s office when we were supposed to be taking the flag down and folding it? Wanna know how I almost got expelled from school senior year because I wrote a blog about how a clarinet player and I drank the alcohol in a host family’s cabinet, replaced it with water, and showed up to rehearsal the next day mad hungover on an orchestra trip? I got stories on stories on stories. How much time you got. How much length we going for.

$500,000?! Couldn’t be bothered. She just let the deadlines pass and then cried about it when the publisher wanted their advance money back.

This country is founded upon an implicit trust in white people, and the economic success of this country in combination with a hypocritically bastardized Christian worldview of prosperity has led to a large proportion of the population that believes wealth is a byproduct of morality. If you’re rich, you deserve it. If you’re poor, you deserve it. We give more worth to the words of rich people because they matter more, and we give more benefit of the doubt to white people because we trust them to pull through and succeed. We are a country that is the perfect breeding ground for Caroline Calloway or Elizabeth Holmes or Anna Delvey or Billy McFarland.

We’re a country that put a businessman with multiple bankruptcies in the White House just because he said he was rich and had the flashy trappings of wealth. As long as there are rich white people, there will be Americans ready to follow in their wake hoping the illusion of prosperity and privilege rubs off on them.

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Race

Young white murderers are little boys. Young Black victims are grown men.

Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day. 

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Kyle Rittenhouse is a 17-year-old wannabe policeman who carried an AR-15 across state lines to feel masculine, patriotic, and important, and he ultimately killed two people and injured another. Former Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi says he’s just a little boy who was protecting his community.

He wasn’t protecting his community — he lives half an hour away. He had to have his mother drive him there.

He’s not a little kid — he’ll be 18 in December, old enough to vote and go to war.

He’s not a victim — protesters wouldn’t have been chasing him if he hadn’t shown up from out of town carrying a rifle that he legally wasn’t supposed to have anyway.

This is what Conservative White America watches all day, celebrations and exaltations of white murderers contrasted with demonizations and vilifications of Black victims. And when the murderer is young, Conservative White America rallies around them to magnify their youth and exaggerate their innocence. Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer who gets to be a “little boy” and Dylann Roof is a murderer who gets to be a “sweet kid” but our young victims don’t have that luxury.

Michael Brown was 18 years old.

His murderer, who is the same height as Michael Brown, said he wasn’t a boy — he was a demon — and it was like wrestling with Hulk Hogan. (x)

Trayvon Martin was 17 years old.

He was walking home from the store when his murderer decided to stalk him, confront him, and then kill him because he was afraid of a child. (x)

Tamir Rice was 12 years old.

He and Kyle Rittenhouse are similar in that they were both carrying guns. Of course, Tamir’s was a toy and he was shot seconds after officers saw it, because what they thought they saw was a grown man carrying a deadly weapon. Officers on the scene said he was “maybe 20.” (x)

Law enforcement starts to see Black children as older than white children starting around 10 years old. After that, Black children have an extra four years tacked on to their age (on average), and when that Black child is accused of a crime, he’s more likely to be assumed guilty.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. The study was published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®.

(cont. American Psychological Association)

We talk about defunding the police in the context of unlawful police shootings and racially motivated police brutality, and the counterarguments focus on reforming the police instead: They just need more training. They just need to learn more de-escalation strategies. There’s no training that will change 400 years of racially charged propaganda that has painted Black people, males especially, as aggressive, criminal, brutes. There’s no training that will suddenly make police officers see Black children as Black children when 400 years of media and history has painted Black kids as older and more dangerous than they are because Black people in general are framed as more dangerous and more aggressive than white people. Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day.

 

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Race

Black people cannot sway an election.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country.

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There’s a white lady on Twitter with a very long thread about the 2016 election that I am absolutely not going to read, because all I needed was this:

In case she deletes the tweet, because sometimes people do that online when they’re getting dragged, Claire Berlinski said Donald Trump would not be President if Black people who voted for Obama had turned out in the same numbers for Hillary. I see variations of that all the time, trying to shift the blame for Trump onto Black people instead of examining it where it lay, with racist whites. White people blaming us for the election are embarrassed to be associated with them, so they deflect, but Black people don’t exist in large enough numbers to have the kind of impact these Embarrassed Whites want to imagine. Very very simple math proves this, so let’s just get it out of the way up top.

In 2016, 11% of Black people who had voted for Obama didn’t vote at all. 12% of white people who had voted for Obama voted for Trump. The US population is 63.4% white and 13.4% Black. There are almost five times as many white people in this country as Black people, so let’s apply that to the graph she posted.

2016

For simpler math, say the top bar shows 100 white people, which would mean the bottom bar would show 21 Black people, because that’s our ratio in this country. You see where this is going already I’m sure. This means 12 white Obama voters voted for Trump while TWO Black Obama voters didn’t vote at all. Embarrassed Whites want to shift blame from 12 white people to 2 Black people because it makes them feel better about not addressing politics with their relatives and acquaintances.

That part is factual — the original graph is from an article on the Washington Post. What I’m about to say next is more conjecture based on common knowledge that’s already out there because I don’t have the research background (time, really) to pull the numbers on all of this. Take what you know about gerrymandering, about housing discrimination, and about redlining, and apply that to the numbers. We don’t have a 1 person = 1 vote system. We have an electoral system where 100 people are consolidated into 1 vote based on who the majority of that 100 wanted.

51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins.
51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins again.
10 people vote A. 90 people vote B. B wins.

The votes are 112 to 188, but A wins the whole shebang because A won twice.  (That’s how Trump won.) Because of the aforementioned gerrymandering, housing discrimination, and redlining, most of the Black people are sitting in the 90 person block of people who voted for B. Every Black person in America could have voted in 2016, and it would not have had the effect on the election that Embarrassed Whites like to pretend it would have because the US electoral system has consolidated our voting power into tiny blocs cordoned off from the rest of the population.

Harlem is going to vote Democrat. The equivalent of Harlem in Dallas or Birmingham or Memphis is going to vote Democrat. You can convince another few thousand Black people to go vote for your candidate in the Harlems across the country, and it didn’t do anything to tip the balance of the election because Candidate A has still won two contests. It’s only increasing the margin of victory for Candidate B in one result. There aren’t enough Black people in these 95% white voting districts (dotted all across the country in red states with more cows than people) to say, “well if Black people voted we wouldn’t be here.” You’ll have one extra Black vote in Montana for every 20 extra Black votes in Harlem.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country. You are going to lose the 2020 election for that same reason if you keep worrying about what we are doing over here. Spend less time focusing on Black turnout and more time convincing your communities that they need to go vote. Ours has been taken advantage of, disappointed enough, and blamed so many times that we have honestly earned the right to say “screw this, y’all fix it, I’m tired.”

 

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Race

Appreciation vs. Appropriation, featuring Adele

She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

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Adele in 2015: Hello….

hello

Adele in 2020: Watagwan!

adele carnival

I have a few words for Adele, but I want to throw some examples of previous discussions to remind y’all that this conversation ain’t new.

Miley Cyrus – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Miley Cyrus is the whitest of white child stars with absolutely no connection to Black culture whatsoever. That’s not an automatic barrier, but it’s a big hurdle to climb, and to do it, you need to prove your worth. She didn’t. She wore her grills and hobnobbed with rappers and “twerked” at awards shows, taking the most visible parts of Black entertainment culture and putting them on like a costume for headlines. And she got them…for awhile. When the shtick wore out, she took it off and gave interviews about “outgrowing” all of the trappings she had adopted when she wanted attention via shock and notoriety.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “oooh Black people are ‘dangerous’ so I’ll dabble in the culture to show how grown up and shocking I am now.”

Iggy Azalea – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Amethyst Amelia Kelly is a white woman from the backwoods of Australia who used Black culture to catapult herself to superstardom. She threw on a Southern hip-hop Blackcent that in no way resembled how she spoke or where she came from. Hip-hop is about authenticity. Give me an Australian twang and a kangaroo joke, not a Decatur drawl and a runaway slave master punchline. When she was called out on it, her answer was basically fuck y’all I do what I want you’re just jealous. She managed to set female rap milestones because the world loves Black culture in a white package and she used that to her advantage while she disrespected us the entire time.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “I’m just using y’all to make a buck.”

Kim Kardashian – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Kim Kardashian is a white woman who rode Black dick to fame and never got off. Everything about her is a manufactured bastardized approximation of Blackness made more palatable to the masses on a white woman. She DGAF about Black people, Black culture, Black lives, or her Black ass husband.

Appropriation, on the grounds of….duh.

Teena Marie – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Teena Marie loved us and we loved her back. Every Black household owned a record that had Teena Marie on it and we never doubted if she was coming from a good place. She is universally accepted as our White Soul Sister because she respected the culture and the art and it was evident in everything she did.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “You respect my shit, I’ll respect your shit.”

Eminem – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Eminem is one of the best rappers of all time, as he should be. If you are going to be white and venture into hip-hop, take it seriously. Study your craft. Be the best rapper you can possibly be. Don’t make it into a joke, don’t make it into a cash grab, and give it your all. Every Black kid learns that to make it into America you have to try twice as hard to get half as far. When a white kid decides to go into rap music, they need to try twice as hard (to get twice as far tbh, because white people love Black culture in white packages, but still…)

Appreciation, on the grounds of “I worked hard for this.”

Madonna – Appreciation or Appropriation?

“Vogue” is one of the biggest singles of all time and it brought ballroom out of the shadows and into the light in a way nothing had been able to do before, because the biggest white pop star on the planet was holding the lantern. Madonna cut her teeth in the East Village and Lower East Side with Black and Latino performers. Her first single didn’t have her face on it because it was sent to Black radio, and DJs didn’t necessarily know she was white. A few albums and mega singles later, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Madonna would put “Vogue” out there because she wasn’t a stranger to the community — it’s where she started. Still, this cis straight white woman was reaping the benefits of an artform created for and by the Black & Brown queer community. She used a culture she was only loosely familiar with and made millions while the people who lived the life were left behind.

Appropriation & Appreciation, on the grounds of “Sometimes you love it so you participate in it but you don’t do enough to support the people who made it.”

So, Adele wearing Bantu knots…

Adele ain’t stupid and I’m sure Adele was prepared to be dragged and she did it anyway because Adele loves Black art and entertainment, generally minds her business, and shows her stan card for every Black woman in the industry. If Adele decided to release a rap single and throw some Bantu knots in there for the video, I’m upset. That’s appropriation. She, in her whiteness, is stepping into a highly competitive arena that does not belong to her and she’s putting on Blackness for capital gain. Adele doing rap music would shove her to the forefront of the genre because white buyers love when white women do hip-hop, whether it’s good or not. That’s appropriation. Adele participating in a celebration of Blackness (because she literally celebrates Blackness publicly and regularly) is appreciation, regardless of how awkward it is.

It’s not “look at my new style.” It’s “look at this style I’m wearing in appreciation for this event taking place.”

It’s not “Kim Culture Vulture Kardashian inventing cornrows on a Tuesday for Instagram likes.” It’s “Adele Mildy Awkward Akinds celebrating Carnival to the fullest.”

I’m not mad. She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “It’s just a white lady celebrating us who does so regularly.”

 

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