And it runs deep, part ii

In which resistance perseverates about internalized crap.

I am still angry with Questlove’s casual racism.  And I am upset by the reactions and non-reactions of others, which serves to inform about the state of post-racial America.

Because in post-racial America, we are still talking about how Asians are being offended rather than how white supremacy is being supported.  The former puts the blame on those pesky Asians.  So thin-skinned.  No sense of humor.  Chip on the shoulder.

The latter puts the crap back where it belongs.

But there’s a ton of other crap to unpack in this racist occurrence.  First is the role of celebrity in our society.  The second is the manifestation of privilege.

Questlove is widely considered to be “cool.”  So there’s that going for him.  Everybody “knows” he can’t be racist, because he’s a good guy.  A cool guy.  In fact, he was voted “Coolest Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.  So everybody wants to get with him.  Everybody wants to be liked by him.  Everybody wants to be noticed.  But n.b.–an environment in which you’re surrounded by sycophants is unlikely to be one in which much personal growth comes about.

One of my friends was a bodyguard for [redacted name of famous musician].  And he said Famous Musician’s problem had to do with the fact that everybody wanted to be his friend.  In Famous Musician’s case, this meant a ton of blow and other drugs.

Fame is its own drug.  And with fame comes insulation.  With fame comes a lowered fear of backlash for personal actions.  With fame comes people who want to be like Mike.

Even if Mike is misbehaving.

And fame undoubtedly plays into privilege.  Privilege is a heavy drug of its own.  And getting a little taste of that privilege is like being let into the white club.

What better way to show white people you’re one of them than to support white supremacy?  Questlove’s manager (who is of Korean descent) had it wrong when she said she had a “yellow pass.”  She was getting the white pass.  She was tapping into the power structure.

Questlove said he just thought it was “funny-cute.”  Because it was just a joke to him.  I don’t buy it, and I think there is no place for intention when apologizing.

First, as I have explained ad nauseum, a focus on intention is a white-centered approach.  It’s the white pass.  It’s an attempt to evade responsibility.  It’s a weasel word.

If you put the focus on effect, what needs to be done is clearer.

The effect of those little “funny-cute” messages was to support white supremacy.  The system is a hierarchy.  You can guess who is on the top.  So when folks of color put forth messages that disparage other folks of color, they are buying into the system.  They are acknowledging that some people’s lives are not worth as much as other people’s lives.  And the system works best when everybody plays along.


Because this is what Questlove did.  First he dragged out his tired old L/R jokes.  I might point out that he had done it in the past, been called on it, and still thought it was funny enough to repeat a year later.


Missinfo:  the building blocks for a killer kim-bap ( #korean bbq n veggie roll) @ info eats

Questlove Jenkins:  @Missinfo rooks lear good : )

To which DJ Spinbad replied:

@questlove that’s racist

Questlove started his “funny-cute” L/R joke by writing “is it racist for me to write …”  I’ve always maintained that when people start by saying “This may be racist, but …” or “Is it racist if …”, they are going to finish with something completely assholish and racist.

This was no exception.  Undoubtedly Questlove knew it was racist.  He just thought the fun he was having made it okay.  Even if it was at the expense of other people.

Let’s make this really clear.  Posting videos of private individuals on the internet without their permission in order to ridicule them with racist remarks negates any claim of benign intention.  It is racist and dehumanizing.  Even if Questlove didn’t think it was “Duck Dynasty/Phil Robertson mean spirited-xenophobic dumb.”

Because mean-spirited?  Check.  Xenophobic?  Check.  Dumb?  Check-check.  (The second checkmark is for being stupid on the internet.)  Asshole?  Check.

Supporting white supremacy?  Supporting the dehumanization of other people?  Check.  Check.

But getting back to my original shouted point once again:  WHO THE FUCK THINKS MOCKING OTHER PEOPLE CAN BE CLASSIFIED AS “BENIGN INTENTION”?

That was a rhetorical.  Because I’ll tell you who.  A huge slab of the nation, that’s who.  Because I have been involved in discussions of racism and bullying and this comes up Every. Single. Time.  Because people just love to get their ching chong on.  When called on it, defenders say that they “didn’t mean anything by it.”

Which is a reflection of how racism strips people of the ability to develop critical thinking.  Because this one is a no-brainer.  Yet people struggle so hard with this concept.

Well, he didn’t mean anything by it …

Me:  What did he mean?

Other person:  Well, uh …

Me:  What was he trying to convey?  (More stammering.)  Was it a friendly overture?  Was he trying to make the other person feel comfortable?

We have been given so many constant, reinforced messages that racist shit is perfectly acceptable that most people can’t even begin to imagine that it might not be.  It represents not only a huge inability to think critically, but a failing of empathy. 

Learning about racism is unfortunately merely by rote.  People learn the word nigger is wrong, but don’t understand the simple theory behind the why.  So they need to be told that chink is wrong too.

Except so many people will tell you there’s nothing wrong with it.

bell hooks wrote that not even the most astute critical thinker can begin to completely deconstruct the covert and overt messages we receive constantly through media.  And when a famous, popular member of the media sends these messages, the harm is magnified.

It goes back to that celebrity status again.  The “cool factor.”  And it encourages other people to do likewise.  (I should note that some people who objected to this demonstration of white supremacy did in fact receive ad hominem attacks that used the L/R thing.)

But when people apologize (and even when they “apologize“), others are quick to laud them.  Because they didn’t really need to apologize (or “apologize”) in the first place.

Then typically they are all about Well I apologized.  What more do you want?


Yeah, he said lynch mob.  Crucifixion lynch mob, no less.

Questlove is reportedly blocking some posters because of “trolling.”  Which indicates to me that words do, in fact, have power.  Power to harm.  Power to hurt.

And words reinforce a system in which some people are valued and others are not.  In which some are human and some are not.  Dehumanization is necessary before physically harming another.  And hate speech typically precedes hate violence.

So yeah, I did not think it was funny-cute.  I thought it was a scary look inside.

Edited to correct the name of the person who said she had a “yellow pass.”

6 thoughts on “And it runs deep, part ii

  1. Yeah, he seems pissed off at having to apologize. Also is claiming the privilege of being able to end the discussion because he wants it to end. This whole thing just is like a magnified version of what normally goes down when people are racist and are called on it.

  2. I wanted to like his apology, I really did. I appreciated what he had to say (I thought you gave him great credit by linking, btw) about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. But he obviously knew he was about to pull out something nasty with the accent “jokes.” Then he truly jumped the shark by targeting random strangers for public humiliation, as you so eloquently pointed out. Was that racist, or simply cruel? Well, although as a white woman I maintain I don’t get to decide what is racist (my detector is faulty), he does associate each image with a well established racist jab, so seems to me the case is pretty solid.

    I have made plenty of missteps myself in the process of trying to examine my privilege and understand the nuances of race and culture in America. I always cringe when an apology is rejected, because I know I will issue many, many more apologies in the course of my lifetime. I hope, however, that each time I do, I have honestly examined my actions and have committed to changing.

    And here is where even I can see this particular apology fails. Because yes, I think there is a fault record, and when you keep displaying the same fault over and over again, it starts to look like your “heartfelt apology” is coming from somewhere else entirely.

  3. Exactly the point- why is laughing at someone else’s expense- when u know someone will be hurt , funny? It’s not.

  4. Hi, I’m a Japanese woman who spend USD300 for The Roots showes + Questlove’s DJ set when they came to Japan last December.
    then I got blocked by The Coolest Person of the Year after posting tweets like “You’re too old for this shit. You embarrased yourself”

    First,when I saw the post saying “Sour Tlain” I couldn’t understand the joke,but I could sense it, something rude going on coz he was asking “is it racist for me to write…”

    Then I saw him posting a video of a Japanese lady with a comment “talking in tongue” made my jaw dropped because it was too rude , posting an image of some strangers without his/her permisson with a stupid comment. I thought this guy Questlove was not that smart or inteligent as he seemed.

    When I saw Questlove’s letter of apology, I saw red.
    Because I found nothing was sincere. He was still trying his best to look cool after posting dumbest jokes at someone else’s expense.( I would puch him in the face if it was my mother.)
    I don’t know if he was being a racist (maybe “ignoracist” ?). but I feel he was looking down on us in some way while the other member of the band showing respect for our culture.
    (Maybe, all his respect goes to fancy foods we have, not to our people…)

    It was obvious he didn’t post that letter to apologize, but to look good to keep his “COOL” image.
    He could have written in a simple way if he wanted to show his appology to Japanese and Asian for what he did while he was in Japan. We Japanese don’t know who Phil Robertson is,or what Duck dynasty is.
    Why couldn’t he just say, “I was rude and stupid, I’m sorry.”

    I also got mad seeing his tweets he was pretending like a victim saying “Lynch mob” and calling the poster a “False keeper”. A big guy has such a tiny heart. Zero patience.

    So, I couldn’t help myself saying something to him, and I did.then he blocked me.
    How sincere and mature!! ( I told him I was a Japanese)

    After I seeng his true color, I’m no longer his fan.
    (Don’t worry Questlove, some of your Japanese fans have low self-esteem to still love you. or
    have no idea what youre truly like)

    Now I kinda feel sorry for him, It’s obvious he is quite poisoned by his celebrity status and no one to warn him about it.

    I hope he’ll have a chance to see what he did and what he accting like with objective eyes and be a better person as he promised.

    I appreciate for the great post with a very good point of view and for giving me a place to spill my gut out.

    Thank you.

    Sorry for my English.

  5. I continue to be amazed at what people accept as an “apology.” Also, how is it that Questlove, who was playing in JAPAN, does not envision his fans to be Asian?

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