Dear Miss Kitty,
This is a letter regarding your performance at Pride Idol just a couple of nights ago. While I was not at the event I have heard numerous reports about how things went and your (racist) comments have been the center of attention as was one comment made by one of the (White) judges.
Your direct quotes are not the main point I am trying to address in this letter. The greater concern is how racism plays out within the queer/glbtiqp communities, including in art and performance. I do, however, think it is extremely important for you to take responsibility for the comments you made, and to seriously consider making a public apology for them. As an individual, you are participating in and perpetuating the systems of racism I would like to focus on in this letter, and I think you should take some time to think about the implications of that.
As I am sure you are aware racism has huge and detrimental effects within our communities. I find it helpful for myself to understand racism as manifesting on a number of different levels; interpersonal, institutional, and cultural. While certain aspects of racism fit under numerous categories, this separation best helps me reflect on the system of racism/white supremacy that we live in today.
First, interpersonal racism is the easiest for us to see. Comments you made the other night about Asian people and cleaners, for instance, fit under this category. These are things that people say or do that cut into others and degrade particular communities. Slurs, individual hate-crimes, stereotyping, etc. fall under this category. Interpersonal racism plays out all over the place in our communities, including the judge who described a Black contestant as, "a smooth cup of hot chocolate".
Interpersonal racism continues, and is in many situations tolerated, because other aspects of racism continue to exist. Institutional racism, defined by Crossroads Ministry as "systems and institutions in our country were created originally and structured legally and intentionally to serve the White society exclusively; institutional racism is the resulting affect of its being structured to function in a way that is not accountable to People of Color", can be seen right here in Boston as the South End continues to be gentrified by wealthy White gay people, as Jamaica Plain is also actively being gentrified by a similar community of people, and Dorchester is beginning to feel the affects of White gay gentrification. Because our communities feel marginalized as glbtiqp… we often feel entitled to take over other people spaces, causes, and resources, and that is simply destroying everyone. When queer organizations and institutions choose to support you and the comments that you make they are making queer communities of color invisible and choosing not to be accountable to Communities of Color, queer and not.
The deepest layer I am going to comment on is cultural racism. I see this as the piece underlying at the roots of our society. This is the part that makes it so you can say, "I was just making a joke," or, "Do I really have to be politically correct," and feel justified. As White people we have internalized this sense of superiority that makes us believe we not only have the right but are entitled to create and have whatever we want even if it hurts someone else. It takes being actively conscious all the time to challenge the process of internalization. It is exhausting! I certainly don't claim to be an expert. Like everyone else I am growing.
This letter is intended to be an invitation, not a personal attack. As White people we have the responsibility to challenge the systems of racism and White supremacy that privilege us at the expense of People of Color. I invite you to talk with me and other White people about how we can address racism within our communities. I invite you to look at the performing you do and see how you alienate and hurt other people with the justification of humor. This country was founded on institutional racism and that's REALLY not funny. Racism is still spreading its nasty tentacles through everything today whether it be through the prison system, immigration issues, police brutality, HIV/AIDS prioritization, homelessness, etc. Please take some time to educate yourself about these issues and engage with others also interested in doing so.
I would love to work with you on this at any time.