MR Round Table: We Need to Talk About Race

We heard you loud and clear

07.31.15
got-white-privilege

Today’s Round Table includes guest Ashley C. Fordwriter, editor, speaker, frequent contributor to Elle and TueNight.com, among a variety of other publications. She’s also currently co-editing the anthology, “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture” with her friend and mentor, Roxane Gay.

Leandra Medine: We’re here to talk about racial inequality and white privilege. This Round Table is spurred by the comments section of an article we published pegged to the Taylor Swift/Nicki Minaj feud, where the commenters voiced that the larger issue — racial inequality in the entertainment industry — was glazed over.

I hate the idea of Man Repeller becoming a place run only by white women and for white women. It’s supposed be a treehouse for all women to come to and feel really, really understood.

Amelia Diamond: Because the author, Margaret Boykin, does not live in New York and can’t be here in person for this conversation, I want to state that her angle was pegged to the articles that stated Taylor was a faux-feminist, and that her point was this: celebrities are performers, not role models, and as such we should not look to them for moral leadership.

But she heard you — we all did — and emailed us immediately upon reading the first comments asking to write a follow up that explored the racially charged side of the debate. She’d do a great job, but we thought this called for a much larger conversation, one that extends beyond Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift and Twitter.

Can we start with the idea of white privilege? What it means, how it relates.

Ashley C. Ford: The first job is just to realize that this is real. I think that’s what a lot of people have a hard time acknowledging the reality of white privilege.

If we are talking about race specifically, if we are talking about people of color or talking about color, it’s about listening to people say, “This is what we need.” And then 1) not assuming that you know better and 2) not dismissing the concerns of women of color.

In feminism, women of color are very often told that they can deal with the race issues later.

When we talk about police brutality, when we talk about Sandra Bland dying in police custody — I believe she is the fourth black woman this month to somehow die in police custody — people do not hear about that; they do not cover it. And a lot of times the people that are not covering it are white women because in one way or another they do not think of it as a real feminist issue. But if women are dying at the hands of the state, that is a feminist issue. Or at least it should be.

So I think people get frustrated. They get frustrated with being dismissed, they get frustrated with the cookie-grabbing that people sometimes do where they talk a big game but then if they mess up or say something that is not right, they say, “But I have a history of saying all these great things about black people or black women.”

And it’s like, “No.” You have to acknowledge that you messed up. It’s sort of like this weird — well it’s this weird thing where they want to be a good person, but they don’t want to do the work of acknowledging what they have done wrong because they think it means they are a bad person, and they can’t separate circumstance and action from character.

Leandra: Do you feel like it ever boils down to a fear of ignorance? I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a story from the perspective of black woman. I’m wondering if when a white news reporter doesn’t cover a story like Sandra Bland’s, it’s her feeling like, “I can’t touch that because I’m not there. I’m gonna say something wrong or it’s gonna come out the wrong way. My intentions are great. I want to know more about this, but it’s just much easier for me to talk about what I know.”

Ashley: I think I understand that inclination, I just don’t think that it is necessarily an excuse. I also think that it’s really hard to understand because for people of color, especially if you’re a person of color who works in media, or you’re a journalist, you are expected to write about everybody’s stories. Like, if I decided, “I don’t really understand or know the white experience so I’m just not gonna write about white people ever…”

Leandra: Avocado toast.

Ashley: Or avocado toast, then what would I write about? You know what I mean? There is this idea — I think this is a dangerous idea — that the black experience and black women’s experience are more complicated. It’s just different than other people’s experiences.

When we pretend like it’s so complicated that we can’t write about it, or talk to a black woman about it, that’s when it makes us seem foreign or less human. And I know that obviously isn’t always the intention of people, but it does [make us seem less human]. There’s a difference between: you can’t really understand what it is to be a black woman, and, you can’t speak to other people about what’s happening in a black woman’s world. Does that make sense?

Ignoring things throughout history never made them better. We’ve never ignored something so much that it got better. It is only by addressing it that things get better.

Leandra: So here’s my internal conundrum, I grew up not thinking about the difference between black and white. It was just — people. Similar to how I believe the fourth wave of feminism should be the female state of existence — like, no conversation, does that mean it’s better to be in a place where it doesn’t need to come up? Or, are we in the first phase of a chemical peel, where all this stuff is bubbling to the top, and we’re on the road to progression, but we have to deal with all the red acne that’s up on our cheeks?

Ashley: Oh, we’re in a chemical peel. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by black people. My high school, my school system, fluctuated from ninety to ninety-five percent black. My family all lives in the same neighborhood. I was surrounded by blackness. I decided to go to college out of my hometown, which no one had ever done in my family, and I went to a predominately white institution.

What was hard for me was that even though I hadn’t grown up around white people, I knew a ton of stuff about white people. And I knew a lot about their culture just from the media I consumed. Despite being raised in a very, very black environment, I knew a lot about white people.

I mean, there was some stuff I didn’t know. I didn’t know who Fall Out Boy was. And I didn’t who what the word “tool” meant — if someone called someone else a “tool,” that was weird. But for the most part, I knew what was happening.

However, there were kids, or other young women on my floor who flat out told me I was the first black kid they ever had a conversation with. There were girls on my floor who were so confused by things like my hair, or words that I used and the way I spoke and it made me really self conscious. It made me spend a lot of time in my dorm room because I had never been so dissected in my entire life. A lot of those girls grew up not talking about race, not being scared of black people, not having those discussions, but it was completely different for every black person I knew. And really for every person of color I knew. We grew up talking about it all the time, and not necessarily in a bad way. Talking about race did not mean we were sitting around talking about, you know, “hatin’ whitey.” We just talked about it like it was a thing.

I’m so happy that we’re having these conversations now. It’s changing the conversations between me and friends I’ve had my entire life. My best friend was one of maybe four white girls in my class in high school, we’ve been friends since we were fourteen, and there have been conversations that we’re just now having about my experience in the world versus her experience in the world. And it’s because we’re talking about this stuff more in the media.

Leandra: What does that conversation look like?

Ashley: Well, she has a daughter who is black and white. I remember the first time she reached out to me and was like, “Fine, I get it. I don’t know what I’m doing with my daughter’s hair. Can you help me?” And I was like, “Yeah!” But she was embarrassed, and I had no idea that she would be embarrassed to talk to me about something like that.

Police brutality comes up. She is sort of confused because I speak out about police brutality, but half my family are cops. She’s confused about how I can have those two truths. And I’m like, “Because I can’t say all police are doing the right thing just because I know three people who are doing it right. That’s not even how averages work!”

We have to have those conversations.

Leandra: How do we encourage these conversations?

Ashley: By having them even when they make people uncomfortable. And by people getting over themselves.

If we say something offensive, or harmful, we can’t leave it. We immediately take it to, “She said I’m offensive, she’s calling me harmful. She’s saying this is the kind of person I am and I did it on purpose.” When usually, that’s not what people are saying. 90% of the time people are saying, “You did this thing.”

How many times has someone said something or done something crazy, and then later said, You know what, that was terrible, and I’m glad I know now, and I would never say that kind of thing again, and I just want to apologize. And I know that some of you will never fuck with me again, and that’s your choice and that’s okay and I understand why. But understand that that’s not who I am and that’s not who I am going to be.

And at first people might be like, yeah, yeah, another apology, I don’t care. But you’ll notice that this person doesn’t really get marked like the one who fight it and fight it and fight it. Because what they’re fighting for is different than the conversation. What they’re fighting for is their reputation. But the conversation isn’t about their character — it’s about what they did.

Amelia: Something we hear about a lot in fashion and music or entertainment is cultural appropriation. We’ve seen it on the runway, The Kardashians have been called out for it, and I think that this is where white privilege comes in.

I’m from San Francisco, so my city was super diverse, and my school was diverse. Everyone was friends with everyone. I’m not pretending it was some kind of utopia, but I definitely grew up in a place where there was a mix. Hip hop and rap culture was big at my school. It’s what everyone listened to, it influenced the dancing, style of dress — freshman year my friends made fun of me because I didn’t have Jordans. I’ve always had black friends. I’ve always been aware of race and racism, but I also always thought, But I’m cool, right? I can listen to hip hop, rap along, make jokes… I entered the post-college real world thinking, “I get it,” or, “I can be part of this.” But then I realized, maybe not.

Sometimes when you think you’re in on the joke, you are the joke, or you’re not getting the joke. I’ve learned that more and more.

And I think this is where the idea of appropriation can be hard. If it’s blatant, for example — like when Givenchy did a “Chola-inspired” collection — I get it loud and clear. But when it comes to using a word like “bae,” or dressing a certain way…is that always appropriation? Does that word ever go too far, or do people ever get too sensitive? Or is it like, nope, this is exactly where you check your white privilege?

Ashley: I feel — specifically with appropriation — that the problem is not necessarily that people take or borrow from other cultures, it’s the fact that they take from those cultures but don’t contribute to those cultures. So you might have a “Chola-inspired” line for fall, but you don’t have one Latina model on your runway, or you’ve never worked with a Latina model ever before. You have people who are giving white women cornrows who have never hired a black model. Ever. It’s a vampiric relationship when it’s all take, take, take but nothing’s given in return.

So when people get angry about appropriation, a lot of the time it’s not someone saying that you don’t get to be inspired by me, what they’re saying is, you don’t get to be inspired by me and also believe that who I am as a human is not good enough for you.

Amelia: To bring it back to the music industry, I remember Azealia Banks called out Iggy Azalea for loving black culture yet staying silent about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ashley: Right, that’s such a big part of the problem. They want to collaborate and say, “We’re all in this together, we’re all the same color when the lights go out.” But when someone gets shot or is being slandered in the press, or it’s more and more evident that black people, not by our own volition, do worse financially, academically, career-wise as far as opportunity — and yes, we do have outliers, Oprah, Barack Obama, those are outliers; the every day black person is not having the same experience as Oprah and Obama — people don’t want to acknowledge that.

There are systems in place designed to oppress black people and people of color, just as much as there are systems in place designed to oppress women. And that’s usually where people, especially women of color, have a hard time with feminism: you’ve seen the patriarchy play out in all these different situations. But then when we tell you that we’re getting it from a racial perspective as well, you’re like, “Well hold on, I’ve never heard of that.” You know? You would hate it if a man said that! If a man was like–

Amelia: Like, “Chill out, you can vote.”

Ashley: Yeah! If a man was like, “You can vote, so, you know, that’s a W — what do you want us to do? What do you want?” But that’s what ends up happening a lot of times between women of color and white women — we end up saying , “This is a problem,” and they put up their hands and go, “What do you want from us?”

Or when they insert themselves into the conversation at a place where it’s just inappropriate, like the Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift situation. It was inappropriate for her to insert herself there. If Nicki had mentioned Taylor, then that’s a conversation.

It also shows that Taylor doesn’t really understand the dynamics of black women who are celebrities and white women who are celebrities, because no matter how that situation went down, you saw it in headlines immediately: Taylor was the sweet, fan-loving, harmless white girl and Nicki was this terrible, bitter, mean black woman who was going at Taylor, even though Taylor inserted herself into the conversation. I don’t think that Taylor necessarily understood those dynamics, but I bet she does now. That’s a learning process.

Amelia: Going forward, when considering feminism — or any important topic — we will ask, “Where is the rest of the story?” It just always needs to be asked. Even if it’s not on purpose, the silence is heard.

Ashley: Yes. Silence means something. We like to think that when we’re silent, it’s because we’re having a different conversation or whatever, but a lot of times when you’re silent — especially in the situation with [Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj], people saw a white woman pitted against a black woman, the media did that — when you don’t mention it, what people hear in the silence is that you don’t consider this a necessary conversation to have.

Leandra: So what does the next step look like? Do we just continue having these conversations?

Ashley: Yes. You have to just keep having them. Here’s what has to happen:

Women of color have to work on one thing, and that one thing is separating an action from character. Everybody knows what they can handle, don’t get me wrong. But when somebody does something you don’t like, you don’t attach it to who that person is, you let the action be the action. You say, “You said this or you did this, and that made me feel like this.” Or, “That’s racist.” Or, “That’s sexist.” But you don’t say you’re racist. You don’t have to attach one action to someone’s character.

For white women who want to help this situation, there are a few things that need to happen. One is you need to be able to separate the difference between when someone is calling you out on an action versus when someone is calling you something and making a comment on your character. Two different conversations. And you need to be able to tell the difference.

Two, you need to know the difference between being an ally and allying, which are two different things. Being an ally does not mean you are above criticism. As a matter of fact, being an ally means you should welcome criticism. You should welcome to opportunity to do and be better.

And if you work in media, if you write about it, if you talk about it, whatever, consider that your perspective is not the general perspective. Even on a trivial level. If you do an entire thing on summertime hairstyles, for example, and every hairstyle mentioned would only work with straight, long hair and there’s nothing for someone with my kind of hair, that’s a problem. There are about a million tutorials online about what to do with my kind of hair, and if you don’t feel like you’re the person to write that, there are black women writers begging for the opportunity to get their words out on platforms like this. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Consider that whatever you’re putting out there might — I don’t even want to say it might be offensive to someone else — but that it might be seen differently. Consider the multiple facets of the world and how different people look at what you create. I think that just makes you a better writer and creator, period.

Leandra: I guess there’s only one more question: do you want to write for Man Repeller?

***

We look forward to reading your comments below, welcome further discussion and want to know what you’d like to see more of on Man Repeller. For the inquiring writers: write@manrepeller.com

 Follow Ashley on Twitter, Instagram and visit here website here.

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  • Aydan

    This is HUGE! Well done ladies. I really appreciate this, I feel like I am constantly trying to check myself and figure out am I thinking or saying something that is just appropriating my white privileged and how can I say something that will be constructive and meaningful to the conversation at hand. I totally agree that ManRepeller could def do with a greater diversity and gahhhh I hope she said YES!!! Again, thanks for talking about this and giving some great piece of mind this Friday morning.

    • Amanda Manson
  • jackie

    YES! Great work, this is such an important conversation. I get what was intended with the original Taylor piece because I was having a lot of the same thoughts, but I had also been pretty steeped in every side of the coverage, and of course you can’t assume everyone will be. Maybe next time a link to another article and some context at the beginning would help it out?

    I think that specifically the Taylor/Nicki debacle (I hesitate to even call it a Nicki debacle tbh) in combination with what Ashley was talking about points to something thats really missing within popular culture’s conception of feminism. People think first and foremost that a feminist is something that you “are” (like how you “are” an ally) rather than feminism being something you “do”. Like, if you “are” a feminist and you fuck up and say something that silences a portion of women, then suddenly you run into an identity crisis and it becomes about your ego when it really shouldn’t be. When your mentality shifts to “doing feminist work” in your own life/relationships and you fuck up, like Ashley said, it’s the action that comes into question. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t call yourself a feminist, but that what that means is that we’re all going through this process together and at different rates, and that for progress we have to be accountable for our mistakes.

    All that said, I hope we hear a lot more from Ashley here 🙂

    • Shaly

      What a great way to put it

  • Katie

    Kudos to you for having this round table. Ashley was incredibly well spoken (written?) and so informative. Would love to hear more from her in the future…
    Really enjoyed this piece- keep the thought provocation comin!

    • Kelly B.

      “incredibly well spoken…”

      Why do you consider this a compliment?

      • Caro

        Yes, I’m curious to know what you mean saying that she is well-spoken.

      • JustKit

        As in, how were you expecting her to come across?

      • Haley ED Houseman

        While I understand the point you’re making in calling this out, the author of this comment meant it as compliment. Ashley is a great writer and was particularly wonderful here.

        • Kelly B.

          I didn’t question whether her comment was a compliment or not.
          I asked WHY does she feel the need to tell Ashley, a writer presumably fluent in English, that she is well spoken/written and have that acceptable as a compliment.

          • terklo

            Because most people who are fluent in English aren’t necessarily well spoken… what is your question implying?

          • Kelly B.

            my question isn’t implying anything. I think it’s very direct in asking why do you or anyone else think that is a compliment? Especially to a WRITER. Being well spoken/written is typically considered the bare minimum…

            Never mind that most POC who choose not to speak/write in AAVE (African American vernacular English) get hit with “well spoken” compliments as though it is not a back handed compliment – with the expectation that a black person isn’t as articulate and/or capable of communicating as well, (Which to emphasize this article that expectation has been standardized by white privilege)

            SO I would LOVE to know why you think that’s a compliment? In addition I would love for you to be aware of how infrequently that compliment is paid to white English speaking adults.

          • terklo

            Most white, English speaking adults don’t speak as eloquently, thoughtfully, and impressively as she did. I don’t think the comment had anything to do with her race. And yes, well-spoken white people get told that they’re well-spoken. It’s uncommon.

          • Kelly B.

            But do you know how commonly POC are given that “compliment”? Its a faux pas to tell anyone in general that they are well spoken, and like you said it is uncommon for white people to be told that. So you are coming from a place like most people viewing life through privileged lens – race is never a factor that would motivate you or a person to say Ashley is well spoken.

            Additionally – to be well spoken is not exceptional, it again is the bare minimum for a good writer to communicate. Well by definition is good or satisfactory. Which is to be EXPECTED OF A WRITER.

            The original comment was not intended to be offensive but it is.

          • terklo

            I get what you are saying, but I’m still unconvinced that it’s offensive to be called well-spoken. If she had said “wow I’m surprised she speaks so clearly” or something in that realm I’d 100% agree with your points, but she didn’t say that. At all.

          • Kelly B.

            Well you being unconvinced doesn’t change coded language, and how it’s used; whether conciously or not. lol

          • sepiolidae

            “I’m still unconvinced that it’s offensive to be called well-spoken” – – a quick google will produce numerous articles and posts that detail why this exact turn of phrase (along with “articulate”) have become a compliment that carries with it a lot of problematic baggage when directed toward many POC; on a post about how to have these complex conversations, immediately denying the experiences of said POC seems questionable at best.

          • terklo

            Like I said earlier, I’m not denying that issue exists, but I think that the original comment had nothing to do with that same issue. She didn’t say anything “coded”, she was literally complimenting the writer.
            Especially since the article ends on “Leandra: I guess there’s only one more question: do you want to write for Man Repeller?”, the comment was reaffirming that YES, WE LIKE HER TOO.

          • Andrea

            my fellow white girl, the whole point is to stop being defensive when a person of color calls you out and instead reflect on why they may have found your phrase or action problematic. even (and especially!!) when you (like the MR team who used the word) did not think you were being racist.

            multiple people are arguing to you convincingly that the word “articulate” is just DIFFERENT when used to describe white or black writers and speakers. in the first case it means just what is says. in the second, it has connotations; it implies (because history) that it is SURPRISING a black person could speak in a manner we white people find impressive and thoughtful.

            it doesn’t matter that Leandra didn’t mean it!! A girl of color told you it is offensive, believe her! Research further!!!

          • Rae

            My original reaction when I read the first comment was to think “Yeah that’s a compliment. Why wouldn’t it be? What’s the big deal?” Now, after reading through all of the replies, I can see why it could be taken offensively; and I agree that when somebody tells you something is offensive, it’s not your job to question them, but to try to understand why what you said was problematic. However, I think this conversation would have been more constructive if the original replies would have been thoughtful explanations of why that was a hurtful thing to say, instead of defensive responses.

          • Andrea

            I totally hear that, and have definitely felt confused and frustrated when met with a person of color’s reaction to something I had no idea was wrong or offensive. “but if you don’t tell me why you’re upset, I don’t know how to do better!” I thought.

            but I will just say that it isn’t a person of color’s job to explain it every time. As a white woman, I will never experience how a lifetime of unexpressed and expressed racism and the daily threat of death wears one down. Who’s to say how one should react under that daily reality? If someone chooses a response that expresses they felt threatened or angered, I do not expect them to coolly explain “because a, b, c!!” maybe they’re too weary or sad or detect the audience is hostile or any other thousand reasons. no, it’s up to us as white people to read up on oppression (the Internet is awesome!!) and educate or call out our white peers – it’s the least we can do, really.

          • I don’t consider my response defensive. I simply asked a question so that you and whomever views those particular words as a compliment can think about why.

            It isn’t my job to explain why that micro aggression which is so common place is offensive. I chose to take time to question it so you can figure it out for yourself.

          • Rae

            I totally see where you’re coming from; I think Roxane Gay nailed it when she said “Every moment can’t be a teaching moment, or I’d always be teaching.” I’m just pointing out that the original commenter was actually trying to be an advocate, and would (I imagine) welcome your constructive criticism, so this might be a good opportunity to take the extra time and make it a teaching moment.

          • terklo

            I didn’t get called out, I stuck my nose into this argument, and I agree that instead of being defensive people should think about what they said, but I think that in this SPECIFIC situation it’s not the same case. What I’m saying is that the person who originally commented clearly meant it in the same capacity that she would say to any person, regardless of their colour. It wasn’t that she was surprised she came across articulate, she just agreed with what she was saying and the way she was saying it. I don’t think it’s fair to other issues to pinpoint this specific circumstance as the same thing because there was literally only praise involved and it had nothing to do with race.

          • J

            Well, I’ll be more direct than Kelly B. was in the original response.

            Please think twice about telling a melanin rich individual that they are “articulate” or “well spoken.” It is not received as a compliment.

            You continue to argue about the intent of the original poster and you’re missing the point.

            THE INTENT DOES NOT MATTER.

            Do you know how many minorities have lost their lives because of the good intentions of their white counterparts? Answer, too many.

            Please spare us the energy of trying to decipher who is being genuine vs. who is being patronizing and stop using this as a compliment.

            I know it seems illogical and hard to grasp but so is racism – especially to those who are victimized by it daily.

          • terklo

            This is the exact problem mentioned in the article above. We should all be on the same team. The OP chose a word to convey the sense of “I like what you said and how you say it” And she’s considered offensive. What am I (as a white woman) supposed to say in this situation? Ashley C. Ford was incredibly poignant and well-put in this article, so how do I compliment and convey that I loved what she said without being offensive? If the intent doesn’t matter then what’s the point of even saying anything?

          • I am black and I don’t mind being told I am articulate, I am well spoken, no matter what color I am. The entire USA reads, on average, at a third grade level, considering the fact that we are the minority based on sheer numbers, there are a ton more white people who don’t understand, or articulate the English language. We need to recognize the different between intention vs ignorance vs racism. How are people supposed to navigate a subject they don’t understand… you go around telling white people what they can’t say, when they would say it to another white person, , you just confuse, them and muddle the problem. I’m black and from reading this, and I am supposed to think when a white person compliments me it’s a back handed insult?

          • bootse

            Thank you. I appreciate your input. I would feel better about words like racist or white privilege if I knew that I could speak my mind freely. Sometimes I get the feeling that people just want to fight to hear themselves. Not sure. Telling someone it is not correct to call them well spoken seems petty. I wish someone would call me well spoken

          • BKay

            I understand why you are wanting to defend someone’s intentions, but that is not necessary. We often inadvertently repeat behaviors which Many others have used before us without understanding the implications. Now that it has been brought to light to the commenter, they have the opportunity to consider, even if before they fully understand, the implications. This is precisely what this article was talking about. I mean. like. exactly. for example, some white woman might see it as a compliment to call a black woman strong, a bad ass, or a force of nature, etc. That set and type of wording is often the first reaction that we white women have when we recognize something we admire. It is not necessarily taken as a compliment. We need to look into, if we are not told, in that moment (like now or like above to the commenter), why that is true and why that is something we must be thoughtful about, and STOP stop stop trying to defend intentions. Cause, who cares. Let’s listen and consider. No one has to convince you. It is not an argument. It is something to consider when many many many women, particularly woc and especially bwoc are telling us about it.

          • terklo

            I agree, but at some point what is too far? This entire conversation has told me that I should never compliment a POC because it could be conveyed as offensive to them. What the fuck?

          • BKay

            I notice that is a first reaction of lots of folks. Maybe the severity can be toned down from within by considering that it is actually okay if there are so many things you might not know at all about what and why certain ways of complimenting are indicative of an internalized process that has been going on long before you were on this earth (which is how it has become internalized). I will just copy paste a comment I replied with below, since the rest of what I would say is pretty much the exact same thing:

            For those who are “scared”, moving beyond that and into other states of awareness is a part of maturing and decentering whether one is liked or if their intentions are understood.

            It’s okay if neither are true.

            I didnt assume the commenter’s skin tone or their tonal intention. per the actual content of the comment, I didnt find it aggressive, but the comment did make me laugh out loud with one of those, oh lord they dont even know… cause we have all (if we have privilege in any area) been there, and that is why it is okay to not know something and to say something that one has not ever considered or known about because of internalized privilege in one area or another (that one might be unaware of, until that moment).

            there is so much literature about a lot of these issues spanning the decades. the amazing thing is, I think, if one can step back, while listening reading and learning, one (I/thou/whathaveYus) can see so many similarities in how power structures operate and thus how their expectations that we have come to see as a given, until disrupted, have been internalized, without us even realizing it.

            I cant tell you how many countless times Ive revealed those power structures that I didnt know had become a part of me in how I see myself and others and what I expect or am amused or surprised or entertained or disappointed by.

            it always and ever more to listen and think and not feel the need to respond immediately or defend one’s self when another who is historically in a position of less privilege than you is bringing something to your attention. they can judge me, they can judge my intention, or my action. that’s not my business, to be honest. my business is to be still and listen. and if i do respond, to not make it a centering of how i intended or meant or wanted or really thought… no, not that. not any of that.

            thus the problem is solved. i will make mistakes, i will learn and grow, i will not constantly defend this very impermanent conglomeration of processes that have become me in that moment when a person is telling me about something my privilege has prevented me from experiencing first hand what they have in similar situations possibly many times before.

          • lia12345

            “at some point what is too far” is a very common refrain heard from white people regarding the concerns of POC.

          • terklo

            Because I can’t talk to a POC without being offensive, apparently. I talk to people the same way, regardless of their colour. I thought it was a compliment to be told you’re well-spoken, and I understand that there’s a connotation due to the past that in many POC’s brains that adds “…for a POC”, but when most white people say these compliments (now), they don’t mean it to be so. Maybe you get told you’re well-spoken frequently because YOU ARE MORE WELL-WORDED THAN MOST PEOPLE.

          • TheRanta

            We don’t always necessarily know the writer’s intention. Language is powerful, especially when we’re talking about a historically marginialized and oppressed group. Of course you, a white woman, will give the benefit of the doubt. But imagine being a black woman or man on the receiving end of a comment like that over and over again. There’s a reason why Kelly B responded as she did. Instead of repeatedly defending a comment that was insensitive (perhaps unintentionally so, but was none the less), how about learning something about race and language in America?

          • bootse

            my fellow black girl, could I have a list of what words or terms are appropriate. I would never try to disrespect you for trying

          • Thank you.

          • TheRanta

            And you, I’m afraid, are coming from a place of white privilege and ignorance. I truly don’t mean to be unkind, but anyone who doesn’t know that using the phrase “well spoken” to refer to a POC is not-a-so-good isn’t tapped into the reality of race relations in this country. Imagine you’re a woman working in a STEM field being told that you’re surprisingly smart. Wouldn’t you wonder what the hell that was supposed to mean? And mightn’t you, as a female in a field that, historically, has been hostile to women, take offense? I know I would.

          • terklo

            THAT’S THE EXACT DIFFERENCE, NO ONE WAS SURPRISED! She was complimenting a writer on her ability to write!

          • What is expected of a writer and what gets written in the world are two different things, I get your point but I don’t think she intended it that way. I think she meant, what most of us thought when we read the article, that she was able to articulate in a manner that even writers have difficulty doing. When a subject is hard to explain to another group of people who don’t get it, and someone is able to do so in a manner where everyone can get it, that is a talent, one that is rare, most politicians hire people to do that for them, it’s not easy and I think that is what was being commented on, not oh this black girl knows English.

      • Allison

        Aaaaaaaghhhh!!!!! This makes my head hurt. She meant it as a compliment my goodness. There must be a point in our society when you accept people and compliments instead of questioning. This is precisely what I feel Leandra was saying when she said white people may be terrified to write about Sandra Bland. And why Ashley’s friend was embarrassed to ask about the hair. We are scared as hell to say anything! White people need to be more understanding of blacks and visa versa. Damned if you do damned if you don’t. Give her a break and accept it as a compliment!

        • Allison – please read Andrea’s comments above.

          Being aware of language and how it is used is something everyone should be aware of. So whether intentions are good or bad being aware that the language you’re using is offensive is being aware of other people and their issues.

          So No I will not accept it as a compliment, because it isn’t. And had a man said the same to a woman speaking with a panel of men about feminist issues, we would be speaking about why wouldn’t a woman be well spoken and informative. It would not be considered a comment because communicating and being informative is the basis of writing.

          • kris.

            As a fellow melanin-rich individual, I agree that this was a compliment rather than an insult. it’s not as if in random conversation she said “omg you’re so well-spoken.” The way the Ashley handled this entire conversation was impressive for anyone- she made extremely valuable and balanced points. The commenter did not say she was well-spoken for a black girl but that she is well-spoken period. Which as far as I know is in fact a compliment. There’s educating people about racism and there’s being needlessly touchy.

          • I think you’re misunderstanding my point/haven’t read the thread. I never claimed the original comment was intended to be an insult. I asked that person to question why she chose to use those words especially when speaking about a WOC. I don’t consider my response touchy or emotionally fueled because using those particular words under this specific post was IMO the exemplification of a privilege used by someone who maybe aware or unaware (like many) of what coding language they are using.

          • kris.

            I do believe that if a white woman were able to present Ashley points as well as she did the commenter would have also called her well-spoken. There are instances in which these words can be insulting -in the same vein as “you’re pretty for a black girl” etc..but this is not one of them. As much as we may need to point out subtle racism we must also use our discretion to determine what is in fact racist. Had the commenter expressed surprise that Ashley is well-spoken it would have been a problem, but she said “well-spoken/written and informative” meaning that Ashley was able to properly break down a complicated topic for those who may find it difficult to understand. We cannot as black people make other races feel as if they need to walk on eggshells around us, that will not help our cause.

          • A lot of your qualifications for whether someone is saying or implying racial bias seems to be determined by the statement “for a black girl” etc. but that’s just not how ppl who don’t view themselves as racially biased speak. It’s a bit simplistic and I wish people were that open when it comes to systematically learned expectations of people of color but it’s not. It is called a micro aggression because statements like that are said upon a general understanding of an expectation and a POC exceeding that is something to point out.

            Being aware of what you say and the words you use isn’t walking on eggshells, it’s just being aware. It’s something most POC already do without being formally taught bc we do not have the privilege not to. In addition avoiding offense when talking to and about other types of people.

            Me pointing out language that has considerable weight doesn’t make this a witch hunt nor do I expect anyone to walk on eggshells. What I do expect is for the person who wrote the comment to acknowledge those choice of words are not the best and maybe take into consideration why.

            In addition like I said many times before, a writer typically is someone who writes to communicate information or a story/text. Being able to do that well is the basis of writing. Calling a writer no matter whom well spoken and informative is IMO like “duh I would hope so that’s their ONE JOB, why wouldn’t she be” (in this task of writing) so maybe the public standard of writing is held really low (no disrespect to Ashley, this piece is amazing) which then would be acceptable without the weight of those words.

            I wouldn’t dare call writers I admire and respect well spoken it’s comes of condescending, pretentious and obviously a given

        • sepiolidae

          From the Very Post at the Top of This Page: “If we say something offensive, or harmful, we can’t leave it. We immediately take it to, ‘She said I’m offensive, she’s calling me harmful. She’s saying this is the kind of person I am and I did it on purpose.’ When usually, that’s not what people are saying. 90% of the time people are saying, ‘You did this thing.””

          Allyship 101: If someone takes the time to call you out on something, and explain WHY you should choose different words in the future, you follow through, ESPECIALLY if you’re from the privileged group that imbued “well spoken” with negative connotations. There seems to be a huge disconnect here between intent and impact…no one is saying that the OP intended to say something charged, but that’s what happened. Intent doesn’t always matter. If you step on someone’s toe, you apologize…if you accidentally invoke a term against a POC that turns out to have a history of negative use, is it actually going to ruin your day to say “Oh, my bad. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll do better in the future!”?

        • BKay

          Dont be scared. Be thoughtful. And understand when it is brought to light that saying someone is well spoken or articulate is a common awkward even if unintentionally micro aggressive comment on someone’s speech. I am white, and just because I understand how and why this is true, doesnt mean I didnt at one time not notice it as implying anything else either. Dont be scared. Be thoughtful. Not defensive. Listen. Listen. Listen.

          • Allison

            I agree Kelly wholeheartedly. I completely understand how it can be taken in a certain way and personally I wouldn’t have said it. That being said, I can’t agree with the way in which it was said. I felt the presentation sounded a little aggressive. In addition I think it is rather presumptuous on all parts to assume the original poster is white. A little love, understanding and acceptance goes a long way and I say this for all parties involved, myself included. Bkay, I’m not scared, I know many people who are and I think the above thread proved that point. Listening is beneficial when all parties involved do it. Everyone has to give a little and honestly I feel most people reading this article are probably more aware or interested in contributing to solving the solution.

          • BKay

            For those who are scared, moving beyond that and into other states of awareness is a part of maturing and decentering whether one is liked or if their intentions are understood.

            It’s okay if neither are true.

            I didnt assume the commenter’s skin tone or their tonal intention. per the actual content of the comment, I didnt find it aggressive, but the comment did make me laugh out loud with one of those, oh lord they dont even know… cause we have all (if we have privilege in any area) been there, and that is why it is okay to not know something and to say something that one has not ever considered or known about because of internalized privilege in one area or another (that one might be unaware of, until that moment).

            there is so much literature about a lot of these issues spanning the decades. the amazing thing is, I think, if one can step back, while listening reading and learning, one (I/thou/whathaveYus) can see so many similarities in how power structures operate and thus how their expectations that we have come to see as a given, until disrupted, have been internalized, without us even realizing it.

            I cant tell you how many countless times Ive revealed those power structures that I didnt know had become a part of me in how I see myself and others and what I expect or am amused or surprised or entertained or disappointed by.

            it always and ever more to listen and think and not feel the need to respond immediately or defend one’s self when another who is historically in a position of less privilege than you is bringing something to your attention. they can judge me, they can judge my intention, or my action. that’s not my business, to be honest. my business is to be still and listen. and if i do respond, to not make it a centering of how i intended or meant or wanted or really thought… no, not that. not any of that.

            thus the problem is solved. i will make mistakes, i will learn and grow, i will not constantly defend this very impermanent conglomeration of processes that have become me in that moment when a person is telling me about something my privilege has prevented me from experiencing first hand what they have in similar situations possibly many times before. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a15ed9bd191a97169f1387b280276aedccca4757d47387250ffca7dd90149915.png

      • Or maybe she just meant she can articulate the words that many of us are trying to say but fail to on a level that everyone can understand…. I have read many articles on this subject, and she did better than all of them, that goes beyond race, she can communicate beautifully, which I consider a talent.

  • Caro

    I am going to reread this all day. And all week…I’m just going to continue to read this and work this into my system. I have tears of gratitude for this post. I’m white, starting design school in the fall, and have made a commitment to live as an active ally to blacks while working in the fashion industry in the future. This is the most significant article I have seen in terms of an intersection of race and fashion. PLEASE continue. DO NOT STOP THIS CONVERSATION. I could write a million more things but my mind is spinning from reading this.

    • Caro

      I am also committed to diving into the “uncomfortableness” of having this conversation, of acknowledging white privilege.

      • Shann

        I agree. A conversation with Bethann would be great on this site and a way to continue the conversation around race, fashion, and the importance of visibility for all women of color.

  • Ariana Estrello

    I think this is a very important topic, not only for black women, but also for Latinas. I grew up being a first generation American. My parents migrated to the U.S. before I was born. “Mexican” kids were the norm in my school and even though we were the majority, because we were only 4 hours from the border, I was constantly getting made fun of because of my culture and the fact I was bilingual. The funny thing is that those that said some of the ugliest things weren’t Caucasian, but other kids of color. I was called a maid’s kid, picker, wetback….etc. I would lie if I said it didn’t bother me, but the truth is I took pride in where I came from. My roots run deep. It gives you thicker skin and people are just ignorant and not well traveled. Like Kanye said, “Who Gon’ Stop Me?” #TrumpWho #MexicansFindAWay 😉

    • latina

      So true. When my family moved to the border and I spoke English without a Spanish accent I was made fun of for not sounding like everyone else. Then when I went to college, because I had no accent to my English, I was constantly asked if I was only half Mexican. Damned both ways. It makes you realize you have certain behaviors around different groups of people that also affect your speech. We have to lead double lives for acceptance.

    • Part of the conversation on race – especially regarding Hispanics – is the fact that the term “Hispanic” and “Latina(o)” encompasses very diverse cultures. I am Cuban, and Americans often assume that all Spanish-speakers are Mexican. It creates a conversation solely about the experience from a Mexican immigrants perspective. Which I completely appreciate to hear, but regarding diversity I feel as though it is also not the only one out there. Just as we cannot assume all Asians and their experiences are the same, because Indians may have a different experience than Koreans, and so on.

      • latina

        I´ve had someone say to me that they don´t speak Mexican, or ask why the black person can speak Spanish. The experiences, regardless of ethnicity, are the same I think in that you are constantly defending your place. And the other argument within the groups of people who would be labeled Hispanic or Latino brings up the topic of the US census and their need for convenience to group a growing number of Spanish speaking people. On a broader scope, the same can be said for US citizens calling themselves American as if someone from Central and South America couldn’t do the same.

        • I think it is true that in many cases we are all trying to defend our place. And I completely understand the “don’t speak Mexican” comments, which I sadly saw recently a video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms7TDpZpupE) where “Mexican” was written as an accent and “Hola” was somehow the defining clue.

          However, I think it’s possible that though there a lot similarities and we are all generally wanting the same things, the same people always represent the masses. So for the less culturally aware, there becomes a misconception that all Hispanics are the same (Mexican) and have the same cultural needs and backgrounds. Which we have to understand that is not always the case.

    • Mariana

      This is so true. I am Mexican, but my skin is white. You don’t know how many times I’ve been told that “I don’t look Mexican”, as if there is one precise way to be a Mexican in a country that it’s huge in its size but also in the amount of different cultures that it harbors.

      The worst thing is that when people tell me that I don’t look Mexican because of the color of my skin, they mean it as a compliment. As if being Mexican is something I should be ashamed of. Or as if being fair-skinned is something that should make me feel prouder, instead as something that just happens to be the way I was born. As if looking more “american-european” should be something to aspire to.

      This has happened to me both away from Mexico (I’ve been told this by Americans trying to be nice) and by Mexicans as well (because we are one of the most racists and classists countries out there). I find it really sad, because I, as you do, am very proud of being Mexican, of my roots, of what it means on terms of who I am and how I see the world. The other thing that I find really sad is that, as a Mexican, looking this way has made my life easier when interacting with Americans, as if they’re thinking “Well, yeah, you’re Mexican but you don’t look like my gardener, so you’re probably a better Mexican”. Sucks.

  • parkzark

    THANK YOU ALL SINCERELY FOR ROUND TABLING THIS! I love the quote from Ashley regarding conversations dealing with race and racism, “By having them even when they make people uncomfortable. And by people getting over themselves”

    It really does start with those of us who are white acknowledging there’s a problem, that we have a huge amount of privilege, and realizing we need to have those hard conversations. We then have to figure out how we can work to together to dismantle things bit by bit. I also suggest reading the powerful sermon, I racist given by John Metta https://thsppl.com/i-racist-538512462265 It will rock your psyche, and open your eyes.

  • clare

    YOU GUYS! I was one of the people who complained about the original piece and when I saw you invited Ashley I literally gasped – love her work, and she writes great stuff for the Toast. This roundtable got at so many important issues, and I really appreciate your making this a priority.

    Ashley’s point about MR-related posts like summertime hairstyles, and making those posts inclusive, was SO right on, and I hope to see even more diverse skin colors/hair types/backgrounds on MR. Thank you guys, x100.

    • Amelia Diamond

      “I hope to see even more diverse skin colors/hair types/backgrounds on MR” – we promise!

      • ThisPersonSleeps

        😀

      • *insert hand-raising emoji* i volunteer as tribute!! 🙂

        haha, but seriously… the writing on MR has always been an inspiration to me, but with this article, Team MR has gone above and beyond. well done ladies!!

  • Caro

    Leandra, you write that you hate the idea of this becoming a site run by only white women but hope that you can acknowledge that you are a site run by only white women. I don’t write this in judgement, I write this in the hope you and your staff, as well as your white readers (me) can see that this place is very white. My wish is that this changes.

    • Nicole

      Ditto!

  • ally

    I would really love to see some MR writers of color. I’m not saying that you intentionally only hire white writers, but it really is astonishing that everyone on the MR team seems (at least from the audience perspective) to be WHITE.

    • Amelia Diamond

      ” I would really love to see some MR writers of color. ” — We’re on it, Ally!

  • This is amazing. I am very glad that you started to take a part in such important issue, as someone whose voice is loud.

    http://nuclear-glitter.com/

  • I like that you guys respond to what’s said in the comments. One of the main reasons I continue to visit Manrepeller is to read the comment section (whether it be Amelia vowing to eat doller bills or serious topics such as this one)

    -Adrianna

    • Amelia Diamond

      Money tree growing in my belly as I type this. On the serious note: the MR comment section is what makes this such a fulfilling, unique place to work and be part of. Thank you guys for always encouraging and continuing the discussion.

  • ThisPersonSleeps

    This is great! Thanks for going here, guys! On the discussion of race, I kinda do see Man Repeller as a website run by white ladies for white ladies. I would love to see greater diversity of women — both race and body types of those featured in photos and also writers.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Noted so hard, and I promise you, we are on it.

  • I was elated and invigorated when Ashley came into the office. Her honesty, wisdom, and patience were seminal, I think, in really taking this this site that we all love, on its way to becoming real and true microphone for all women, not just one or two types of women. The great thing about this MR roundtable — and any other one for that matter — is that it becomes a space to realize the very important and necessary engagement of readers; if something great or empowering or upsetting or maybe not so great is written, no matter, then we can come right back and talk about it in real time. That’s a factor of both the relentlessness and the brilliance of these web communities. It’s about growing, thriving, learning, faltering, and rebuilding together. I am so proud this conversation happened and excited for the new and diverse conversations we will have on MR henceforth.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! As woman of color I cannot tell you how utterly exciting and refreshing to read a conversation like this. And thank you for acknowledging that your site needs more diversity – I wish more sites were as honest about this as you are! As a writer and a blogger who loves fashion just as much as the next girl, it would be nice to see something of myself reflected back at me. I can’t tell you how many beauty stories I see on various where I simply skip over them because I already know there will be absolutely nothing for me. And so again thank you for listening to your readers!. I look forward to seeing what this brings to MR. And if you ever need a contributor- holla at me chicas!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Yay! AND UM I JUST LOOKED AT ALL YOUR NAIL ART WTF HOW DO YOU DO THAT

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        Aww thank you! It’s all practice and trial and error, trust me!

    • Nicole

      This!

  • Dani Mackey

    Thanks, MR.

  • i’ve been wondering when this discussion (hopefully not the last one of its type) was gonna finally happen on MR. i loved this. thank you ashley for sharing your story! i too grew up in a pretty monochromatic environment. when i moved to one of the most diverse zip codes in the country (60626!) to go to university, i was horrified and shamed by what i learned about myself. learning how ignorant i was about certain things, and how ingrained that is, really pissed me off. it really made me want to be an ally, instead of part of the problem.

    something i still worry about a lot is this. part of being an ally means using whatever platform you have to help tell the stories that need to be told. this has come up a lot for me too because i studied arabic in college/lived in the middle east/ran an interfaith group on my predominantly evangelical campus/worked for a muslim fashion house/etc., and other white people who might not normally ask questions about those things because they’re afraid to offend or reveal their ignorance, will often ask me.

    it’s essential to me not to put words in the mouths of a group whose experience isn’t mine. but i also don’t want to be like “hold please, let me forward you to so-and-so” and let what might be a useful, if imperfect, conversation simply stop there. part of being an ally is knowing when you need to just sit down and stop talking. but another part of being an ally is not being afraid to speak up. so how can i best serve as an amplifier for the important stuff without getting in the way of it?

    you are right on about being willing to accept criticism. part of the problem seems to be just the whole idea of tone. that if a person of color gets exasperated, white people get so selfish so fast – not thinking about the fact that this exasperation is based on a lifetime of dealing with stuff that white people get the privilege of pretending doesn’t exist. because we lack context, we’re often put off by anger instead of asking ourselves why we aren’t also angry. we automatically assume it’s all about us and therefore take it personally. can we stop doing that please, fellow white people? lol

    thank you again MR for getting this conversation going here.

    • Kelsey Moody

      Your comment “because we [white people] lack context, we’re often put off by anger [of black people] instead of asking ourselves why we aren’t also angry”, really resonated with me. I remember a discussion about race in a class in highschool and POC were expressing their frustration about how “the blond white girls” of the world have it so easy, fit beauty standards in the media, can struggle through drivers-ed (remember this was highschool…) without the added fear of being pulled over for their appearance, etc.

      Im a blonde white girl and had never heard this out loud. I was 14 years old, and I had never heard that I had it easy. I was quick to speak up in outrage about how I worked just as hard as anyone to get into this private school, was on financial aid, struggled with body image issues blah blah blah. I completely missed the point. I didnt realized that what they were talking about was not about me, Kelsey Moody, the individual, but about a deeply ingrained SYSTEM of racism that raises up the “Kelsey Moodys” of the world, that keeps POC down, that wont legitimize or validate their frustrations and anger they feel from the hate and violence directed at them regardless of who they are as an individual. From that point on, I realized my outrage was misplaced; that energy should have been used to shut up and try to empathize. I wasnt having a conversation, I was putting up defenses to shoot down what I believed was an attack. Like you said, Erin Elisabeth, what I believed was an “attack” on my character, was their “exasperation based on a lifetime of dealing with stuff that white people get the privilege of pretending doesnt exist”.

      This one 20 minute class room discussion over 12 years ago has stuck with me bc it was the first step in checking my white privileged. I began to listen, read, question my experiences– and hopefully I still am. Do I always say and do the right thing to be an ally, to stand up for justice at every turn? No, Im human I try, but open, honest and frank dialog is how you grow, and Im glad its has made its way to this corner of the internet!

      • Amelia Diamond

        this comment!!!

      • Alicia Renee Ball

        Thank you so much!!! ?? I always search out white women who get it or are trying to get it or want to get it because I have to create this world where white people actually care and understand what we ‘black’ women and people go through and are trying to say (about what we go through). I have to create that world because it is a very dark depressing place to be consumed by all the white people who tell us we are making too big of a deal out of something that causes us pain, causes us anger, causes us to curl up in a ball and cry. So I search out validation like this. I have to, to keep hope alive.

        And I have to search out eloquent speakers like Ashley that can properly communicate our plight because more than often the wrong representatives for the quote unquote black experience are given the mic, the TV time, the platform to speak on our behalf and very so often drop the ball. Drop the ball in a sense they don’t say it where other people can get it. Or they get debated out of their point, over talked, flustered and discredited so thannnkk you Man Repeller. Thank you.

    • Amelia Diamond

      thank YOU! “it’s essential to me not to put words in the mouths of a group whose experience isn’t mine. but i also don’t want to be like ‘hold please, let me forward you to so-and-so'” <– poignant

  • Nicole

    THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. I can’t even tell you how happy I am to see this here. This was very needed. Good job y’all.

  • Bria

    This is my favorite thing I’ve ever read on MR. Thanks so much for always listening to our comments and concerns and making an effort to change and grow. Roundtables like this are why MR is so much more than just a fashion site for me.
    Looking forward to reading posts from some WOC!

  • BK

    This is so major. I did like the issues Margaret raised about role models, but this sort of conversation is just as important and probably more privy to the Swift/Minaj situation. Luckily we don’t have to choose between these conversations, we can have them all. What Ashley recommends is the trick – have more conversations. We need to talk about most things, probably everything. And I LOVE the idea of Man Repeller as a diverse platform which caters to the interests of *all* women. I always feel that MR is a sort of safe place where I can simultaneously relax, have fun, get excited and share ideas, and everyone should be able to feel that sort of feel.
    Oh and Ashley: I may quote “Ignoring things throughout history never made them better” in the conclusion of my dissertation (re: treatment of pregnant/prostitute Australian women forced into unpaid labour) – you’ve a glorious way with words.
    Finally: I would have loved to have grown up unaware of Fallout Boy.

  • This is so great. Thank you for posting this. As a creative person, I’ve been stuck on wanting to incorporate everyone into my art, but the internet is really confusing and scary concerning this. But this is exactly how I feel about it- and especially the Givenchy collection:
    “Ashley: I feel — specifically with appropriation — that the problem is not necessarily that people take or borrow from other cultures, it’s the fact that they take from those cultures but don’t contribute to those cultures. So you might have a “Chola-inspired” line for fall, but you don’t have one Latina model on your runway, or you’ve never worked with a Latina model ever before. You have people who are giving white women cornrows who have never hired a black model. Ever. It’s a vampiric relationship when it’s all take, take, take but nothing’s given in return.
    So when people get angry about appropriation, a lot of the time it’s not someone saying that you don’t get to be inspired by me, what they’re saying is, you don’t get to be inspired by me and also believe that who I am as a human is not good enough for you.”

    And this I am very thankful to you for:
    Ashley:”Women of color have to work on one thing, and that one thing is separating an action from character. Everybody knows what they can handle, don’t get me wrong. But when somebody does something you don’t like, you don’t attach it to who that person is, you let the action be the action. You say, “You said this or you did this, and that made me feel like this.” Or, “That’s racist.” Or, “That’s sexist.” But you don’t say you’re racist. You don’t have to attach one action to someone’s character.
    For white women who want to help this situation, there are a few things that need to happen. One is you need to be able to separate the difference between when someone is calling you out on an action versus when someone is calling you something and making a comment on your character. Two different conversations. And you need to be able to tell the difference.”

    I think a lot of people, myself included want to do the correct thing- not just because it’s “correct” but bc we care very much about equality- even the fact that equality doesn’t currently exist in the US is mind blowing to me. But things on the internet are forever and one mis-step can be met with scary twitter mobs or your face on buzzfeed, so I’ve seen more and more people start staying quiet bc they’re scared of accidentally saying something that they didn’t properly expand on. This comment probably falls into that category :/

    Anyway, thank you and I look forward to your articles about everything.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment Jordan

  • Sadaffodil

    I’m a longtime lurker (only have commented once or twice) of the site and this really reminds me why I keep coming back. In the age of everyone giving off that “holier than thou” vibe, it is really nice to see a website listen to their readers and open a dialogue and start a conversation over criticism. That really is a marker of quality content. I applaud you, Ashley and the MR Team!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Thank you for reading, Sadaffodil!

  • Fabiana Ochoa

    I’ve always loved your content and have been a loyal follower for many years (from harem pants to normcore). This piece is a step, and another step would be to have your staff/contributors reflect these critical feminist perspectives. Many of us love Celine, have thighs that connect, and believe that women should not be treated like crap. Praise be intersectionality!

  • Thank you for this. It made a very interesting read. As a brown Indian girl living in India, reading about feminism-related issues over the world can be a bit amusing. It’s regularly about women sharing their thigh non-gaps or cellulite on social media and talking about body-shaming and body positivity and much similar stuff. To me and to most feminists I know, these are definitely first world problems, and while every issue, big and small are still issues at the end of the day, most of the feminist selfie-takers don’t actually realize how badly they are representing feminism all over the world.
    When I leave a feminist comment on any video/picture on the Indian side of the internet, I get trolled for being a “man-hater” automatically because most Indian men think Western feminism is ruining us (culturally) and I keep getting asked why I don’t want families to exist and why I insist on women wearing vulgar clothing and going out late at nights to drink themselves drunk and sleep around with multiple men and why I’m a lesbian and all kind of ridiculous things. But anyway… Loved this article. Some more of this please!

  • Angela Miller

    Are you out of shape and insecure? Do something about it! I’ll prove to you that it’s possible to get in shape VERY fast. If you are insecure with your body and want to lose weight fast, do your health and your future a favor by checking out The 3 Week Diet (go to TINYURL.COM/DIETNOWS83 ) Our news did a story on the diet and it changed my life.After weighing 195 pounds, I’m finally down to 145 and I couldn’t be happier about finally getting healthy. It’s time to get off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you will wish you have started today – I promise!

  • Andrea

    this was great, but re: Leandra’s last comment, I just want to make sure that the MR team looks beyond Ashley to keep contributing this enormously important perspective. not that Ashley’s not wonderful and brilliant! Because she is! But part of being consciously inclusive and aware of white privilege is doing work. Too many women I know whine “wahhh no black people are joining my college club/applying to my company’s open position/etc!” when they should be questioning why non-white women may not feel welcome and seeking potential talent out. So if Ashley has the time to write for MR, I can’t wait! but if she can’t, and even if she can, MR editors – find more contributors of color, please!!

  • Purple1776

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU so much for having this conversation. I’ve been waiting for a more nuanced, inclusive, educational approach to these issues, and this discussion pulled that off really well. And please include more content from Ashley on Man Repeller, she is awesome!!

  • TIffany Squared

    The fact that this conversation can happen. The fact that it can be so potent and grand in scale. Everything about the continuing conversation in the comments…makes me hopeful. As a Black woman, I can be wary, justifiably so, of how topics like privilege and appropriation are discussed when POC are not in the room. I think what this conversation has identified is the sheer power of integrating the room.

  • laprairielily

    I was worried that this would be a Round Table where a bunch of white women talked about race issues and completely missed the point, but you guys did it perfectly. Thank you.

    And as a (very shy) minority, thank you for including an invitation for people like me to contribute to MR. Maybe one day I’ll feel cool enough to send something in!

  • I certainly decided to tune in on MR at the best time! One of my favorite things is seeing conversations that I’m having with my own friends being reflected on MR, one of my favorite places. I’m really excited that we are getting to have this conversation here, especially with Ashley!

    THANKS, TEAM MR!

  • Marianne Ronsse

    I love the « take-home message » Ashley worded at the end : to separate actions from character and to welcome criticism.
    Indeed, criticism on you as a person seems agressive, whereas criticism on
    something you have said or done ressembles more closely to honesty, and even respect I dare say.
    This is something especially important to remember when we’re interacting with people who are from different backgrounds (whether racial, cultural, etc…) because there is a tendency to reduce people outside of our community
    to « clichés », hence the « you’re a dumb racist ». When it
    comes to people within our community, we’re much more inclined to see them as individuals with personality traits and not to judge them on a single action.

  • This was extraordinarily interesting to read. I wonder if this was a conversation and then transcribed into text? I’d love to see a live/recorded conversation.

    Also, I would like to add to the conversation about the diversity within the different groups in minorities. Is an African-American’s experience and conversation the same as an African immigrant? How do they vary? I also say this because often in the conversation of Hispanics, the term is used to describe many cultures, and yet the discussion is greatly predominated by the Mexican experience. Not to say that their discussion is bad, but I would like to add that I am Cuban, considered Hispanic, but my experience has been different from that of a Mexican immigrant or a Brazilian immigrant (even though Brazilians speak Portuguese). And to that note, are Spaniards considered Hispanics in the US? Probably not. And yet they can look and sound identical to cultures from South America. The misconception is that the Hispanic experience is predominantly voiced by the Mexican community can be a bit frustrating for me. As it creates the idea of a uniform culture that is in fact highly diverse.

    • Alicia Renee Ball

      This conversation is needed as well!

  • AlexaJuno

    This was just great. White privilege and cultural appropriation are two of the touchiest subjects of the moment. Even as a woman who considers herself a dedicated ally to people of color, I have struggled with the definitions of these terms. When misinterpreted or defined incorrectly, the lines of propriety can be confusing and they have the potential to feel like an attack on white character and intentions. This is, by far, the most comprehensive and clearly defined conversation about both of these labels I’ve ever read. Bravo to MR and Ashley for a great discussion. I hope to hear more from her in the future.

  • The issue of race is not something that can be resolved by simply talking about it or passing legislation. It is ok to have conversation about race, pass legislation to protect minority, but it will not make any difference unless individuals resolve within themselves and convince themselves that though some people may have high level of melanin in their DNA, it does not make them less human or inferior to those with very little level of melanin in their gene.

    It is up to individuals to relate to people of color in the same way they relate to whites and treat everyone with equal respect and dignity, knowing that difference does not mean inferiority or evil. Children relate to people of color based on what they hear their parents say about them and how their parents relate to people of color.

    For all these conversations about race to have meaning, white people must resolve within themselves to end the race discrimination in all its ugly forms and worst still the “scientific” and carefully systemic forms of discrimination that are enshrined in every facet of the system.

  • Jen

    Wow. Succinct. To the point. Great. Looking forward to repelling a diverse set of men!

  • BKay

    Dear MR, I first found you through a Caroline’s Mode post, three years ago in Oslo. Now, back in Oslo, I rediscovered you yesterday after the following, though relevant to your round table, rabbit trail:
    A fav I follow retweets a post on writer and activist @staceyannchin in the StyleLikeU closets series
    http://stylelikeu.com/the-whats-underneath-project-2/staceyann-chin/ ;
    I watch, love, then follow staceyann and slu on twitter;
    “similar accounts” pops up and, lo one was Man Repeller;
    so click to MR twitter;
    see that one of my favs @ismashfizzle Ashley Ford follows too;
    feel glee;
    follow MR;
    click to website;
    read prompt on dreams;
    see side bar on white priveledge;
    click cause yup;
    And, wha! Ashley is on the panel!!!! Hoorah!

    … So essentially, another site, focusing on a woman of color for one post, which I found from a woman of color, who had retweeted that post, led me to follow two new likes, and then a recommendation to follow you, who are also followed by Ashley BUT, it wasn’t until I was reading your writer’s prompt on dreams that I noticed, on a side bar, Got White Privilege. And I’m all, yes. click. And, Wonder of wonders, so excited, Ashely Ford is on the panel like woah!

    On that note, I will be checking in with MR sooner than another three years : ).
    Thank you, MR.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I loved following this train of thought and so happy to have you here!!!

      • BKay

        Aw, thank you, Amelia. : )

  • Erika

    YES!!! I love that you all covered this in an incredibly open and honest way. Bravo ladies! 🙂

    Then again, I really expected nothing less from you all!

  • Eveline

    Great post and discussion, thanx for this.

  • canadiandinher

    Who here uses Instagram? Have you heard of this new app called Mijem? I just downloaded and it looks quite cool.

  • LMS

    I have to admit that while I’ve loved this site and the Man Repeller concept for so long, I was a bit conflicted as of late about following this content. Man Repeller always makes an effort to integrate cultural and social issues into its discussion on fashion and women, yet had remained silent on the increasingly urgent issue of racism and white privilege and it was becoming harder and harder to be complicit in that. So I am beyond ecstatic to find this article and so impressed by the depth and frankness of its dialogue and the constructive commentary it has produced here. More than just being the right thing to do, I think by committing to this ongoing discussion, Man Repeller itself will only become a more rich and complex environment and a place of empowerment for many more women. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Bianca

    I never thought I’d see the day (unless it was crying laughing), but I think this is the first time I’ve ever cried after reading an MR post. I’ve been following MR since I was a high school freshman (I’m in college now) and I have always loved this blog so much, and attended all of Leandra’s talks and forums during NYFW. However, I always felt a hole in the fact that I never saw myself as being a true Man Repeller, because I did not see myself anywhere on this site, besides the occassional guest post on hair. I not only feel truly included, but for the first time, I see something of my womanhood and story being validated and appreciated on a site I admire so very much. Thank you for this step forward Leandra, and thank you Ashley for being the voice fashion and MR so clearly needs. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Klen

    The problem with white privilige is what happens when white people feel that they can’t live up to the privilege they’ve been given.

  • bored

    this is so boring. when are we going to stop perpetuating contradictions endlessly and start to free our minds. you’re not a ‘black woman’ or ‘white woman’ or whatever you ‘identify’ as. you are a potentially brilliant mind polluted with a load of garbage. conditioned so deeply that you probably don’t even know what i’m talking about. I just hope that some day (now) people start to examine their own psyche and try to start understanding that first so that we have a chance of this place being something more than a commercial joke/nightmare. otherwise it’s just endless distractions, contradictions, fragmentation, dullness, and dread.

  • Emma

    As a WOC, native New Yorker, and social justice minded non profit worker, I have honestly stopped reading many fashion blogs because of the complete tone deaf content re: gentrification, race, appropriation. I’ve kept up with Man Repeller and am thrilled to see this Round table. Looking forward to more content from a more diverse array of writers.

  • Jessica Amento

    Thank you MR Team for hosting Ashley. This is a fantastic, educational conversation to listen in on.

  • The Urbane Heiress

    Well done !

  • Caro

    When you mentioned Peggy McIntosh ‘ s essay, my heart skipped a beat. I read that piece of work for a class called “The Reflective Woman” when I was attending an all – female college several years ago. The class seriously changed my life, and that article opened my eyes to white privilege. I carry myself on a path in a more aware, intentional, and loving way now because of it. I think it can be considered a vital read for all white people. I went and found my old course book last night and reread her work. It’s crucial.

    I also strongly recommend Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Defining Racism: “Can We Talk?” I reread that last night as well. It’s huge. I’m not tech-savvy and can’t post a link to the PDF but anyone reading this comment, please read her work as well as Peggy McIntosh.

  • Sierra

    I can’t put into words how happy this article has made me. I used to read Man Repeller years ago, but slowly stopped coming back to the site because I realized that so many of the articles, tips etc just didn’t pertain to me as a young black woman. Fast forward to now… I follow Ashley on twitter, and when she tweeted out this link I followed and have been pleasantly surprised by this genuine discussion and absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of positivity in the comments.

    You all at MR totally could have read the comments in the original article and completely shut down and refused to acknowledge the heart of the discussion, but you did the exact opposite, and with flying colors. Knowing that y’all are not afraid to asses your shortcomings and ACTIVELY address them makes y’all alright in my book. So many times, I have conversations with white feminists who don’t see how they are leaving WOC out or how they are us to put our womanness ahead of our blackness without realizing that for us, they go hand in hand.

    So, thanks again. We’re all humans, we all have blinders up to certain issues and that’s okay. It’s how we respond when we realize what’s in our blindspot that allows us to grow. You all have responded wonderfully, and I’m so so so excited to see more content that represents the full spectrum of womanhood. xoxo

    • Amelia Diamond

      Well we are so happy to have you back, Sierra. Stick around, changes are being made!

  • Hillary Anderson Stonger

    Proud, proud, PROUD of ya’ll! BRAVO!!!

  • Presh

    Ashley, will you marry me?
    I’ve literally lost count of the fashion articles (or movies, TV shows, etc.) that have disappointed me because of the misrepresentation, or complete absence of black women, and other WOC.
    Imagine reading something on a topic that’s near and dear to your heart, or simply watching a funny, popular TV show and then realizing you weren’t even the intended audience for it–or even worse, you weren’t even put into consideration as a possible consumer. Now imagine that happening for years or your whole life!
    I crimge while reading “summer style hair guides”, or “best dressed lists”, or “all star movie casts”, or “fashion icons” with 0 black people. And to add insult to injury the “daring” and “fashion forward” looks being praised are the ones normal or CREATED in black/African culture.
    Now imagine feeling so silenced–traumatized, even–on a topic that you can’t even speak out bc you’re labeled as bitter, or villainous.

  • I’m so glad you guys wrote about this! So true on so many levels & it shouldn’t be an uncomfortable thing to talk about. I could say a lot more, but I feel all I need to say is good job, I look forward to the diversity of the site and more pieces like this. Thank you MR!

  • Excellent article, but would have loved for Leandra to say more though. Ashley said things I (and probably many other black women) have been dying to say. Good job! Looking forward to seeing more diversity on Man Repeller and in fashion as a whole. x

  • Sarah

    Really, really appreciate this piece. Kudos to the MR team for doing it, and thank you, Ashley, for all of your advice and for sharing your perspective.

  • Jordan Conway

    OH MY GOD, FINALLY, THANK YOU! This is the post I’ve been waiting for. I love Man Repeller. I hated that I have felt a little bit underrepresented in this space, even though I love so much about what MR stands for. When MR opened up its platform to explore avenues of dialogue other than that of Saks 5th, I was overjoyed and hopeful that I would see articles like the one above. In the vein of Rookie Mag, you guys have made this space a little more inclusive for repellers of all colors. To ask these honest questions and to assign a guest with such thoughtful commentary in response is to remind young readers like me that Man Repeller is growing with me in the way that I always knew it could. Please hire Ashley, or if she is unavailable, please hire me. Jordan, 22, representing and repelling from the San Francisco Bay Area. And also loving you guys and looking forward to more of these conversations.

  • I’m so impressed with this conversation. Kudos to you ladies.

  • Nicole Sivek

    I’m so glad that the MR team understands the importance and appreciation of putting this conversation on their site, and other social media platforms; especially since Man Repeller is so widely read and followed by predominantly white women, and the fashion community. I have to say I’m starting to feel less forgotten, and more empowered. I hope both men and women of all races are reading articles such as this one, and are becoming inspired to create more open and safe spaces to discuss racial empowerment (because I hate the word issues, we know it’s an issue, but it just makes the whole thing so negative). Anyhow, thanks!

  • The Truth

    Fuck Niggers, and fuck you disgusting feminist bitches, you are ALL the problem with this country, you all deserve to be lined up and shot

  • Rian Rhoe

    This is so great. I’m glad to see the increase in conversations about white privilege. I appreciated the way that the conversation pointed to things that people can do so make things better and also, how even well-meaning people can make mistakes and need to learn from them. I love the open-ness of conversation, because at the end of the day, if we can really listen to each other and find a deeper understanding and empathy for one another, then we have the best chance of moving forward. I never, ever want to be the idiot that says something offensive, or insensitive.

    Also, this!

    “We’ve never ignored something so much that it got better. It is only by addressing it that things get better.”