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What Happens When White People Are Finally Othered: JenthePen vs Raqi (By @Ladylex02139)

What Happens When White People Are Finally Othered: JenthePen vs Raqi (By @Ladylex02139)

Last week on Love and Hip Hop NY, after arguing with Raqi Thunda about the dissolution of their radio show that never quite happened, Jen “the Pen” Bayer let her white privilege show. From the street Raqi, an Algerian-Puerto Rican Muslim, jabs “Good luck getting on!”. To which Jen responds, from her chauffeured car, window half closed, “I’m white, honey. It will get done.” Everyone watching, and I’m sure everyone who worked on the show, had a gut level response to her statement. Raqi read the situation perfectly and responded by calling Jen an “entitled honky”. Live tweeting during the episode @JenthePen posted this in response to people calling her racist:

HERE is where the actual problem lies.

Yes, it was a racially charged statement said by a white woman who is systemically racist regardless of her family make up. It absolutely was a racist act, broadcasted to millions. So firstly, sorry Jen you are and that was racist. It was also brutally honest. The most dangerous thing about racism and white supremacy is that as white people we are allowed to act like it doesn’t exist unless it’s to our benefit. I also think it was wise, dare I say groundbreaking, for the production company to air that clear and blatant display of white privilege.

Let’s dig deeper.

Why did that slip out of Jen’s mouth? She could have said a million things. Why was her head there? In an industry created and populated by people of color, Jen a privileged white woman has been othered and it she lost it. If you watch closely enough you can almost see her awareness of the shift happen. People, self included, say wild shit during an argument. Often it is the truth buried just below the surface bubbling to get out that bursts through. This was not the first time race has been a topic in Jen and Raqi’s storyline. First Jen went to Raqi to seek guidance around the social and cultural challenges she may face being in a relationship and raising a child with Consequence, a black and Muslim man. I know this is a scripted show, but still it should not have been a woman of color’s job to teach a white person about their whiteness. Then Raqi said Jen was a part of the show to offer balance and “White her wrongs”.

Lastly Jen is expected to deliver a “White Girl Tip of The Day” in every radio segment.

The issue is not solely in what Jen said and whether or not it was racist (since it was), but rather how do white people react when we are finally othered or tokenized and what are the consequences? When people of color are brave and trusting enough to let us white people “in”, how do we insure we don’t fuck it up while still recognizing our privilege? How can white people be held accountable so we can build racial justice? It’s way more than different colored hands entwined on Instagram.

I am, like Jen, a white woman who is mother to a bi-racial child. White women in this position must have a keen understanding of racism in all it’s manifestations so we don’t harm our children unintentionally. We also need to be the best anti-racist warriors we can to create a more just world for them to grow up in. The more I write, the deeper this gets, so I will end by saying this:
Dear Jen, Be accountable. You see the system even if you don’t quite understand your role in it. You are a mother, and now a public figure for better or for worse. Use this opportunity to be realer than you have already been and keep learning and soul searching. You owe it to yourself and your son.

6 comments

  1. Thanks for finally publishing something well written here Nerd. Breathe of fresh air from the illiterate bottom feeders who usually write guest columns.

  2. Wow. I have never seen the show, so I appreciated the brief synopsis, the painting of a scene SO clear it’s as if I were there, followed by a walk through several times, both as a person of color, and a white woman who is still grappling with her privilege in POC cultural territory. But I what I really appreciated about this piece is the empathy you displayed in your analysis. Yes, you identify as a fellow white woman, but I think you’re doing the actual work here by engaging other white women who are too blinded by their gut reaction to get on the defensive (no doubt a by-product of the US’s inability to face race issues head on by constructing so much PC langauge around it no one can ever say anything — or be “real” as you say) to see how they play an active role in their “othering”, or, as I like to call it, “being checked.” Too often, white allies join in the mob yelling “racist!” and not much else, which doesn’t help the situation. I love how you pointed out that it’s not the responsibility of women of color to coach white women through their privilege, as I feel that if we’re all really holding hands, that’s the responsibility of other white women you “get it”, cause I simply don’t have the emotional capacity to do so myself. So, thank you, so much for writing this; for using your platform to engage people in intelligent, no-bullshit, but loving conversation. I hope this gets read by more white people than POC, as they certainly have more to gain from your words. But I, for one, appreciate the affirmation, and knowing that you’re out there trying to make the world a little bit easier for me :) Much love.

    • Thank you Spectra!! “Too often, white allies join in the mob yelling “racist!” and not much else, which doesn’t help the situation.” <– very true. And to even further the point, RAQI contacted me on Twitter and called me to talk further about it. Jen has not replied at all and you KNOW she's gotten like 100 notifications in her mentions. It's easy to hide instead of doing work. Nothing new about that!

  3. This was a great post. I didn’t see this particular episode but the message is clear. I totally agree with everything you said, and it’s more powerful coming from someone who is white. Now if we could only get more white people to read this post and like you said “be accountable.”

    http://circleofsquares.blogspot.com

  4. Very nice piece…just to add, white people are not letting go of their privileged status in society anytime soon. And just as the author of this piece stated, just because you have bi-racial children does not mean you can not be racist..my kids’ dad is bi-racial and they call themselves (along with their white mother) nigger..i had to tell him that is not going to be tolerated around my babies..they think im crazy, i think they are insane, and obviously oblivious to their racist “shadow”

  5. Thanks D. I agree completely and my everyday work is in this field working specifically with white people on anti-racism. We are not as few as we may appear to be!!

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