A Case Study On What Not To Do With Your Privilege
I co-host and produce a podcast. A Nightmare on Fierce Street was created as a way for me and a friend to find ways to stay creative during this pandemic while creating a space for those of us who LOVE horror but are not treated well in this genre. We wanted to critique this thing that brings us joy through our different intersectional lenses while bringing friends along for the ride. We thought maybe eight friends would listen, but the podcast is doing very well and creating a safe space for other people who are usually left out of these conversations. This podcast is a lot more fun than I’m making it sound here, but it’s also very healing and has allowed me access to spaces and people I wouldn’t have gotten to share my opinions with otherwise.
I woke up to a wild Instagram message on a Sunday. The screenshots that follow are the entire thread. I will unpack them as we go because these messages hit on a lot of different issues that I, and people who look like me, have to deal with every single day.
The beginning of this rude conversation.
- The tone of her first message is weird and shows a lot of energy for something as silly as a pun neither of us own. I also don’t know this person, or the podcast, at this point. I answer the questions I think she might be trying to ask to see where this goes while knowing that she is only taking this tone because we live in a racist society that has supported her in talking to Black and Brown people however wants. She has no use for me so doesn’t see the point in speaking to me like I’m a person. She has all of the privilege and knows that I can’t win because if I get angry then she can paint me as an angry Black woman. If I concede, then she still gets her way.
- Her second message seems more aggressive. She seems upset that we only found out about her recently and lists reasons she thinks her podcast should matter. She doesn’t seem concerned that she’s been on these large platforms, but a POC who loves horror movies hasn’t heard of her. She is also name dropping here because she decided that the best thing to do with the platform she was given was to try a Black woman on a Sunday afternoon. This behavior would be an abuse of power (if she had any actual authority on any matter) and is not the way anyone who even wants to pretend to be an ally should wield their privilege.
3. Her mentioning the “very small community” and that “we’ll be bumping into each other on [C]lubhouse often” is an intimidation tactic aggressors have used on people they are trying to force into the victim box since forever. This is especially a popular tool in the politely racist toolkit. If you remind your intended victim that people will find out about this they’re supposed to be frightened. Because society is on the side of the aggressor always. ALWAYS. This is another nod that I can’t win this fight she’s having in my podcast’s DMs. The odds of her being labeled difficult for rolling in with this energy are slim compared to me being labeled difficult for even asking her to speak to me like I’m a human being. I’m a fat Black woman so America is always telling me I’m “loud and sassy” and that whatever happens is my fault. She knows this. She also knows that if she wraps this attitude up in a thinly-veiled threat I’ll get the message. This is how mean girls operate. This behavior is inherited. This is verbal violence.
4. Let’s unpack “kindly ask that you consider changing your name.” How is anything she said supposed to read as “kind?” She woke up, hopped onto the internet, and decided to take out all of the problems on me. She also is again missing the point that she doesn’t own this pun.
5. Please never use the word “dilutes” when you’re attacking people of color. That word has so many racist connotations and in this case reads as if she believes association with POCs would somehow lessen her “brand”. It also highlights that she isn’t mentioning the MANY podcasts with similar titles created by people who don’t identify as women of color that founding all over Spotify. For some magical reason, those aren’t important. I would be willing to bet my next paycheck that she hasn’t slipped into their DMs with this tone.
The last thing she sent the podcast directly.
6. She rolled in with this tone, posturing, display of privilege, and now looks forward to our solution. This is when I started passing the screenshots around to close friends who also understand what just happened. They understand because they are also POCs who dare to exist. For us, microaggressions are more common than weekdays. My co-host and I go back to thinking about the actual reasons we were discussing changing our podcast name before this happened. We think this angry stranger has gotten all of this nonsense out of her system.
7. Like in all horror movies, the monster comes back. The next Sunday she sends an ellipsis. Does this signal that she’s waiting for us to jump on this non-emergency? Was she just trying to make her daily quota of harassing women of color? Did she do it just to get a reaction? We’ll never know because we’ll never respond to her again. What I do know is that I messaged another “Nightmare on…” podcast ran by two Latinx women to see if they were also getting rude messages from this person. I knew the answer before they responded because where there is smoke there is usually a pattern of problematic behaviors. They were being harassed by her as I was messaging them.
What Happened Next?
Nightmare on 5th St. Podcast shut her down in real-time. In response, the aggressor went full-on Karen.
Screenshots of the other podcast she decided to spend a Sunday harassing
She uses the same tactics she used with me. Intimidation, the gross use of the word “dilute” when treating POCs like shit, and that pretending this is for everyone’s good instead of her mixture of ego, entitlement, and subtle hints of racism. Please also note that when they say they haven’t heard of her podcast either before explaining how they got their name, she immediately calls them semi-hostile. If these two interactions with two separate podcasts should tell us anything it’s that the common factor is her hostile attitude. This is an example, of what I mentioned earlier that no matter how a woman of color responds society has put this white in a position to never be held accountable for anything. No matter what any of us do, she wins. The “semi-hostile” comment is a reminder that we are always the villains in these stories. See countless Karen memes where they call the police on Black and Brown people who dare to go outside.
This particular podcaster decided to come back to the scene of the crime and saw too many people on the AMAZING podcast’s social media was on their side. Instead of wondering if she’s maybe in the wrong and should think about her ways, or maybe think about apologizing, she posted the following comment under her podcast account and then came back with her personal account to be the lone person to like the comment.
This is how she reacted to seeing her rude messages go viral.
She now backtracks about how self-important she is and begins to paint herself as the victim. “Though I don’t really appreciate the public callout as we tried to do this respectfully through private messages on our end,” is by far the most delusional and confusing thing about this. Does her privilege whisper to her at night that if she says something the rest of us won’t believe our own eyes? Nothing about the way she has spoken to them, or me, has been anything but rude. She clearly doesn’t respect us as human beings but feels like we should take this abuse in silence.
Because this Nightmare on 5th St Podcast went public, other podcasts (I didn’t get their permission to use their names and don’t want any of the happily racist people that keep finding my articles to start in on them) in our community caught wind of it. I’m still not sure the exact order of events but I saw certain people were tagged in things and I feel like one of them reached out to this person to talk to her about her need to manifest mediocre internet drama during a pandemic. I received the following empty apology from her private account to my private account. Let that sink in for those of you who might want to give her the benefit of the doubt. She knew she wasn’t talking to my co-host if she knew I was the person that needed this lukewarm apology.
The “apology” someone told her to send. There are no actionable items or real accountability for what she’s done though. Because this comes so soon after she was defending her actions in public there is no reason to pretend this could be sincere.
First of all, the privilege of deciding that you’re done verbally attacking POCs and are ready to move on is a mood. This isn’t an apology so much as her pretending we were waiting on her to come around. (We weren’t though because again she has no legal standing.) If anything, we have to keep our name now even though we now have to add having a similar title to whatever her “brand” is on the con list. Our podcast is about creating and sharing spaces with other horror fans that are often excluded. I’m not familiar with her podcast, but from what she’s shown me about herself I suspect it doesn’t have a similar mission.
Second, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people make excuses for their shitty behavior. I’ve had a lifetime of people pissing on me and then everyone telling me to suck it up because they have a mental illness, health issue, bad day, hangnail, weird bangs, etc. I’m not allowed to have a bad as a Black fat woman, and I imagine if I did feel like I found a place to have a tantrum it wouldn’t lead me to brandish my two privilege points as a weapon against others. Not only because I treat people like people, but because I’m painfully aware that I’m viewed as hostile simply by design. This narrative is toxic and we see it in the media daily as criminals and domestic terrorists are coddled while their victims are put on trial for being POC.
This podcast non-issue is basic and unnecessary, but the system that she navigates so effortlessly is a problem. This is gatekeeping, possibly internalized misogyny, with subtle notes of racism woven throughout at its finest. This is someone exercising a very dangerous power that is regularly used against Black and Brown people. This needs to be called out when we see it. This is why it’s so important that you talk to your problematic family, friends, significant others, etc. when they show you these traits. These racial interventions could potentially stop them from pulling bullshit like this when the stakes are higher.
I was a girl in the ‘90s so it was drummed into me to yell “fire” if I’m being abducted or assaulted so people will pay attention. There is a lot to unpack in that sentence, but what has stuck with me is that no one will care if I yell the thing that’s actually happening. I can’t just yell “Help” because no one cares about people who share my identities so whatever is happening immediately becomes a personal problem. Instead of doing another listicle that covers a random assortment of microaggressions that I’ve observed most recently, I thought we should unpack this one for all that it is. It’s a lot of ugly that is allowed in so many industries every single day. We have to start calling these behaviors out on all levels if we want to change the culture.
The irony of this is that she so badly wanted me to know who she was that she didn’t think to Google me. I’m as equally unimportant as she is but a quick Google search would’ve told her that I’m a writer with big Gemini energy. I’m a playwright and freelancer that writes about the problematic individuals I encounter in my plays, while keeping a public Facebook album full of these hate notes, and have recently found an audience for my articles about my observations, Full Stop: Casually Anti-Black Behaviors You Need to Quit NOW and Full Stop: Casually Anti-Black Behaviors I’ve Observed This Month. I live a transparent life and own everything that happens to me in a public forum even when it’s not the smartest option.
I know the odds of this article changing anything are as slim as the odds of me giving up ice cream. If anything, society likes to punish people who speak up. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a second of hesitation about even putting it on paper simply because of the way people get blacklisted for pointing out the obvious issues within a community. I have a theatre background so I’ve had a front-row seat to see so many amazing artists shunned for speaking out. That moment of doubt passed as quickly as it appeared though because our podcast was started with a very specific mission, and that mission has been achieved, so everything else is a bonus. As long as we remember that, and continue moving with intention, we’ll continue to attract people that share the same values and also care about creating spaces for people who share our identities. Truth be told, I hope to welcome so many more BIPOC podcasters with similar Elm Street titles into the part of the community that welcomed me. I hope to help further “dilute” other brands as well because this genre is centered on the characters that survive monsters- not the other way around.
This picture just seemed really appropriate.