The Celebrities Are Apologizing for Racism (and We're Not Convinced)

That’s right folks, the celebs are at it again. And by ‘it’, I mean making cringe-inducing comments about racism—this time, in video form! The video, which went viral on Twitter earlier today, is in black and white (how else would you know this is A Serious Matter?), and consists of a series of clips of different famous white people talking about taking responsibility for all of the times they’ve enabled or engaged inn racism in the past. The short video ends with clips of these celebrities saying “I stand against hate,” before directing viewers to the website itakeresponsibility.org.

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... That’s nice I guess?

The idea behind the “I take responsibility” campaign seems to be that this is a way for these famous whites to commit themselves to the fight for Black lives and to hold themselves (and I guess other random white people on the internet?) responsible for speaking up about racism. Sounds generally harmless, right?

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However, when you go to ‘itakeresponsibility.org’ (an unintentionally hilarious web address), things start to get REAL wild. The main page of the site has two drop-down menus which allow users to fill in the blanks of these statements:

“I take responsibility for _______, and to make it better, today I will ______.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think actual apologies come with a fill-in-the-blank section.

While it can be helpful to get specific about what everyday racism looks like, this mad libs style guide for “taking responsibility” makes it clear that these white celebrities are missing the point. While acknowledging your privilege and taking responsibility for the racism you’ve participated in and enabled in the past is an important first step, it’s not remotely a solution, it’s just a starting point. And more importantly, apologizing to the internet is very different than apologizing to the actual Black people you have harmed, and taking steps to rectify that harm. Issuing a blanket apology is barely better than saying nothing at all.

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While donating to bail funds, supporting organizations organizing against racism, and working to counteract voter suppression are all good things, these actions are not a substitute for doing the work to educate yourself on anti-Blackness and police brutality. However, itakeresponsibility.org doesn’t appear to offer any specific resources to educate its audience about systemic racism, police brutality, or even whiteness. By skipping over this integral part of unlearning racism (the learning part), this campaign implies that these actions are where fighting racism as a regular white person begins and ends.

Donating, saying “I stand against hate” and then patting yourself on the back is the bare minimum. The #itakeresponsibility campaign does more harm than good by leading white people to believe that signing a petition and donating $50 is enough to exhibit a real and significant commitment to fighting racism. A true commitment to anti-racism is inconvenient, especially as a white person. It’s 2020—a pledge and a post on Facebook won’t cut it anymore.

Freelance writer who loves sandwiches, astrology, & fighting on the internet.

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DISCUSSION

Just the wording of “I take responsibility” is silly. Racism is so innocuous, I was looking around my apartment today and was like fuck my art on my walls is all white artists, books are white authors, my movie library mainly white. It’s too soon for us white folks to claim we take responsibility, we have to actually fucking start looking at our conditioning in how we each are complicit in allowing this to happen before we can say this. Acknowledge it, but i don’t think these celebrities are ready to take responsibility when they don’t even know what they’re responsible for.