Where were you when you were first introduced to Pablo Defendini, product designer, content strategist, and publisher of Fireside Fiction? I was sitting at my dining room table-turned-work station, staring at my dog ,when I got an alert for my favorite work Slack channel at 10:55 a.m. that said, “what the hell is this.” In this particular Slack channel, statements of this sort often preface absurd links from the internet, thus I was drastically unprepared for the outlandish fuckery I was about to hear. The link was to a screen-recorded video of what is clearly a white man imitating a Black woman with what I am supposed to believe is a Southern accent. I hadn’t had my coffee yet and believed that this was a hallucination or some sick TikTok joke that my old ass could not grasp. But it’s real, and it is Pablo Defendini’s fault.
The audio comes from Fireside Fiction, a company I’ve never heard of that publishes a magazine, but also produces audio recordings of essays that appear in said magazine. On this particular day, a normal Tuesday, Fireside put on its Twitter account a reading of an essay by Dr. Regina N. Bradley on the “afrofuturistic stylings of Outkast,” a perfectly fine and interesting topic. Bradley is a professor and author and has written extensively on music with particular attention paid to Outkast, her upcoming book Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of Hip-Hop South is available for pre-order if you’re interested.
Unfortunately, the weight and significance of Bradley’s essay, “Da Art of Speculatin’,” was absolutely demolished when Pablo Defendini decided to take a very good piece of writing and destroy it by having a white man read it in an accent that makes absolutely no fucking sense and is without question the audio version of blackface, an offense which Defendini admitted to in a lengthy apology thread on Twitter.
In his thread of apology, Defendini at no point sheds light on the logic behind not only hiring the white man to read this essay but in the decision making that went into approving the accent—which, as I have already mentioned, is moronic and doesn’t remotely sound like any accent that naturally occurs in any region of the planet earth? Jezebel reached out to Defendini to try and understand what happened but he has yet to respond. We will update this post if he does.
There’s a lot to take away from this situation—mainly, that things need to be approved by more than one person before they are foisted upon the masses. But also, that every single fucking thing that finds its way to the internet somehow gets ruined by white guys who think they’re performing a valuable service.