RE RE: IS RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE RACIST?

So, some of ya’ll white gays are very upset with me and my latest True Tea Video where i answer the question about whether or not RuPaul’s editing/show is anti-black. Now despite the fact that I made a point of saying that I respect Ru for what he’s done and respect Ru for how he’s mainstreamed so many aspects of Gay culture, some of ya’ll are mad. Ya’ll act like I came into your house, slapped your mother and took your daddy into the other room and had loud sex with him with the door open and THEN I ate yo icecream.

So I figured that I would break this down for ya’ll since for some reason it isn’t as obvious to you as it is to me.

Some of you people only know of RuPaul from Drag Race, and that’s cute for you, I guess. I don’t blame you. In reality, RuPaul didn’t have much cultural relevance at the time of Drag Race’s first season in 2009. So most of ya’ll missed the height of his career and popularity. RuPaul CERTAINLY blazed trails and  was part of the mainstream. However, part of being mainstream is appealing to majority groups and in America, that means engaging in Antiblackness.

RuPaul is probably best known for his song “Looking Good and Feeling Gorgeous”, but many people might not have seen the music video- so allow me to give you a bit of a break down of it.

The music video starts with RuPaul dressed in special FX makeup as a large black woman with wild hair, holding a bucket of fried chicken while eating a Banana. in this character, she rants about how she “goes at home at night and cries herself to sleep” because of how ugly she is. She speaks about how she wants to be pretty because she’s “pretty on the inside and wants to be pretty on the outside”. Harmless right? Then she goes on to say that she “wants her nose to look like a Jackson’s” she wants them to “lighten her skin” and to look like “Beyonce”. Now, to the average white consumer these things don’t really sound that out of line. However, within the black community, colorism is a huge issue because of how white supremacy has framed whiteness as a thing to aspire toward. In this segment, RuPaul is embodying a classic blackface stereotype, the Mammy. And RuPaul has a very interesting history with Blackface, but we’ll get to that later.

In the next scene we see Ru on a Turn table as a dark skinned womanhaving all of her flaws pointed out. Notice her dark skin and her more noticeably natural hair texture.

After a bit of surgery, Ru Reemerges.

Instead of a large darkskinned woman, she has now transformed into a tinner woman with lighter skin and blonde hair.

And her white doctor approves!

Now, this is really just a very light example of what I’m referring to when I discuss RuPaul’s anti-blackness. Yes, plenty of queens of come onto his show and snatched trophies and that’s all good and all, but there are endless examples of anti-blackness on the show. What’s interesting to me is that I’ve seen the show since it’s beginning. I gagged when they referred to season 1 as the “lost” season! I’ve seen the show shift and I’ve seen the show change and I still watch it now mostly out of habit. But as I grew as a person who became more passionate about social issues, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of anti-blackness on the show and more than on the show, within the fanbase. The original question that I received was about the fanbase and less about the show. The fanbase is extremely anti-black and I find that ironic because RuPaul is black. Let me show you a tweet that I saw just yesterday from a former crowned queen.

In my video, I say that RuPaul feels to me, at times, like a white man in blackface. What do I mean by that? I mean that RuPaul seems to only connect to his blackness through the usage of stereotypes and the expectations that white society has of black people. RuPaul reminds me of that black friend we always hear about when a white people says something hella racist. They’ll never be offended by it or call it out because, after all, it’s just a joke and we should just “get over it bitch”. In this conversation, people are constantly telling me that RuPaul is black so how can he be anti-black. These people are usually white so it doesn’t surprise me how they may not have an insight into this: Anti-blackness among black people is rewarded by mainstream society. When a black celebrity has come out and attacked black movements like Black Lives Matter, how does white society respond? Do they criticize them? Do they argue against them? Do they tell them they’re being disrespectful? No. They CELEBRATE them. And further than that, they use them as tools against black people who are speaking up and fighting against their oppression. So black people can be, and often are, anti-black because it serves them. It’s a way that they can, even if just superficially, get ahead of the game. It allows them to be “not one of those black people”. To be completely transparent here, I know what this feels like because I was one of those people for a very long time in my life. I was a good black girl that wasn’t like the others and it made me feel special to be embraced by white society. And then I woke up and realized that I am a tool for them.

RuPaul is a tool for every white gay person against any time they are ever called out for racism. It’s very telling that the fanbase is so incredibly racist, yet the show is hosted by a black man. Shouldn’t that seem off to you? Shouldn’t that seem strange to you? Do you know why it doesn’t? Because whatever little racism you express, you feel like RuPaul would sign off on it- when in reality he just isn’t calling it out or curving it. But even further, RuPaul has been, like many LGBT people of color, put into this position of feeling like he can only support either the gay community or the black community. Part of that is cosigning on the problematic shit white gays do.

Meet Shirley Q Liquor

Shirley Q Liquor is one of many blackface characters played by a white man named Chuck Knipp. He has released several songs and you can hear one here. Ru Paul had the following to say about Shirley Q Liquor.

“Critics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots. Listen, I’ve been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever. I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately. She’s not racist, and if she were, she wouldn’t be on my new CD.”

When she says her CD, she’s referring to a remix of her song Supermodel, in which she has a verse on. Now, anyone who is even slightly aware can tell that Shirley Q Liquor is in black face, embodying an anti-black stereotype of a black woman and presenting it to mainstream gay audience which is usually mostly white. Here are members of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy posing with Shirely.

Oh, but I know what you’re saying: these things all seem old. That outdated mid 2000s fashion is everywhere on this post!

When I recorded that episode of True Tea, I had no real idea who was going to be on Season 8. I, of course, had my sources and knew already, but I wasn’t sure. So when I knew for sure that Bob The Drag Queen was on the show, I was reminded by a bit of a tiff we had a few years ago over the following picture.

This was actually my introduction to Bob The Drag Queen and it bought up a lot of interesting questions. I wrote about it twice on my blog and Bob responded a few times via his blogs. Those blogs were hard to dig back up for some reason (probably deleted them because of the show), but his response essentially amounted to saying that black people upset or offended by his blackface act are insecure with their blackness. This is a very typical thing that blackface performers who perform for white audiences tend to say. That I am simply insecure with my blackness because he’s performing a blackface number for a white audience without critique. And the lack of critique, to me, is the issue. I can’t say I’m 100 percent against the idea of a black person reclaiming blackface. I think it’s been done and done really interestingly well by some artists. But the difference between those artists and Bob is that those artists utilized Blackface as a way of criticizing tropes, while Bob, Shirley and Ru all invite white audiences to laugh at stereotypes of Black Women. At the end of the day, each of them men can take these costumes off and go on about their lives, but they will never deal with the repercussions of stereotypes that are constructed to attack, demean, dehumanize and disrespect black women. While I don’t approve of Shirley Q Liquor, I understand why he, as a white man does it. White men have done this historically and gotten away with it. But Bob and Ru are both black men. Black men with black mothers.

Now, everyone is entitled to like what they like and perform how they perform, but here’s my thing: When you’re black and you have an audience and you have a voice and you’re given opportunities that many aren’t- why not use that platform as a way of uplifting black people? What’s been very interesting about the response to my video and the very distinct divide between race on this issue. White gays are PISSED at me for this video, while a lot of black people who support the show agreed with me. And guess what? They’re the ones who actually have to live with anti-blackness. We’re the ones who actually have to deal with the repercussions of it all. So we feel it and even if we love Ru (as I do), we still recognize that there’s anti-blackness that is prevalent in the show and in Ru’s career.

It’s saddening to me that so many gay people have so little resources that RuPaul is truly their end all be all. I am critical of Ru because, I suppose, there’s a part of me that believes that he can do better. Unfortunately though, I have learned time and time again that RuPaul only truly cares for maintaining himself and his own career. None of what I’ve said overrides any of his accomplishments nor his huge contribution to culture. But I think it’s worth criticizing and acknowledging. In reality, most mainstream black men have had to engage in anti-blackness in order to get where they are. That’s a part of operating within a white supremacist structure. To a non-black person RuPaul represents diversity and progress, but to many black people, he represents someone who has done great things, but has utilized anti-blackness so often that it’s hard to truly identify with him. RuPaul has blazed a lot of trails, but he hasn’t blazed mine.

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