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Amy & Karen Redux

May 29, 2020

I posted three days ago about some thoughts I had regarding the Amy Cooper (“Central Park Karen”) situation, and I’ve been beating myself up a lot about that post. A stern post that two people shared on my social media feed yesterday really brought home that awful feeling. The article was about how white people (women particularly) should not respond to that exact incident in order to be a good ally. The bottom line of that post was to de-center the conversation, and don’t make it about you.

Of course, what did I do? I talked about my father and our propensity for disagreement, and answered the completely unsolicited question of what racist white people would have to say in support of Amy. And how that was wrong. And so on in Imaginative Argument Land.

I did the opposite of de-centering. For anyone who may have read that post and felt bewildered or abandoned by the angle I took, I apologize. Look, I don’t have a neat little story to tell about this, just fragments and observations.

  1. Context is important. In any direct response to people of color, I’d like to think that my angle and tone would not be what it was in that post three days ago. My intent was to get my thoughts down and to approach the story from a personal angle.
  2. That being said, in an environment where people are processing very raw emotions about what happened to Christian Cooper, I would have been well-served to not post that response publicly right away.
  3. I underestimated the personal impact of the story on people, and that was tone-deaf of me. The subtext of the angle I took on the post was that, hey, Christian is fine, nobody got hurt, Amy got fired and had her dog taken away. So no harm done, now let me be the professor and talk about how this incident fits into the larger picture of racism in America, which is something that I do have experience with on the producer side.
  4. I take it as a given that my voice is the voice of a white man and nothing else. I can’t give voice to others, and I can’t speak for others. That leaves me to discuss the things that I know about. De-centering the conversation means I have nothing to discuss, unless I want to take the tack of the article I read and tell other allies to shush, say you’re sorry, and move on.
  5. I’m not going to mince words. Racial injustice is one of the main sources of fuel for my desire to write in the first place. It’s a quandary I can’t think or write my way out of. So I’m always going to butt up against this barrier of lived personal experience and hurt when talking about these issues.
  6. It wasn’t easy confessing that my father used racial slurs. There’s lots of people on my social media that knew my father and probably judged me (or would judge me if they read it) harshly for telling something personal like that about him. I’ve been sitting on a lot of resentment for my father, including resentment for the fact that he put me in a position where I either had to sit on that knowledge (and other knowledge) or reveal his ugly secrets to the world. The way I see it, if you share your life with me, our experiences become shared experiences, which means they’re just as much mine to share as yours. Nobody alive knows my father as well as I do, so I felt entitled to share that experience.
  7. At the same time, it was an ugly attention-grab to lead off my post with that revelation. I conceived of it as a bold way to personalize the evil of racism, which is hiding in plain view for many of us. But I also see it in retrospect as just another lurid clickbait lede on the internet.
  8. What makes me the most paranoid and anxious about the post is the deafening silence. I was proud of the post when I first wrote it, and shared it on my timeline and my story. I spent several hours weaving together my thoughts, and thought I had really nailed my angle. I received one comment and one like (from the same person), and nothing further. Nobody yelled at me, nobody congratulated me, nobody gave me constructive criticism. This is the farthest thing from de-centering the conversation, but if I messed up, I need somebody, anybody, to disagree with me or correct me.
  9. I think the most likely scenario is that my post was senseless and represents a conversation (much like this one perhaps) that should have just remained in my head.
  10. The parallel track to all of this is that I’m trying to create content. I’m forcing myself to write when an idea strikes me, and I just don’t feel motivated to write things that no one else can see. Maybe I should just be honest and trade in my ally card and admit that I’m trying to get published, and that I’m trying to get views and clicks to encourage myself to keep writing.

So there you have it. That post was weird and tone-deaf, and I guess now I’ve talked myself into taking it down. Failure is how you get to success, I suppose. Better luck next time.

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