Don’t Be That Insensitive Jackhole

2 min read

On Sunday, after the Academy Awards, Giuliana Rancic, co-host of E!’s Fashion Police, made a few contentious comments in reference to the locs worn at the ceremony by 18-year old actress/singer Zendaya.

In a previous post, I touched on the complicated relationship many black women have with their hair. I shared that in the present day black women have faced reprimands and job dismissals for daring to wear their hair in natural styles. Giuliana’s language touched a sensitive nerve in many, including Zendaya who responded in an eloquently worded message posted on Instagram.

Many on Twitter objected to Giuliana’s comments with Vine clips of the episode retweeted like crazy. There were also the expected oppositional replies that disregarded Zendaya’s feelings. 

These are the fiery retorts that almost inevitably materialize when someone objects to language steeped in ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, racism, sexism or many other -isms.

A quick scan of user photos when I searched Twitter for “Zendaya, sensitive” showed that many of the people instructing Zendaya to “stop crying” aren’t the ones likely to be impacted by negative hair stereotypes. Yet, they think they’re qualified to tell Zendaya how to feel and respond. They haven’t lived her life, but they have all kinds of opinions about it.

Who is anyone else to decide how another person should feel and react to their environment? Who are any of us to tell someone else they are being too sensitive? Why is it often that the folks not directly affected have the most to say about others’ sensitivities?

Giuliana issued a sincere and adult public apology to Zendaya, the type of which we rarely see when a celebrity atones for a public snafu. She accepted responsibility for her words. She referenced listening and learning why her comment offended instead of focusing on her intent and defending herself.

Thinking Allowed Written on Brick Wall from Don't Be That Insensitive JackholeInstead of deriding other people for being too sensitive, we should ask ourselves whether we’re being sensitive enough.

As someone who’s had a lifetime of people telling me that my own feelings and experiences are invalid because they don’t match the narrative of the dominant culture or viewpoint, my skin is pretty damn thick. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t last very long in this America where I am at a disadvantage from the jump just by being in the body of a black woman. A society that tells me that my gender is weaker, too emotional; my hair too nappy, my skin too dark, nose too wide, intelligence limited. To withstand years upon years of ignorance directed my way or anyone else who shares the designation “female” or “black.” A society that tells me I have to act, speak or dress a certain manner just to be respected. If I’m offended by someone coming at me with ignorant nonsense, it’s not because I’m weak. The “strong black woman” stereotype didn’t come from nowhere.

We have to get better at practicing empathy. We have to become comfortable with the idea that we may not always be qualified to speak intelligently on a subject. It’s okay sometimes to stop talking and typing and just listen. To dig deeper and THINK about why someone might be offended. We shouldn’t dismiss other people’s emotions and thoughts as less valid than our own. None of us is better than the other, even those born into royalty, wealth or the dominant ethnic group or gender.

Just because you’re not offended, doesn’t mean another person isn’t and doesn’t have the right to be. Not a one of us is the center of the universe.

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

 

Henry David Thoreau

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16 Comments
  • Marie of Glo
    March 9, 2015

    I didn’t see the original comment made by Mrs. Rancic, but if what I read was accurate [which I’m sure it was] an apology was warranted! We live in this negative culture, so not much surprises me, as what people say. I will say that Zendaya responded beautifully and Mrs. Rancic did what was right by apologizing.

    BUT…people say dumb stuff all the time, look at the beautiful, Mrs. Kenya Moore on Bravo. She says stuff on that show that is horribly offensive every Sunday evening. So, just as the nice girl above mentioned if Joan said it, people would of brushed it off. I know I’ve watched plenty of her episodes where I had to press CLICK when she said something insensitive.

    I guess, I’ve just learned to accept that folks, including myself, say some mean/dubm stuff. How we react after we say mean/dumb stuff, or when mean/dumb dumb things are said to us, matters most…. I hope I made a shrivel of sense here. LOL.

  • trininista
    March 1, 2015

    In recounting an experience at the hands of a racist, a white man told me he did not see my point and that I had a chip on my shoulder. My story and my experience are personal to me as a black woman and I was so annoyed that here was this person who has never lived my story trying to tell me my experience was not a big deal. The haterade from those who cannot relate to Zendaya and other black women is indicative of society trying to create this generic mould that we all must fit in. Well, world – it does not work that way. I loved Zendaya’s classy response and I appreciated Giuliana’s apology. Sadly, it will not be the last such incident.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 2, 2015

      Oh man, a few years ago, I had a white female friend once tell me I had a “chip on my shoulder” when I made a light-hearted joke in reference to me being the only black person in a room (for the billionth time). I was so hurt and offended by her reaction. For a friend of mine to dismiss my experiences as “having a chip on my shoulder” when she has no idea what it’s like to walk in my shoes really bothered me. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

      Zendaya’s response impressed me because she handled it in such a mature way. So much better than many adults do. I hope that the whole situation opened at least a few more minds.

  • Jarret Ruminski
    March 1, 2015

    Great observations here. The thing about privilege is that, for those who benefit from it, it becomes both the most blinding and definitive thing about their experiences and observations in terms of how they relate to society’s constructs. When someone tells you to just deal with it, you know they’ve never dealt with it themselves.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 4, 2015

      “When someone tells you to just deal with it, you know they’ve never dealt with it themselves.”

      Absolutely. Though I find that sometimes people say that and have gone through it, they just reacted differently. Still doesn’t mean it’s not important to someone else.

  • Mrs. AOK
    February 28, 2015

    I did not see the episode but I heard about it on the news. And before I saw the video clip I thought Giuliana was trying to out-wit Kathy. I feel like she is trying to be funnier these days, but in her quest to perhaps seek Kathy’s favor… she hurt someone.

    Do you watch Wendy William’s show? Wendy didn’t care too much for what Giuliana said, but she also said she thought if Joan Rivers had said what Giuliana said no one would care. She thought Zendaya should have “clapped back” harder. I don’t know, maybe she’s still upset that Zendaya quit the Aaliyah movie. I didn’t watch the Aaliyah movie, but I may have watched it if Zendaya would’ve played the part. My girls love Zendaya. I digress, my apologies.

    As a person who has been called sensitive on waaaaay too many occasions, I would love to live in a world where more people would be empathetic. I don’t want sympathy just your empathy, open your heart to others, people.
    Wonderful post, Keisha!
    XOXO

    p.s. I love the Henry David Thoreau quote you shared. I love his words.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 2, 2015

      I do watch Wendy. I don’t always agree with her, but I like that she tries to keep it real. I don’t know that people wouldn’t have cared if Joan Rivers said the same thing. Who can say? Joan was an equal opportunity offender, so it was hard to take anything she said personally. Giuliana comes across as a mean girl, not a comedian. She doesn’t have the “comedy” or “old lady” privilege that Joan had.

      It’s cool to know that your kids like Zendaya. She seems like a kind person with a good head on her shoulders. I remember seeing her in an interview when she was just starting her Disney show years ago. I liked her then and I like her now. It’s nice to know that there are kids looking up to celebrities bringing positivity.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, digressions and all. 🙂

  • Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen)
    February 28, 2015

    I totally missed the Giuliana/Zendaya issue. Thank you for sharing it here. I really appreciated your sensitive treatment of the topic.

  • BritishMumUSA
    February 28, 2015

    Oh I love this. It is all a matter of perception. What does the person who has been wronged perceive? If they feel they have been wronged, then guess what? They have been wronged. It does not matter what anyone else thinks or feels at this moment in time. My daughter was being bullied a few years back and stated her whole grade hated her. Now did her whole grade hate her? No, but that is what she perceived and so therefore that was her truth. No one and I mean No one could persuade her otherwise, and they should not have. It had to be and was rectified.
    When you walk into a room and feel that everyone is staring at you and judging you that is your perception and it is yours. Probably not everyone is doing this, but that is what you FEEL, and no one has the right to tell you to feel otherwise.

    What Giuliana Rancic said was WRONG. There is a thin line between being critiqued and being bashed. This time Giuliana got it wrong, very wrong. As you pointed out she did make the adult apology, and it was a well stated one too. She did point to the fact that it was not her INTENT, but that that did not matter. It was what was perceived and that IS ALL THAT COUNTED.

    I love your post, hear hear BRAVO!!!!

    Empathy yes, but hey lets just be accepting of all differences… Non violence, peace and love and live and let live attitude is what is NEEDED.

    Thank you for the tweet 🙂 I was busy…. Next time 🙂

    • Keisha || The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 1, 2015

      It’s a tricky thing with perception – sometimes people take it too far and use it to justify their offensive behavior.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Ray. I hope your daughter is having a better time of it in school.

      • BritishMumUSA
        March 2, 2015

        I did not think to think of perception from the other foot, and that makes it an interesting statement. I see where you are going with this.

        Yes, thank you she is now rocking it and onto new adventures out in SF. We applied for housing and meal plans and roommates today… Very exciting 🙂

        Cheers. I love your thoughtful posts mate.

        xoxoxo

  • Shahidah
    February 26, 2015

    I know i have to be a better person but i feel like karate chopping folks mon-sunday lol
    i love that we are not BENDING anymore to fit that old stale mold of beauty.i think a lot of people are intimidated by that but they’ll get used to it or just not ride the bus.

    • Keisha || The Girl Next Door is Black
      February 28, 2015

      What’s that saying from that movie? “We’re mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!” That seems to be the theme currently.

      My initial inclination to some ignorant comments is to get upset. And I definitely have written some posts where I just let out my frustrations. But, I think it’s important to move past that and use that energy toward something progressive if we hope to improve the state of things.

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