UPDATE! No Cheers for @KirstieAlley: Why the Star’s Twittered “Wrath” Against MEDIA ASSASSIN Just Digs Her a Big, New Black Hole.


I honestly did not expect this.

After I posted Black Like @KirstieAlley: Twittering About Race with the Fat Actress” yesterday, I manually sent out one tweet, at 5:55 pm ET, announcing the posting. (My blog automatically sent out another one 45 minutes later.) I then left the house to take care of some business, getting back a little over two hours later. I went to my computer, and logged on to Twitter.

Big mistake.

ka9Seemingly hundreds of Kirstie Alley’s followers were aflame. (I knew this, because Tweetdeck was picking up mentions of my name.)

Why? Because Alley, right, who I’d expected would simply ignore what I’d written, had instead responded via seven tweets. Together, her notes composed the following message:

WOW…Mr. Harry Allen is very full of himself..and apparently very interested in not having direct communication but instead using me to promote his column. After I tried to directly work things out with Mr. Allen with zero response, I did what all smart tweeters do. I unfollowed him and wrote him off as an opinionated person unwilling to confront me directly. If I am what he accuses me of, he should simply do the same and unfollow me or block my scary ass. I read his boring arcticle and found it unfounded. In the future Mr. Allen, just write back and state your case. Out of my 65,000 followers, you were the only one offended. Your right of course. By taking your grievance public, and stating you could CRUSH ME WITH RHETORIC, you have no respect from me. And your ego is trippin dude if you really believe you can crush me or any one else with your witty rhetoric. Will this be in your next blog? I hope not, it is way too uninteresting. Sincerely.K

She then signed off, saying, in an eighth tweet:

HELLO..just running off to dinner…tsk tsk..should never write personal wrath letters publicly..sorry..just shootin from the hip…lol

So am I. I hold it to be true that the chief weapon of a racist is deceit. I’m not saying that Kirstie Alley is a racist. I would never call any white person a racist. But Ms. Alley has made some statements, above, that I suspect are not true, as well as others that are profoundly illustrative of how race works.

Now, one thing she did say, with which I do agree, is that yesterday’s piece was boring, though I disagree that it was uninteresting. (They’re not the same thing.)

248015_78731497_1I really think it could have used another edit. While, on one hand, I wanted to talk about my internal process—perhaps as a way of working through it—I didn’t want to basically write…I dunno, a car repair manual, right. Between the pressure to get it out, and my assurance that what I had to say was worthwhile, I felt like it would work better than, perhaps, all of it did. That’s the risk, certainly, of blogging, but not an excuse.

So, Ms. Allie, please: As a person whose written professionally about race for nearly 25 years, and lived under it almost twice as long, I assure you that I have better work. I’d refer you to any of the links in the original piece: “Fight the White Rap History Rewrite, “White People and Hip-Hop,” and “The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What The Eminence of Eminem Says About Race,” none of which, I’ll venture, you gave a second glance.

oldnavyHowever, if you don’t like rap music, MEDIA ASSASSIN pieces like “Trans-Coon-ers,” Fine-Tuning the Racial Contract, “‘I Didn’t Notice It Was You’: How the Oscars Walked Right Past Whoopi,” Jeremiah Wright for U.S. President,” and one of my all-time favorites, Are There Racists at Old Navy, or Do They Think That We’re Dummies?,” above, should provide short jolts of intense, compelling reading.

I’ve long known another truism, however, and it’s this: Under racism, any criticism a racist suspect (i.e., a white person) makes about non-white people, particularly in matters “concerning race,” is always better made of white supremacy, itself, as a system.

2297680311“Black people are hostile,” right. There’s no system yet devised more hostile than race.

“Black people are lazy.” There’s no system yet devised more lazy than white supremacy. (Think about it: The planetary minority, white people, decided how to treat the world’s majority, non-white people, in all areas, based on chroma—color—as opposed to ability or potential. If people picked race cars, industrial machines, or jet engines that way, the global body count, daily, would rival D-Day’s.)

hairgrabEven the charge that my piece is boring…well, racism is boring, especially for Black people because, unlike white people, we bear it, but don’t derive any benefits from it. It’s a grind: Day in, day out, the same old tricks, deceitful actions, white faux pas, right, and dangerous Caucasoid character shortcomings.

Anyway, to the Kirstie Alley’s response: (This will be to the point.)

“WOW…Mr. Harry Allen is very full of himself..and apparently very interested in not having direct communication but instead using me to promote his column. After I tried to directly work things out with Mr. Allen with zero response, I did what all smart tweeters do. I unfollowed him and wrote him off as an opinionated person unwilling to confront me directly.

kirstie-alleyAlley, right, keeps saying she attempted to contact me directly and work things out. (Over time, I’ve seen many white people do this, or claim this, under similar circumstances: The communication “check” got lost in the mail.) As well, in two tweets to one of her followers, she says

Thank you for your lovely defense of me. My only issue was that I earnestly tried to PRIVATELY handle the scene to no avail. Twas purely opportunity Mr. Allen was looking for, with no intention to remedy one on one…or in a public forum..I thank you

I can’t prove her actions, but I suspect that this is a canard.

I tweeted Ms. Alley directly, under her name, as she did me. Those tweets are reproduced, in their entirety, in yesterday’s post.

As well, Alley sent me one direct message, below, before I criticized her comments:


You now have the totality of our correspondence.

Things get lost in cyberspace all the time, so, perhaps she did repeatedly attempt to reach me, and there was a failure. But unless there was, or a technical problem at Twitter, my tweets arrived at her account and sat there, face up. She could have addressed them at any moment over the past 2.5 weeks, and I would have responded with as much, or as little, detail as she desired.

picture_4As for using Ms. Alley to promote MEDIA ASSASSIN, it’s a disingenuous, self-important claim. She wrote to me, it was public, and widely commented upon. I wrote back, it was public, and what she’d written was the subject of what I wrote. If I was just trying to promote myself, why didn’t I send links to the gossip sites? Why did I send out only one tweet?

Anyway, if I really wanted to merely promote MEDIA ASSASSIN based on attacking white celebrities, I’d go after Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, or Kevin Spacey, right, all of whom are on Twitter, and all of whose followers outnumber Alley’s by orders of magnitude.

“If I am what he accuses me of, he should simply do the same and unfollow me or block my scary ass.”

I’ve not accused Kirstie Alley of being anything, and I don’t think she’s scary.

kirstie-alley-scientology“I read his boring arcticle and found it unfounded.”

STOP. This is really interesting.

I’ve already gone over the “boring” part. The use of the word “unfounded” is deep, though.


Because, like her original statement, above, 1) it’s something white people have said for centuries concerning race, and 2) it matches white responses to Black objections against white supremacy during that same time period.

rk910303Black people know, from lifetimes of experience, that one of the chief difficulties in bringing any charge of racism against a white person is being believed or found credible. When Rodney King was beaten by police in 1991, right, it was often said in our neighborhoods that, had George Holliday not videotaped King’s assault, his claims would have been dismissed out of hand. Indeed, the fact that a white jury could look at the videotape and agree that a call for criminal penalties was unfounded was, itself, the spark that lit the L.A. holocaust a year later.

Black people are used to their histories, feelings, knowledge, beliefs, even their existences being denied and discounted. So, having a white woman blithely dismiss my 1,882 words with nine of her own—“I read his boring arcticle and found it unfounded”—bears echoes of everything from the Dred Scott decision and the Scottsboro Boys to the Susan Smith case.

That is, Kirstie Alley supposedly read my piece and “found it unfounded”? What parts? All of it? Meaning, what: That she didn’t send those tweets? That kokupuff didn’t twitter me? That Black people don’t resent comments like hers? That I didn’t have the thoughts I reported? What’s “unfounded” mean, here?

screen121-300x2691Besides, as I asked in Are There Racists at Old Navy…, right, doesn’t having white people write their own absolution preserve white supremacy as a system? Alley, herself, finds the charges made about her are unfounded? Really? I’ll bet there are people at Rikers who wish they could do that.

“In the future Mr. Allen, just write back and state your case.”

See above, plus, I’m doing so now.

“Out of my 65,000 followers, you were the only one offended.”

It’s irrelevant. Nothing I wrote required a consensus from your followers.

But if that’s actually true, then you’re batting 65,000, because I wasn’t offended either.

I know: Weird, right? Check the tape: I never said I was offended, and I wasn’t.

“Your right of course. By taking your grievance public…”

You, first, again: Tweets are public the moment they’re posted.

“…and stating you could CRUSH ME WITH RHETORIC, you have no respect from me. And your ego is trippin dude if you really believe you can crush me or any one else with your witty rhetoric.”

allen-speaker1I didn’t say I could crush you with rhetoric. I said, “I could…squash Alley, rhetorically, like a bug.”

In other words, because I work with it often, and in a certain way, race is a subject I understand fairly well, and I can talk about fairly easily, right, from a wide variety of angles.

Most white people cannot do this. Tweets from your followers, who seem overwhelmingly white, show this clearly. Your response to me, above, itself, is further evidence of this, because, in your response, you completely avoided talking about race. You don’t address the content of your original statements, and, as I stated, above, you certainly don’t address the content of mine. Yet, as also stated, even in avoiding it, you state it. See?

That, of course, was my point in the beginning: That, in a world dominated by race, outcomes which support racism are likely. Good intentions are not enough. One must measure one’s thought, speech, and action, and use them for the best possible effect.

“Will this be in your next blog? I hope not, it is way too uninteresting.”

Well, that depends on what you do next.


Produce Justice,
Harry Allen



#1 LaKarune on 07.09.09 at 5:07 pm

I loved both of these posts, harryallen. First of all, you speak with authority about race and remind me of a more pop culture and journalistic Cornell West. Second of all, you write like a literary critic, which is making me bookmark and retweet, because I love that shit. Third, you used the phrase “this is a canard”. I mean, what’s not to appreciate about that. 😉

Poor Kirstie. I feel like she could be getting more publicity from her correspondence with you than the other way around. This is infinitely more interesting than listening to her talk about how she didn’t realize she was getting fat until she didn’t fit into her size 12 anymore, or whatever.

#2 dina on 07.09.09 at 5:37 pm

You need therapy or something? Stop looking at things with racist glasses on and accept the compliment. It’s THAT hard? You’re dissertations are moving us backwards, instead of forwards. We WANT people to come to us with praise and compliments, after so many years of trying to fit into a “white” world. If you went into a Pizza shop and praised the Italian on his culinary skills and he went off on you saying “That’s how you feel, only thing an Italian can do for you is cook….”? How would you feel? Keep it 100! Put yourself in the 60’s at a counter table, with a Whites Only sign above your head and have ONE white person say to you “I LOVE black people, YOU are unique” how would you feel then? The only ones who keep racist feelings alive are oversensitive black people like you. Stop keywording on the word “free and black” and read the rest of the sentence.

#3 Kris on 07.09.09 at 6:09 pm

If you aren’t offended, then WHY are you making a big deal out of all of this? I know why. It’s purely for the attention. You’ve taken something that she said and turned it into a NEGATIVE and totally blew this way out of proportion simply for the giddy feeling you get seeing your name mentioned in Twitter in association to a celebrity. You’ve got no real case about anything and are splitting heirs to make something you *think* is worth mentioning. Whatevs. Moving on.

#4 giles on 07.09.09 at 7:23 pm

shocking. but not really.

even at your level, having been a man of your reputation for as long as you have, you have to deal with self-appointed experts on race who actually know nothing.

all the best harry.

#5 DawnGordon on 07.09.09 at 7:45 pm

dont fear, her rapid fans have given me grief before, she sends them to the DOGS,


#6 JJK on 07.09.09 at 8:41 pm

Hi Harry,

I do think it’s an interesting exchange, and I think your meta-twittering and willingness to share your intellectual process with readers is wonderful, and very valuable.

I also think there is a strange mix of admirable intellectual humility and staggering intellectual arrogance in both of these posts.

I don’t think, even and perhaps especially in a white supremacist society, that it is useful to think in terms of every white person as a “suspect.” That kind of profiling is of limited use and the risks vastly outweigh the rewards.

Finally, what you are specifically arguing there, (if I understand you correctly, itʻs that every critical remark about any ethnic group made by any white American is not only false, but actually true of white supremacy,) sounds pretty good as a dictum but doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. It’s ridiculous, and itʻs and obviously false.

But then of course I think that. Right? I’m not neither black nor Black.

Anyway. Thanks for these posts. As I said at the opening, they’re very interesting and enlightening on all sorts of subjects. Thank you.


#7 Dell on 07.09.09 at 10:37 pm

You may be correct in assuming Kirsty’s initial compliments were based on stereotypes, but at the end of the day I think it’s safe to say they were not uttered with malicious intent.

So while these two posts were an interesting read, ultimately they are much ado about nothing. Everyone’s running in a circle “Rah Rah’ing” for no reason.

#8 Word on 07.10.09 at 12:33 am

I love how she averted directly responding to the topics you raised and got all defensive.

Then her followers flock to your comment section to defend her and try to lesson you on some you’re angry/you need to smile more/be more positive/it’s not always like that tip.

All to typical responses!

Keep bringing the fight! (Even if we all can’t be as level headed!)

#9 mertz on 07.10.09 at 4:43 am

good of you to reveal all of this interaction in it’s entirety. i don’t have twitter and i don’t really know who you are but i do know who ka is, but i don’t follow either of you. i am black and i’m just posting this based on my understanding and some also similar occurances in my experience or that of my family or other people in know…so i am speaking entirely from my life’s perspective. i don’t hate or like ka…since i don’t know her personally, and i don’t hate or like you either same reason as i stated for her. okay so what i’m getting from what you wrote (because obviously her comment would make anyone, especially any ethnic person, any person of colour, and caucasian person who understands the power of language would have been perplexed a little by her compliment/intent of compliment. what she said is nothing new. heard it lots, and you’re right lol because that comment is made glibly but not usually counterbalanced. usually i hear the whole i wouldn’t wish to be black and be going through all the hardships black people are facing daily, like the highest constant unemployment rate in the usa, when it comes to talking about statistics or lamenting about a typical story about crime or poverty or unemployment in a black neighbourhood) is that she, people, white or black, multicoloured, w/e, that they don’t get it. they don’t get how what was said can be taken in an entirely wrong context, or can be taken for what it was which is really a compliment but one, maybe unbeknown to the author, that is tinged with generalities/sterotype of what race/a certain race/ethnic group is. because if you look at her tweet it is quite obvious and all there, but as i do not know who she is personally, maybe she hasn’t had the similar experience of being discriminated against day in and day out. believe it or not italians also get discriminated against by their fellow caucasions…so to limit the whole thing to a black experience is misleading. but there is also some misleading in that comment by ka, maybe unknown to her, because by her saying it, it’s like an aknowledgement that it is okay to say things like that, a compliment which is actually a one dimensionaly (what’s the word for something that seems real but is in fact not what it seems) parcing of those two ethnic groups. it’s a bit disingenuous really. i mean this as no offence, but if you don’t get that making such generalities like that are kind of dangerous/touchy mattes then that sucks. maybe her experience is not that of a black person but i think what she said can be reacted upon the same by many people of different ethnic backgrounds. i mean with what she’s saying it’s like when i’m talking to my italian friends that all italians have lovely big noses, sleep and drink too much even if it’s their way of life and replenishes the body, and that all italians uhm hate black people based on their native country’s current leader, or that all italians eat pasta all the time and nothing else…this isn’t correct. there are too many generalizations there and it is mostly one sided and only paints half a picture. she didn’t know that what she said might be touchy, because maybe she hasn’t had that happen to her before or doesn’t know when it comes to looking at black people usually her comments and the ones you made are usually opposite of each other and hardly ever looked at as part of a whole or an entire conversation. i mean her compliment with the whole fun energetic light hearted people and yours with the whole usually people like to say things like that and avoid the topic at hand which is really a discussion of race and what is appropriate or inappropriate. i think it’s all a part of the same conversation and should be talked about in the same breath instead of at opposite sides of a scale. i hope she’s aware of the power of her words and knows that you didn’t take offense to her compliment, but that the words she used to make that thought have some veiled meaning, maybe not from her, but in the context of the ethnic experience in the world, not just in america. i hope also that you stay aways from the generalizations as well and continue to explain why you choose to use the language you do. everyone should do that. i mean it’s not an insult really. it would make for better conversation if people were aware about the power of their thoughts, words, use of language, etc…so yeah good on you and her. i hope this doesn’t turn into a fight because that would be meaningless. a discussion instead would be beneficial to everyone.

#10 Elise on 07.10.09 at 5:41 pm

“in your response, you completely avoided talking about race. You don’t address the content of your original statements, and, as I stated, above, you certainly don’t address the content of mine.”

This is the thing that struck me the most. Instead of being receptive to enlightenment from a credible source, this individual – embarrassed and insecure – retreats into her cocoon of adoring and equally clueless fan boys and girls and changes the subject. (Let’s all talk about how he’s attacking me!)

It’s like watching a scared animal.

*sigh* I’ve had these sorts of “conversations” before. I’m not sure how much progress you can make with this one, Mr. Allen – I don’t know how much more careful and logical you could have possibly been. I do appreciate your nuanced and thoughtful responses though. For the record, I was offended and annoyed by her comments.

#11 Emilie on 07.13.09 at 8:08 am

I find her reaction even more pathetic and sad than her original message. She did not even *address* the issues you (and others) raised. So many people seem to think that racist issues are a thing of the past, it saddens me that it’s always the people who point them out who are accused of being “racist” or, as in this case, being “boring.” White people (and I count myself in) need to be made aware of all the ways racism exist. Thanks for these posts.

#12 Monica Rix Paxson on 07.13.09 at 3:48 pm

Harry, As usual with your writing, I’ve learned a tremendous amount by following this discussion, both here and at http://InsidefromtheInside.com. One of the things that always strikes me about you is how generous you are. I really appreciate the possibility of transformation you offer by being so thoughtful and clear. You seem to understand that as a white person I can’t get to much insight because I’m trapped inside white culture even though I think it is vitally important to understand and eliminate racism. I just can’t get there alone and neither can KA or most white people. It takes articulate, generous people who care to help us make the leap, even when it is undoubtedly a mostly thankless task for you. But not entirely. Thank you. Monica

#13 Jen Morales on 07.14.09 at 10:16 pm

Wow, great posts…I’ve never been on twitter, but will keep checking back. I am humbled…thank you.

#14 Suzy on 07.16.09 at 2:12 pm

Thank you, Harry Allen!! The craziest part that always strikes me is how careful and measured PoC have to be when responding to white racism… WE have to think and decide carefully WHAT we say and HOW we say it, while white people have the luxury of saying whatever and however and then get defensive about how PoC respond…. sigh….

#15 KJG on 07.16.09 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for posting this. It’s a shame she wasn’t able to look deeper into herself and recognize that she is part of the problem.

#16 Emma Jay on 07.16.09 at 7:34 pm

Harry, it’s great that you decided to respond, because most people would simply brush it under the rug. Seemingly innocuous statements like Kirstie’s and her ensuing defensiveness are an example of larger stereotypical attitudes many whites hold that unfortunately affect the lives of Black people in employment, housing policy, the criminal justice system, and virtually every other sector of social policy.

Sometimes joking right back w/ a bit of snark can be appropriate, like “Well where’s a genie when you want one? I’m down for trading places if you don’t mind dealing with these stacks of bills, these cops harrassing my neighborhood, and check cashing places on every corner. Then again, you might be too ‘happy’ to notice. ”

Oh well, can’t provide teaching moments for ’em all.

#17 Joan Kelly on 07.16.09 at 8:18 pm

This post and the original one, I liked very much. I do have a question – you say you would never call a white person a racist. How come?

I feel like I’m either missing something linguistically – maybe the difference between calling someone “a racist” versus saying “what you said is racist”? – or maybe I need to get out more because I’m the only person who doesn’t know that it’s no longer allowed to call people racists when they are?

In any case, I like these two posts, am looking forward to reading the others of yours that you link and hopefully more, and sorry whatshername and her nutty followers gave you a hard time.

#18 Momly on 07.16.09 at 9:20 pm

Wow. I just stumbled on your blog when I went poking around Racalicious to see if there was something that would help me articulate why I was so disturbed by a thread on another message board about racial segregation in a town where white people slap themselves on the back ad nauseum for living in town they perceive to be so diverse. (post by a black man musing that there were very few people of color at a recent town music festival, while the overwhelming white response was \it’s open to everyone. ‘they’ must have had other things to do. ‘\. anyway, the Kirstie Alley tweetfest is just more of the same. I think I’ll go back and read this post slowly now. Very interesting.

#19 Jo on 07.17.09 at 1:53 am

Right on, Harry. I too am fed up with the “good intentions” excuse. Whether something is potentially offensive should be viewed from the perspective of those offended and not the offending. While people mean well/don’t mean any harm, their one little comment is just one of hundreds that members of the minority hear on a regular basis. When I’m told that I’m being overly sensitive, to “lighten up,” or that comments such as KA’s are just a joke/compliment, I too am dumbfounded. Dumbfounded by just how blinding privilege is; that each person thinks they’re the first and only to make such a comment. One isolated comment I can ignore, but when I hear the same jokes, day in and day out, I have to wonder if it really is a joke… but it can’t be. There’s something more; people make such comments because deep down they really do believe in these stereotypes and they cling to them. I could go on forever (and this is already longer than I intended) so I’ll end on this note. I REALLY loathe when people tell me to keep it to myself… don’t say anything, just let it go. Why should I let it go? Why is it so easy to tell me to stifle it when, if we took the time to tell the ones making latently offensive/discriminatory comments to shut up, I wouldn’t have to get on this soapbox. If blatant, hateful discrimination is the kind that counts – that is truly harmful – why are we even having this conversation? “Compliments” and jokes are, in my opinion, the most offensive and the most pervasive, because they go unquestioned and they thrive and spread until they are just accepted as gospel truth. Fetishes are the worst. Again, I didn’t mean to go on this long and the idea I tried to end has been buried by five more. Great post, Harry. Thanks for writing this and know that, while we may be outnumbered (esp. in the blogosphere), there are still reasonable, culturally aware people out here cheering you on!

#20 attack_laurel on 07.17.09 at 6:35 am

Thank you for writing these posts – it makes me want to bang my head against a wall when people say “it’s no big deal”. That statement comes from a place of such massive privilege.

I’m frustrated as a white person because I see what you’re seeing, and don’t understand how people can be so wilfully blind to the issues right in front of them/that they are creating. But they are, and they *hate* it when it’s pointed out to them, so they try to shut you up.

I for one, hope you never shut up.

#21 Kitt on 07.17.09 at 9:34 am

You know what this reminds me of. My ten year old kid coming in from school saying “muuum she picked on me”.

You really need to grow up. B4 you say oh it’s one of Kirsties fans ganging up on me; my opinion has nothing to do with that. I say it how I see it and all I see is that Kirstie said nothing racial or malicious at all. In fact it was paying a compliment. Maybe black people seem more cheerful to others because they have been through a lot and know how to deal with things better than white people. I think only the people who have chips on their shoulders would take offence. How can we ever move on as a united race if people nit pick on tiny little things.

I have shown black people kirsties statement and also your blog and they just eyerolled AT YOU!!!!! not at Kirstie. You have taken it all out of proportion and I have to agree with Kirstie. It seems to be for attention and publicity, not to encourage people to accept all races.

You need to take a step back, read what you have written and realise that you are aggrivating the problems of this world, not curing them.

Yes racism is SO wrong, but there is a better way instead of telling whites all the time how bad they are and pulling them up on every word. I guess I should go write a blog cause my black friend called me “whitey” and say how offended I am. But I won’t cause i know it was said with affection and not racism. Just like Kirstie.

#22 .elise.anne. on 07.17.09 at 11:02 am

I found this through Racialicious.com today. Wow. Be encouraged in the work you do and the things you say. You spoke to KA in a strong, truthful way, but not in an attacking, shaming way. If she were a white person ready to listen, she would have heard you loud and clear and been ready to ask more questions and seek truth. However, she is not. But maybe some of her followers are.

As a white woman, similar to what Monica said above, I say thank you for helping her, me, us, to know truth. I am sorry that you have to explain. I can tell you do it a lot, and I can’t imagine how draining that must be. I am glad that you receive support from and also give support to other people of color as well.

I pray your words continue to be heard, and I join in praying and producing justice.

#23 Snome on 07.17.09 at 11:24 am


#24 YCM on 07.17.09 at 12:50 pm

Hello Mr. Allen,
I am not black nor white. Nevertheless I found your articles extremely valuable in that it gives us non-blacks a insight to the world most of us choose not to focus on our daily lives. I believe I got most of what you are trying to convey here. I am of course very ignorant and will be in a process of learning about this subject for a long time. It may take a lifetime but I am willing.

I also would like to say that I tend to agree with what \JJK\ has said. What was especially puzzling for me about your over all intellectually stimulating articles is this line you stated that you’ve written to Ms Alley: \I could…squash Alley, rhetorically, like a bug.\ I know there is a word \rhetorically\ there. However, and you may call me a sissy, but I find this sort of reference ineffective because it implies the possible presence of threat laced with violent anger. Regardless of whether a person has a just cause to harvest that kind of anger, it doesn’t allow the receiver of the message to embrace what he is trying to say. It causes the person to be defensive and shut down the open line of communication with him. It’s just human nature. (And this is especially true when a female receives this kind of message from a male. )
We tend to be weak in that way when we don’t train ourselves not to be. Chances are you already know this, but I thought I point it out anyway.

In any case, I would like you to know that I very much appreciated knowing what went on and your thoughts behind it. Thank you for letting us in on it.


#25 InfamousQBert on 07.17.09 at 3:32 pm

awesome couple of posts. it amazes me how dense and unwilling to see their own privilege some people can be.

#26 @thevinylrevolt on 07.17.09 at 3:33 pm

I think an overlooked problem is the comprehension of assertions like “That’s racially offensive.” because people don’t hear “Weather you meant harm or not, the comment you made is racist in nature and can be taken offensively…” they hear “YOU ARE A DISGUSTING BIGOT AND YOU HATE ME AND MY PEOPLE.” Even though you only mentioned racism a couple times and never once called Alley, herself, a racist, she clearly took it as a personal attack and reacted the way most white people do in this oh-so sticky situation: “Oh, no, I’m so not racist cause I didn’t mean anything by it.”

White people don’t need black people to protect them or excuse their behavior in any situation. How ever, they do need “navigating” away from offensive comments and shown how to acceptably and non-offensively reference, inquire about and celebrate another culture (what I believe Alley thinks she was doing) Unfortunately in situations where people do make stupid statements you have to cater to the individual and take this person aside and explain to them why what they said isn’t okay. This takes a lot of work but it will, in the end, create a better outcome than sweeping statements and accusations.

Having said all that, I hate the sweeping “White People” sentiment.
I’m white and I understood right away why this would be offensive as it’s a fairly basic concept.

#27 harryallen on 07.17.09 at 4:14 pm

Dear Joan Kelly (#17):

Thank you for your comments and question, and thank you to everyone for their comments.

I don’t call specific, individual white people racists because 1) it’s name calling, and 2) it serves no constructive purpose.

I think this post, “Fine-Tuning the Racial Contract.,” here…


…may help clarify my thinking.

Produce Justice,
Harry Allen

#28 Sue on 07.17.09 at 4:45 pm

Thank you for unpacking the complexity behind seemingly innocuous (from a white perspective) comments. This is a good example of how “positive” stereotyping is as insidiously f-d up as negative stereotyping. I think the way you handled it was classy and thoughtful and it gave me some ideas about handling similar conversations, which happen just about daily around me.

#29 Jennifer on 07.17.09 at 7:01 pm

Dear Kirstie:

Take the “L”. You are clearly outmatched here. Do it for the very little bit of career you have left.

A former fan

#30 Tewodros on 07.17.09 at 9:23 pm

So in what ways do white people make you suffer extreme discomfort?

#31 Mazz on 07.17.09 at 9:53 pm

As someone who is non-Anglo, I understand exactly why you were offended. Whether or not there was any malicious intent in Alley’s comment is irrelevant. The statement was still based on an inaccurate stereotype about a certain racial group.

It’s the same as saying that someone is especially smart because they are Asian or Indian, or that someone is a good athlete because they are African American. Thinking that someone likes RnB because they’re Filippino, or assuming that they know how to salsa because they’re Latino. No matter the intention, a person is still being judged because of their race, and that is what the problem here is.

In regards to Ms Alley, I don’t think that one DM she sent you counts as trying “to directly work things out with Mr. Allen”. It didn’t even invite you to respond to her privately, and implied that she would be watching your public tweets for your response. Ultimately, she uses the same defense that all famous people seem to use when someone has taken their issue with said famous person publicly – you’re only using their name to bring attention to yourself. While that may happen quite often to them, it is obviously not the case with others such as yourself.

Congratulations on handling this whole situation with grace and maturity.

#32 harryallen on 07.19.09 at 3:24 am

Dear Tewodros (#30):

Thanks for this question, “So in what ways do white people make you suffer extreme discomfort?”

In response:

The extreme discomfort Black people suffer is generated by racism, which I hold to have a sole functional form: White Supremacy.

In other words, the extreme discomfort is an effect of white domination in all areas of people activity, including economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex, and war.

While the racists dominate these areas, no non-white person can make any decision that cannot be overruled by one or more white people.

Put another way, as long as race exists, the racists always have *The Last Word* on whatever happens in those areas.

**All aspects and outcomes of the above**—past, present, and future—are the ways Black people suffer extreme discomfort under white people; i.e., under the system of race.

So, when I said this, I was not speaking of whether any individual non-white person feels extreme discomfort, or not, around white people.

I was speaking about the Aggregate; the Sum. I was speaking about **all** effects of race, in toto, including ones which do not yet exist.

Produce Justice,
Harry Allen

#33 Ellen Eades on 07.19.09 at 12:20 pm

Wow. I just got this as a link from a discussion on a science-fiction readers of color group. Kudos to you, Harry, for challenging KA (probably for the ten thousandth time in your life … I have sooooo been there). I don’t care whether KA gets it or not; the interesting thing has been the response, both from people who follow you and who follow her. Like many others, I don’t think she will change, but it certainly adds another little straw to my personal camel’s back. Thank you for a fascinating, if depressing, post.


#34 Bronwen Jones on 08.03.09 at 6:04 am

I found this post and its predecessor through a discussion on the livejournal community debunkingwhite and I want to thank you for it. I’ve also read your posts on hiphop and rap and found them very enlightening as well. If I was on Twitter, I’d start following you, but as it is I think I’ll just bookmark your blog. Thanks for your articulate patience with clueless white people, of which I too frequently am one.

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