Ignorance Is Still Not Bliss, Sharon
We’ve all had some time to process Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, as they dropped bombs of racism and just overall bad treatment she faced from the British press, as well as the Royal Family. Black women especially were not surprised by Meghan’s experiences. We are empathetic to her and believe her, because we could identify with the mental toll that racism can cause.
The most gut-wrenching part of the interview was hearing how Meghan had reached a point of not wanting to live anymore. Her actual feelings and reality were questioned in the media, and even dismissed by people like Piers Morgan.
Somehow, some white people believe they have the ability to define what racism is, what it looks like, and how it feels. And then they expect Black people to be responsible for “educating” them and guiding them through to the other side - whatever they think that is.
This past Wednesday, Sharon Osbourne made that crystal clear as she was simply asked a question by her co-hosts on “The Talk”, Sheryl Underwood and Elaine Welteroth, both Black women. She was asked how could she willingly defend a man that made racist and misogynistic comments.
Her demeanor quickly took a nose-dive and she began an outburst of “I feel like I’m about to be put in the electric chair because I have a friend who many people think is a racist, so that makes me a racist.”
I cringed when she demanded that Sheryl better not cry! White women weaponize their emotions and femininity to assert their power over people of color – in this case Black women. For her to try and dictate Sheryl’s physical emotions was an effort to create space for herself to be pitied.
The scene was all too familiar. Yet, Sheryl and Elaine understood, like every Black woman, that they could not bring the same unprofessional energy that Sharon did. Instead, they had to be poised and calm because white fragility could have led to the immediate loss of their jobs.
Osbourne provided a luke-warm apology on Twitter the next day but left out her co-hosts.
Truth is, not being racist and being anti-racist are two separate things. Sharon Osbourne's aggression and level of entitlement was unhinged. If she really wanted to convince people that she “ain’t racist” she didn’t succeed. What she assume, however, was that Black women would do the work for her.
This is not the first time Mrs. O has said or did something problematic. And let's not forget her daughter Kelly in 2015, while co-hosting "The View". Responding to Donald Trump's controversial stance on immigration, Kelly said: "If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?" She continued, "In the sense that...you know what I mean? But I'm saying that in L.A., they always..."
It's all about mindset. Black people do not owe White people a masterclass on what racism is when we are victims of it. Sharon should have done her due diligence by researching before lending her support – even though Piers Morgan is her friend. And then having the audacity to be surprised when people made assumptions, because she provided a safe space for his comments.
Some white people spend a considerable amount of time trying to defend themselves and prove they are not racist. No agency is ever given to the ways their behavior is problematic and harmful to people of color. Instead of excusing this behavior, White people should search for ways in which to be and do better.