Hi there! Come have a seat and let’s talk. I’ve been witnessing a lot over the past couple years regarding "call outs", especially in the photography business, which I am still getting to know. I know, I know, everyone has their quirks and what works for them. I more want to talk about the reactions when people bring things to the attention of those who have done something that, well... just doesn’t come off in the best of ways. This specific occurrence was an eye opener, mostly because I am about to do a rebrand myself...
Recently Catalyst Wedding Co. published an article in response to a white photographer who had some “interesting” choice of words on her new about me page. Things like “turning hoes into house wives” (which is referred back to Snoop Dog), stacks of dollah dollah bills and more to suggest a fantasy gangster lifestyle.
I have no problem with Escalades or if even if you listen to rap music. However, using another culture as a way to make fun of yourself or as a way to bring more black clients is bothersome, offensive, and would not be seen as otherwise acceptable if someone such as myself did that. Her friend admitted "But I do believe she was in a very stupid way trying to attract * black clients."
(Names and photo ommited for privacy)
Side note:#1: thinking that by using perpetuated stereotypes to attract specific clients should be a red flag of a thing not to do. From the support, it seems to attract those who think that this is something comedic rather than a large black clientele. At first a public apology was put up and she changed around the wording on her about page. Great! First step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one. After a few people tried to put down the author of the Catalyst think-piece by saying she's jealous & other things (let’s be real here, who would be jealous of being in that position), tone deafness followed in her comments on her Instagram account, the comment section of the mild article, and in the alleged communication with Catalyst Wedding Co. The article has since been pulled, which honestly is unfortunate because it was a voice for a lot of people who felt they don’t have one and aren’t heard. Which brings me to why I’m writing this.
For a long time I fought trying to find my voice and in some instances like this one, I relied on another (an ally if you will) to take up the torch and guide someone to understanding. Sometimes, it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. The reaction illustrated above isn’t new. There are plenty of times where artists going about things a certain way and then when it’s brought to their attention, they either have a short lived apology or shut down all together. That makes them seem very insensitive, insincere and pretty much just cold. For example, Cole Photography who was approached about an image she posted the use of a war bonnet, the American flag and the displayed “peace” between Native Americans and the United States on the 4th of July.
Many found it disrespectful since Native Americans are still facing serious life threatening issues and discrimination: The fight with the Dakota Access Pipeline. Native Americans are not a monolith & each tribe has their own identities, but Halloween costumes don’t distinguish (also, please stop doing this). They still face societal issues regarding their appearance, culture, and language, as well. Not only were there Native Americans that came and tried to explain to her why the use of the multiple symbols and her interpretation were offensive and clashed, but she decided to create an echo chamber of only positive feedback. There were honest questions and conversations presented, but if they weren’t from a family or friend, they were deleted (my comment included as I asked a genuine comment which was answered by a relative but then deleted). That photo and the post altogether has since been removed. In another example, makeup artist @paintdatface who decided to use a white model rather than a black model on a photo posted to Instagram. It would have made more sense to use a black model since he claimed he was promoting black culture. He responded with a tone deaf disclaimer, mentioning he wasn’t race changing and then made his account private. He stated his intention, but decided to ignore the impact it had, using his ancestry as an excuse for what many felt was a modern day black face. “THIS IS NOT ABOUT A RACE CHANGE. This is about one woman acknowledging, embracing and celebrating the beauty of another woman’s culture.” There are ways to respectfully do this and the impact reflected that was not the way to go about it. Side note #2: When you change someone’s appearance to purposely reflect another race...you’re change someone’s appearance to purposely reflect another race. Doesn't matter if they go out on a stroll for the day or it's worn for an hour, they are taking on another identity, just saying.
These are examples of poor ways to respond and blares the intent over the obvious and loud impact. Let me pour another cup of coffee and take a moment so I can explain. Impact VS Intent. Everyday Feminism has a great article on this and another, more specifically, on how perpetuated stereotypes harm black people. “What does the intent of our action really matter if our actions have the impact of furthering the marginalization or oppression of those around us?” I don’t for a second think that some of the people that are confronted meant to be malicious or hurtful, but it’s important to understand the impact, the reason for the impact, and how to proceed in a way that has beneficial impact and intent in the future. That’s what you’d consider a win-win, right? There are quite a few resources that can help you respond to when you are “called out” so that you aren’t getting caught up in the moment or being built up by your friends, family or your following and responding with angry word vomit. Chescaleigh on YouTube has a great video on this and can be applied to not just topics of black people and culture but other matters of conversation as well.
Honestly, I would want someone to come to me and say “Hey, this that you’re doing, it’s not right.” That would set off all kinds of emotions but I would ask why. I can absolutely understand being upset as no one wants to be in that kind of spotlight, but here we are. I would then hope it would be explained to be in an open and genuine manner so I may better understand what I’ve done and how I can do better and thank them for bring it to my attention. No buts, no ifs, no run around or excuses. Having these things brought to your attention is not going to be the end of you and can do much more good than harm. Although, your response can affect how people see and feel about you, and it can show whether or not you're taking into account the world you’ve created to revolve around you or the world that you are actually a part of. In these situations, it’s best to stay calm, push back any pride or ego that may build up in defense and hear people out. That’s how you grow. Truth be told, I have done some things that I needed to take a step back on and go “Whoa, I had no idea” and followed it with taking steps to making sure it didn’t happen again. I have a great circle of diverse friends that I can always go to and ask “Am I doing this right? Should I be doing this?”
I should make it clear that I am no way trying to "out" the aforementioned, that’s already been done. From my POV, I am more concerned about the responses and hope that if people find themselves in the position where they are called out that they will act in a way that benefits everyone. Don't double down after you've apologized. It makes any progressive action you may attempt to make seem bogus.
Be you. Enjoy riding in whatever car makes you go vroom. Listen to the music that gives you something to move to. Pick up whatever tool you use to create the magic and art you are passionate about! Just know you don't have to use a misrepresentation of culture or stereotype to do so. I’m sure people will find something to love about you without all the extra fluff.
Thanks for hearing me.