Being Problematic in a PC World: The Bon Appetit Story

The unfortunate truth is that each-and-every one of us falls short of the glory of God. We all have implicit biases. While some affect the lives of our fellow citizens more than others, none of us are 100% pure - and that’s ok. Being a good human is not about perfection it is about intention and understanding.

If someone trips over your foot, you don’t start a war. They’ll clutch their chest and apologize, you wave it away and say “it's totally fine” and we keep it moving. But when it comes to matters of identity, though it is more personal than a scuffed boot, the root cause is the same. Someone stumbled because they weren’t cognizant and during their misstep they interacted with your space. Of course, if they were your favorite pair of shoes or a very expensive pair, you’d be more hurt, but that shouldn’t change how you react. Because no matter how much you love your shoes, they still didn’t mean to trip. If you were in that situation you’d ask that they charge it to your head and not your heart, so why can’t you offer them that same courtesy.

Over the past couple of days, the internet's favorite food magazine, Bon Appetit, has seen a fair about a drama pour out from their ivory tower. Adam Rapoport was fired because of a brown face incident that resurfaced on Twitter. Assistant editor Sohla El-Waylly broke the fourth wall when she shared that she and the other editors of color don’t get paid to be in the video on the brand's extremely popular YouTube channel. And then Alex Delany had to atone for his past moments on insensitivity - apparently, he baked a confederate flag cake and then said a gay slur. Understanding that words and actions matter, and holding space for the fact that derogatory actions and language by white men have built the culture that has held generations of people down, who are we to judge?

Full disclosure, I am a queer black man who grew up with a basketball player-Southern father, so I learned to ignore hyper-masculinity a long time ago. I also really enjoy Delany on YouTube and social media. But beyond that, these actions don’t surprise me. Not because I think Delany is a bigot, but because I don’t know a single white person who hasn’t had to rectify with their understanding of race. Furthermore, I don’t know a single straight man who hasn’t had to re-think how he dealt with gay men - in school, in the locker room, even in their own family. More specifically, heterosexual white men have a history of using gay slurs to replace the n-word in their vernacular so they are still able to talk street - hello Eminem?!

Hold your hate mail.

I’m not defending bigotry. What I’m doing is contextualizing the millennial experience. We are unlike any generation. We came into an unjust world that told us that we were past our trauma and our bullshit. Then we came of age realizing that we weren’t past the trauma of our world we’ve just been ignoring it. So that means that half of our life was governed by a lie - which means that most of the things we did weren’t right. And to make it worse, we can film. We’ve been online with digital cameras since elementary school. I sure don’t want the world going through my old profiles and text messages and I honestly don't think any of us could truly stand the purity test we put our idols through. Would you? Can you honestly say that every conversation you’ve had in a “safe space” and every action you’ve taken with "pure" intentions (from high-school until now) wouldn’t offend anyone? Case in point.

As soon as Adam Rapoport resigned as EIC, his replacement was outed for showing bias and lack of capacity against a Korean-American contributor. And when Andy Baraghani made public comments about his co-worker's lack of “woke,” a different co-worker exposed his disregard for lesser employees and his propensity for self-interest. No one is safe because no one is perfect. Holding people accountable for their ignorance means that we need to educate, not shame. If after they have been educated, and still don't do better, then we can break out the pitchforks.

Creating a world that we want to live in while living in a reality of systemic oppression requires our understanding. We need to validate the fact that good people make bad choices and not every offense is active. We will do a better job of bringing people along with us on our journey if we ensure that we’ll allow them the grace to get it right. People are not corporations or policy decisions and should not be read as Black and White.