I’m going to keep this short, because it’s Friday evening and I have shit to do.*
I generally like Tina Fey. She is one of my favorite people in comedy. And I did laugh at her sheet-cake bit. Even if the premise was all fucked up—more on that in a minute—the actual jokes (aside for the terrible, awful Thomas Jefferson joke) worked. And watching people eat cake like a hangry grizzly bear is always funny.
Much has been written already about how Fey’s bit was ensconced in white privilege, including this deconstruction from Splinter’s Isha Aran:
I’m sure Fey’s heart’s in the right place, but it just goes to prove once again that even liberals can fall into the trap of assigning the violence that white supremacists cause to the people trying to stand against it—the flip side of the very same rhetoric Donald Trump was spouting earlier this week.
Ignoring Nazis isn’t taking the high road. Protesting and facing potential danger is taking the high road. Obviously, we cannot afford to sit at home. While I wholeheartedly believe “sheetcaking” is a great coping mechanism that can cure many a broken heart, and supporting Jewish and black-owned businesses is a great thing, the last time we let Nazis scream into the empty air, it ended up in a fucking genocide.
The term “white privilege” is incorporated so much in the progressive lexicon that it’s become an abstract catchall. In Fey’s case, however—and with white women with similar statuses and politics—it’s helpful to be as literal as possible. Because she is white, Tina Fey possesses the privilege of access. She can go places I just cannot go, can hear conversations I’ll never be within earshot of, and can grab audiences I’d never keep. And not just because she’s a celebrity, but because she’s a white woman, and the type of white people who need to be reached are more likely to listen to her than to me.
Of course, her sheet-caking bit came several hours before Panama Jackson published a piece here, in which he’s considering ending his relationship with his own mother because of her abhorrent views. These are the types of conversations and confrontations white people need to have with other white people (and themselves) if they’re sincere about attempting to combat white supremacy. We (black people) have done enough. We’ll continue to do what we’re doing, but there are limits. Because there are people we’ll just never reach.
So maybe the next time Tina Fey is in the cake-buying mood, she should give the cake to us instead, and then go and talk to the people we can’t. And when she’s done, she can come back and get a slice.
*Actually, I don’t really have plans for tonight. But if you want to buy me a drink or some sheet cake or something, I’m game.