On Monday night’s episode of Love & Hip Hop, blogger and struggling radio personality Jen the Pen said what some found unforgivable. During a contrived argument with a non-white cast member over whether Jen would make it onto NYC radio, Jen retorted, “I’m white. It will get done.”
It was the sound of the record skipping.
I had the show on as background noise while I was doing my taxes, and had to pause, turn, grab the remote, and rewind. It was a clip from the commercial. “Um, say what, white girl?”
I held my judgment until the full scene aired. In context, she wasn’t dead wrong for saying it. There were mentions throughout the episode of the other cast member referring to her as “my white” this or that.
As I predicted, Jen apologized almost before the show was off the air. It went:
Racist is the last thing I could EVER be. But being called an “entitled HONKY” on national [TV] is okay? Please be clear anything regarding race was heat on the moment, the devil will bring out the worst in you. This is what my family is made of, if my comments affected anyone I apologize.
Of course, anger is a valid excuse and it’s not like anyone ever says what they really think when they’re heated and in IDGAF mode. And you know, her family’s Black, right? So that absolutely absolves her of any chance at being a racist. (Insert side-eye.)
I’m actually not here to talk about whether she is racist or isn’t. What I do want to discuss is whether Jen was inaccurate.
Black Twitter was upset at her Monday night. Jen was ripped a new one for dangling her privilege the way some writers dangle participles. Her mentions? Shenanigans and shambles.
Were folk mad because you know, in “civilized” society, you don’t talk about privilege, you just accept the benefits of it — whatever yours are — pretend it doesn’t exist and stack while others struggle and futilely fight it. Is it that Jen flaunted what no white person is supposed to, especially not one raising a Black bi-racial child with a Black rapper. Or is it because she might have confirmed what many people of color think, or hell, know to be true about the privileges of whiteness?
Surely, I’m not the only one that was told by the Black elders that, in order to succeed, I needed to be twice as good to get half as far as my white counterparts. And surely again, I can’t be the only one who sat in the front row of a 101 college lecture hall watching a white professor draw diagrams of marginalization and see how far away from the center black was … and how being black and woman was one of the farthest rings.
In my kumbaya moments — i.e., when I’m willfully trying to not think too hard — it’s nice to pretend we’re all equals with the same opportunities if we all just did our best. But in two quick sentences, Jen just up and burst everybody’s “can’t we all just get along?” bubble.
Hearing her namedrop her privilege, was like a confirmation for every time you seemed to think an attractive Black man was running past you to get to the busted white girl and thought … well, you know what you thought. For every time the long-haired girl in front of you in class (or the elevator), flipped her hair inconsiderately just so, letting the breeze slapped your face and you wondered if you were overreacting. Every time you watched a mediocre white co-worker get promoted, and you sat, trying to hold it together and thinking, “Are you blankety-blank-blank kidding me?”
Nope, you weren’t crazy, boo. Thank Jen for confirming it for you.
She was wrong.
Maybe she’s racist.
But unfortunately? She was probably right.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk