The Problem With Buzzfeed is Far Deeper Than Their Video
BuzzFeed recently released a video entitled “27 Questions Black People Have for Black People.”’ In the video, Black people ask questions to the Black community at large about the perceived bias in various areas of life. For 2 minutes and 47 seconds, the viewer is peppered with questions about why the Black community is homophobic, why Black people are always late and why watermelon is a “Black thing”, among other questions. Many Black people in America have received these exact same questions from white people in their normal day-to-day lives. The video would best be titled “27 Questions White People Have for Black People That We Got Black People to Ask on Camera for Us”. Much can (and has) been written about the failure of this video and in response to the questions asked, but I’d like to focus on the deeper issues that allow for such a video to be posted in the first place: the video comes from an oppressively and aggressively white space and frame of mind.
BuzzFeed is a very white media space. I mean, super white. And this should come as no surprise to anyone. A quick look at the staff page on BuzzFeed shows you this. When you look at the BuzzFeed video production teams specifically, it illustrates this fact even more so. In all three teams listed there are a combined six Black people in various roles. To be clear, the point is not to blame these Black people and state they should’ve done something to shut down the release of the video. No, the responsibility of stopping the majority from being offensive should never be thrown onto the minority that lives in their wake. Rather, the point is to shine a light on the lack of diversity,and likely lack of inclusion, in decision-making that BuzzFeed has in their space, especially on their video staff.
I’m sure that the majority of the Black writing staff at BuzzFeed doesn’t approve of the views prevalent in the video, but a space where you’re massively outnumbered doesn’t exactly lend itself to one where dissention is heard. Black people are not a monolith, but to have more Black decision-makers in the room (and to empower them to speak out and truly be heard) would’ve caused a pause in the production or release of this video.
This video came from a suffocatingly white space that has a mindset not to learn, but to use decades and centuries old stereotypes. I’ve been asked many of these same questions by white people in my day-to-day life. To ask, “Why is natural hair a political statement?” ,for example, is to ignore the history of white people and forced European beauty standards onto Black people. This is not a question I hear from Black people, more so from white people who have deemed it “safe” to ask me that sort of question. This comes from a mindset not to learn but to accuse. This video was not a conversation, rather it was a list of questions that white people wanted to ask. Questions like “When will homophobia in the Black community end?” (despite homophobia being much more prevalent among white people) paints Black people in a very harsh light.
This is not the first time an accusation of widespread homophobia has been leveled at the Black Community. Following the passage of Proposition 8, a 2008 same-sex marriage ban in California, Black people were accused of being the sole reason why the bigoted law passed. The idea was that there was a direct correlation between large Black voter turnout for then Senator Barack Obama, and same-sex couples losing the right to marry (the argument being that these Black voters brought their bigoted opinions about gay couples into the voting booth). This was proven to not be true (in fact studies showed that unless Black people in California had raised the dead, they were not the deciding factor in the vote), yet the label (and the perception) that Black people are homophobic still doggedly follows the community. This misperception lives on despite the fact that white people far and away have been more actively homophobic than any other race in America.
These questions were clearly written from a white perspective to try to paint the Black community as violent, lazy, and unintelligent (all stereotypes that white people have been using to label Black people since the Trans-Atlantic slave trade).
This video came from a desire by the predominately white video staff at BuzzFeed to not ask questions, but rather to accuse and label. Rather than yelling these stereotypes out, as white people have done for hundreds of years, or using dog whistle terms as white people have done since the 1970s, they decided to use Black people to read their “questions”. Welcome to the next stage of stereotyping in America, getting members of the race you’re giving demeaning labels to do it to themselves. It falls right in line with making people of color believe that people of color can be racist. It is insidious and wrong.
The makers of this video knew exactly what they were doing. It was not an accident or a misunderstanding, as they may have you believe. Rather this was an oppressively white media space longing to continue a centuries-long history of stereotyping and taking the step of getting Black people to be their mouthpieces against Black people so as to not be labeled racist.