White friends, I love you. I also love Tina Fey.
However I have issues with her hilarious cake skit, and here’s what they are:
1. This point actually isn’t a criticism. To see a white lady say on network TV, during primetime that this country is stolen land is like a sip of water after a lifetime of vinegar. If you didn’t feel it too, there’s no way I can better describe it to you. It was revelatory, both of how much I needed that, and of how little it actually was, seeing as how it was mumbled into a cake through a mouth full of cake during a skit about white privilege that I feel no one actually got.
2. “Because you know what a drag queen still is? A 6’4″ black man.” The perpetuation of black people, men especially as violent and scary is what is getting so many of them murdered by the cops. It’s getting people of color stopped, ticketed, arrested and convicted of crimes at a disproportionally higher rate than white people and it’s getting us sentenced to longer prison terms in shittier institutions. It is abusive and rude to bring out the same rhetorical stick people use to beat us with in a joke where the premise is you staying home eating cake while we literally fight your battles for you.
3. “Screaming matches.” This is a false equivalency. Nazi demonstrations and the counter-protests that seek to drown out white supremacist chants are not screaming matches. A screaming match is a fight that two people enter into that involves yelling. White supremacist nazis want jews, people of color, women and queers to disappear so they can be white in peace on the land they stole from indigenous people through centuries of violence.
And just like during the Holocaust when “normal” German people saw the death camps as the human equivalent of retiring to a farm upstate, they don’t give a fuck what method we are disappeared by, just as long as we end up dead at the end of it. This is not a screaming match. This is a threat to life and the values we hold dear as Americans and the defense against that threat.
4. “Don’t yell it at the Klan, Colin. Yell it into the cake.” This is where we talk about Poe’s law. Poe’s law in a nut shell: Without a blatant call to humor it is impossible to be sarcastic/satirical without someone thinking you’re serious.
Being on SNL is a pretty blatant call to humor. However, implying that because a thing is blatantly satire doesn’t meant it isn’t also serious. In fact, the best satire is serious. I’m not mad because I didn’t get it (and by the way assuming that people of color are upset because we don’t get the joke and we don’t get the joke because we’re less smart than you is racist).
I’m worried you didn’t get it. The joke is that white people are fucking up the resistance by staying home and eating cake when they could and should be doing something worthwhile with their time. The joke is that Tina Fey has thrown herself down the stairs to make a point you are clearly not getting because you all are actually talking about staying home and eating cake because there’s violence on many sides.
5. “Most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election.” Sometimes eating an entire cake is self care. Especially in a society where women are trained from a young age to eat less food than their brothers, where most girls start dieting by age 8. Eating an entire cake is a loud, life-affirming “fuck you” to a system that wants you to starve to death, that needs to keep you small, weak, stupid and sad so that it can continue to profit from your suffering and prevent the inevitable progress that will occur once the women in this country stop wasting valuable physical and mental energy on having fuckable belly buttons. However, eating an entire cake instead of getting involved with activism is part of the reason we’re here.
White women, despite your lack of power relative to white men, you have power in this situation. More power than women of color do. And you’re using it to eat sheet cake and take naps. I know it’s hard to acknowledge your privilege. It’s hard to feel those feeling and not shove them deep down inside with naps and cakes. Believe me, I know.
And women of color have so much more training in this arena. We have never been able to avoid this bullshit, we have never been protected or precious the way you are. So I don’t know what it feels like to be a prize possession in white supremacy. But I do know what it feels like to take my life into my own hands and move forward through the shit. An experience white patriarchy is trying to keep you from at all costs.
Under white supremacy, white men need white women to co-sign on their bullshit lest they be confronted with the horror of their own history. Eating cake instead of taking action is co-signing white supremacist bullshit. Plain and clear.
6. When Che grabbed the cake. Usually when somebody yells “they’re not cops” my answering feeling is relief. In this situation, Tina is putting the emphasis on the white militia’s history of lynching people of color, so that statement is turned on its head, causing terror instead of relief. But this is a classic comedic reversal on multiple dimensions since white people usually feel only terror when someone yells “they’re not cops!”
The only reason Che would grab the cake is because, for the first time a black man has reason to be scared and not relieved that the cops aren’t here. Because now there’s something with even more racism and even less discipline than a cop on your ass. So, you know, eat some cake. Hilarious.
7. “And then your family says, ‘oh Mom you need to calm down’ and you start to feel powerless.” You only feel powerless. You have most of the power in this situation. And, FYI I would never beat a kid, but if a child of mine told me to calm down about racism, you know for fucking sure everything that kid owns is going into a locked box in the shed until he fucking apologizes for siding with the God damn nazis. Get fucking Hitler to buy you shoes if you love the status quo so much, motherfucker. Wear rite-aid flip flops to school until you appreciate income disparity in real time, bitch.
Patriarchy is going to try to tell you that nice girls don’t talk back to men. Nice girls don’t take away their smart phones and make them use a shitty Motorola flip phone with the flip spring so hard it makes that little skin piece at the back of your thumbnail bleed every time you want to answer the damn phone like a cool guy.
That’s bullshit. I don’t care if your invalid dad says you need to shut up as you’re spooning life-giving gruel into his old racist face or else he’ll starve to death all alone. Wheel his ass into the street and just hope the Klan has a van with a ramp on it.
And don’t do it for me. Do it for you, white friend. You can’t hold a me down without staying down with me. We can both be free. This feeling you’re feeling right now: your children don’t have to feel it if you just stop teaching them to stay quiet. Stop taking no for an answer. Stop pretending you don’t have agency in your own life.
Are you going to fuck up sometimes? Yeah, we all will. Are you going to step on some toes, maybe say some racist shit on accident? Yeah. Me too. But if we’re willing to be humble and curious and to press forward against the white supremacist patriarchy that tried to pit us against each other for its own selfish ends, we have the whole future ahead of us. Put the cake down. Pick yourself up and fight.