We have three perfect examples of white, liberal privilege on display last week in both the actions of some and, more importantly, in the silence of others.

First, this is not a call to “cancel” Jessica Sell Chambers and Mary Erickson but to question why some people think cancel culture is OK to be leveled against perceived enemies but not when the behavior comes home to roost.

Michael Kudar applied black makeup for a Halloween costume 10 years ago. I don’t care. Have you ever worn a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo? Have you appropriated an accent for the sake of a joke or retelling a joke? Of course you have.

These things are not OK. Michael and his wife told me of their transgression and of their regret. I understand, and I am happy they are taking responsibility and growing from it. While I have always supported Hailey Morton Levinson for mayor and still do (and they know that), I think they did the right thing when this information came to light.

When you know better, do better. If you know better and still do it, then we have a problem. Specifically, you have a problem with me.

Which brings me to the most offensive, egregious behavior that I have ever seen and, then, the doubly offensive silence of people who purport to be allies.

Chambers and Erickson did modern-day blackface when they decided they should approach a duly elected town councilor on behalf of women of color and suggest he step down “for women of color.”

What they did was immoral, trying to rig an election, no matter how “holy” their cause. But what I find downright offensive is that they felt they had a right to speak on behalf of women of color at all.

We don’t need saving. You had no right, no right, to deputize yourself as spokespeople and then proudly go out in the community with not one ounce of shame or self-reflection. Do you understand how deep your sense of entitlement and superiority must be to assume you could do something so wrong, supposedly on behalf of people you are not?

This is the same woman, Sell Chambers, who banded with current Mayor Pete Muldoon (don’t get me started), to character-assassinate then-Mayor Sara Filtner in the 2016 election. Some of the most woman-hating, misogynistic behavior I have ever witnessed. The only thing worse: young, woke white women lining up to cheer them both on.

This year has been one of reckoning. One in which white people have had to look inside themselves and decide if they want to be anti-racist or just stay on their virtue signaling.

Well, allies, you have a perfect opportunity to look at yourself, and ask yourself, “Is this the sort of behavior that we want in our movement?”

The right-wight conservative Republicans are going to do what they do. You pointing out every flaw as reason for canceling them is not helping. You blatantly ignoring problems in your own house is infuriating.

If you were outraged by “blackface” and silent on this egregious appropriation, we have nothing more to speak about.

Do the work, or don’t ever speak to me again about doing the work.

Jenn Ford is a Black person, a woman of color who did not ask for any of this nonsense. She lives in Jackson. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their author.

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(3) comments

Jessica Sell Chambers

To set the misinformation straight***if that was in fact what we did I would have to agree with Jenn. White people attempting to speak on behalf of any group of people is wrong. Further, people of color or black women are not monoliths to be spoken for, that is often a mistake made by white people, thinking that all or any person of a group speaks for the whole. However these are the facts: one, I did not call to cancel Michael, I won’t support regardless; second, we did not in any way shape or form speak for women of color; thirdly, Mayor Flitner lost her race by more or less the same margin she won it. I take no responsibility for that.

Jessica Sell Chambers

To expand on my previous comment: Once again, I want to correct the record *** we NEVER EVER spoke for people of color. We never once said women or people of color cannot win elections on their own merit or without an "assist" and Schechter claimed. We spoke about systemic racism and sexism and patriarchy and how all of us can address power differentials and privilege. In some cases, white men relinquishing power or stepping back to support and make room for more diverse voices is a solution. Not everyone in Jackson will agree with this concept or action.

We spoke about barriers and obstacles that underrepresented people have such as for women - how an enabling device to promote more equal representation in leadership for women is making sure we have robust childcare and early education system. In response to creating room for underrepresented people in elected office, Jonathan Schecter asked who would be an ideal appointee. We reflected that the council is missing a younger demographic; a female demographic; a Latina or person of color - thereby Jonathan took that an said we wanted him to step down so a younger woman of color is appointed. This was neither said by us nor was it intended, nor is it possible to guarantee by the process of appointment.

As for representing the sentiment of women or people of color, there are women and/or Black/Brown, Indigenous People of Color who believe a perfectly acceptable solution is for white men to relinquish their power - it is a direct mode to transfer power. Expecting that a few people of color speak for all people of color is an error of thinking for white people. One person of color does not speak for all people of color, which is a fallacy we as white people need to examine and stop assuming or requiring. At the same time, a general movement does not represent the opinions or feelings of an individual woman or person of color. Neither are monoliths, something I am well aware of as a woman - I do not share the same opinions of all women.

Mary Erickson and I are two constituents and we sat down with our elected to discuss an issue. That conversation has been misrepresented or misunderstood by many. In response to our conversation, Schechter a week later said he had "deeply considered" our conversation. It was a conversation like Erickson said was about power, systems, and possible solutions. At the time we also discussed systemic solutions for systemic problems, something Schecter ultimately agreed upon as his path forward.

Additionally, one could also argue that some voters elected a man who is expected to lead and represent, therefore any decision he makes is supported by his electors by proxy. In this situation, I was the person who initiated the conversation with the paper; it was not a discovery or scandal. We never once said we spoke on behalf of anyone. We are two women, also underrepresented. I hope at some point, Schechter jumps in here to correct some misinformation about the conversation. As an older white male, as usual, his voice would be heard and respected.

hayden hilke

Jessica Sell Chambers, your answer feels extremely tone deaf to me. This was a direct and insightful piece written by Jenn Ford. She laid out how you can save some face after your egregious act. Your answer is to take zero responsibility for your actions. That is pretty telling...

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