As the nation reels from the tragic murder of George Floyd, celebrities have taken to social media to speak out. Generally speaking, it has been encouraging to see the public outpouring after such a horrific event.
According to Samantha Ware, Lea made Samatha’s time on the set of Glee “a living hell” and, given the opportunity, Lea would like to “Shit in her wig.” Other former Glee cast members, including Amber Riley, have tweeted memes that cosign Samatha’s tweets, suggesting that Lea Michelle routinely engaged in the microaggressions on set.
By publicly airing this out, Samantha’s message was clear: Don’t call yourself an ally if you aren’t treating people of color well in real life.
Sadly, because the entire country has had racial issues put in their face right now, it’s probably the only time Samantha could get her message out without looking like another angry black woman jealous of someone more famous.
This is the racism that stings the most because it’s so familiar. It’s not the blatant acts that are obviously disgusting, it’s the slow chipping away of our humanity that won’t make headlines because it’s so common. It’s the stuff that we swallow every day that underpins the anger and frustration that we see erupting right now. And frankly, it’s the reason that social media trends like #BlackOutTuesday feel like a performative waste of time.
What Samantha is touching on is where the real work lies. When outrage dies with the 24-hour news cycle, it becomes hollow and a form of slacktivism and performance.
If these allegations are true, Lea Michele can do a lot more for the black community by changing the way she treats the people of color she actually interacts with on a daily basis.
I applaud the allies for speaking out because publicity can ensure that the policeman who murdered George Floyd is appropriately punished. However, it is not enough. The donations, the newfound awareness, the social media statements all have their place, but they cannot blind us from the smaller ways in which we need to do better. The fact that the police officer felt that he could treat another person like that or that whatever fear he felt was more important than George’s life is a direct reflection of the culture around him.
It’s easy to say that Lea Michele’s actions weren’t nearly as reprehensible as George Floyd’s killer, but they have their roots in the same beliefs. Both offenders treated people differently than they would a white person. Systematic racism will only end with a cultural shift; it’s only when black people are treated exactly like their white counterparts in our day-to-day lives that policemen will treat them the same in their work lives. After the controversy has died down, we need to stay critical and engaged with our own racism.
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Ayo is a writer and producer based in Brooklyn, but proudly from the Midwest. When she’s not agonizng over applying to grad school, she is working on her first podcast, I Think I Read This Somewhere