So a white woman did a comedy bit about how people should stay inside their homes huddled over a cake (purchased from a minority baker) while white men and women armed with weapons and torches march in the streets shouting slogans against Jews, Muslims, queer and trans people, black people and people of colour. Huh.
Is the idea that you buy the cake before the march because with no one outside offering up an opposite message the marchers could feel emboldened to smash up and trash the businesses of minority identity owners and proprietors? This is your one chance to get a cake from that establishment? Or is it with your face stuffed in the cake you won’t hear if they find anyone outside and attack them? Is it so that you can make painfully clear your personal priorities in a world where white supremacists feel that they can safely march in the streets with their torches, their slogans, their weapons, their military gear? Is it because you can eat as much cake as you want as you personally will never be in danger from them? This advice might be the single whitest thing I have ever heard a person say.
People have shared Fey’s “comedy” routine noting earnestly how they agree with her that everyone is just so exhausted since the election and this is a suitable reaction to the latest events: to huddle in exhausted frustration in one’s house, eating cake, ignoring the outside world. There are a few little problems to note. The idea that people are exhausted, saddened and depressed over 45 and resulting events is valid. However there are those who are also completely frightened for their lives, their property and their livelihood. Anyone of any minority identity is protesting by their very existence: “no, not me, I have rights and I am allowed to exercise them, I am allowed to exist.” All any white person needs to worry about is whether they’ve made clear that they think others have those rights and that they accept that.
There is also a persistent myth at play here: that the white supremacist Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, who supported Trump, are just loud-mouthed bully boys with no real power. Those who sneer at these “bullies” are the same ones who jump forth at every shooting spree in the US quick to point out that right-wing extremists are the real danger, the real terrorists. It seems an odd divide: the white men and women with all the military gear and weapons and torches and slogans and anger are just lost bullies looking for attention… and yet some of them take those weapons and march into churches full of black people and slaughter those within. Those people do not spring from thin air; nor only from encountering counter-protesters.
I understand the appeal of this sketch; it’s exhausting continuing what seems a useless fight with no clear path, no clear instructions. That’s the path that those of minority identity take everyday…not knowing which white person secretly harbours complete contempt for your existence, which ones are actually card-carrying members of white supremacist organizations. White people are shocked by the Charlottesville march because they think this white nationalism is new. Minority identity people understand that it’s that the Nazis feel safe to march in public because their numbers have swelled, their funds have increased, their weapons stockpiles have grown. And now they feel it’s time to be seen in public… where other white people can see them and voice their agreement, or by their very silence signal that they will look the other way.
White people have decided that silence does not equal complicity; by this very comedy routine Fey is giving others permission to say that silence is just not speaking right now. Fortified by cake, perhaps the urge will strike the next day. Perhaps a sugar rush will fuel an early morning social media rant. Perhaps one will like the cake so much that one’s life will be centred on going out to buy a new one the next day. With any luck there will be a white baker in town who feels safe to open for business.