Things That Matter

A White Woman Is Going Viral For Saying That Broadway’s ‘Slave Play’ Is Racist Against White People

Black playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ buzzworthy Slave Play, has been both revered and abhorred by audience members. The show has received much critical acclaim after opening a month ago but a recent tirade, caught on camera, of an audience member alleging the play was racist against white people shows just how uncomfortable stories about anti-blackness and white supremacy make viewers. The broadway comedy tells the story of three interracial couples during the Antebellum-era who use slave role-playing as sexual therapy. 

Harris believes the white woman’s rant, which lasted several minutes, was merely life imitating art. The video of the woman’s confrontation went viral. Many people dismissed her expletive-filled rant as “white fragility,” according to the Washington Post. 

Harris shared the video on his own Twitter account.

Harris and an actor sat down for a Q&A after a show. That’s when the white woman got up from her seat and began shouting. She asked how the play wasn’t “racist against white people?” She claimed that there was “a whole bunch of stuff about how white people don’t get how racist they are,” in the video. 

The audience begins to murmur but Harris explains that the play is about eight people and can’t reflect every single person. He told her it was all a metaphor, and if she isn’t like the white characters in his play then good. 

“I never once said that you as a white woman were not a marginalized person,” Harris responds. “But if you heard that in my play, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps read it or see it again.”

Harris joked that she gave the audience an amazing second play. Despite grumbles, the woman persistently tried to yell her point until finally storming out of the theater. The audience applauded her departure. 

“The plays shows the unconscious ways that white people take up space, that they don’t leave open for black people,” Harris told The Washington Post. “This play doesn’t necessarily have to be about her … but she did just create her own character.”

Twitter users continued to point out the irony in the woman’s behavior. 

“My fave part of this is that she’s standing up to yell in a theatre about her white oppression. It’s my favorite because 1: oppressed people don’t get to do that. A black man would’ve been arrested for this behavior or worse,” one user wrote on Twitter. “2: she’s sitting in a seat a black person wouldn’t have been able to sit in half a century ago.”

Harris told the Washington Post he didn’t want to be dismissive of the woman, instead, he’d rather engage in a conversation with her. 

“It would have been hypocritical of me as someone who said from the beginning, I wanted this to be a play that sparked conversations,” he told The Washington Post.

Many people thought it was outrageous that the woman’s complaint was that white people were portrayed sympathetically in a play about slavery in the Antebellum era. 

“A play about slavery, and her complaint is that HER experience wasn’t represented? Makes me ashamed to be a white woman,” another user tweeted. 

Slave Play has received criticism from white and black audience members alike. 

There is currently a Change.org petition with over 6,000 signatures to shut down the broadway show. The creator of the petition claims it is anti-black. However, by her own admission the sentiment comes from the predominantly white audience’s reactions to what was in it.

“This past Saturday I attended Slave Play for the 8 pm showing. I wanted to verbalize that this was one of the most disrespectful displays of anti-Black sentiment disguised as art that I have ever seen,” the petition reads. “As a Black woman, I was terribly offended and traumatized by the graphic imagery mixed with laughter from a predominantly white audience.”

Broadway audiences tend to be largely white due to the high cost of tickets. Slave Play hosted a “Black Out” night where discounted tickets were provided to a black audience of 800 — a rarity in broadway. 

“We can succumb to a fear-based culture really easily, especially when bad people are in charge. That’s when we should be the loudest and the most individualistic because that’s the only way to actually combat fascism,” Harris told The Guardian of some of his black critics. “When I speak to artists – especially artists from oppressed groups – I see them necessitating this self-censorship. And I’m like: “No, be free! The only time you can be free in this world is when you’re writing.”

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Things That Matter

Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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