Lean The Fuck Back: Jessica Williams’ Doesn’t Need White Saviorism

Story time!

A few months ago, I was approached about a position someone thought I’d be a great fit for because of the content on this blog. It was a promising one for a promising project for an established company. I was honored that I was even considered in the running but in the end, I didn’t accept the job. Until now, very few people actually knew about it. I kept it that way because I didn’t want to hear anything close to what The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams read on The Billfold. In the incredibly condescending article, Williams was chastised by writer Ester Bloom for tweeting that she was unqualified to ake over The Daily Show after Jon Stewart’s departure. According to Bloom, the comedienne exhibiting what the author calls Imposter System which she defined as “a well-documented phenomenon in which men look at their abilities vs the requirements of a job posting and round up, whereas women do the same and round down, calling themselves “unqualified.””

And then Bloom suggested a lean-in with a laundry list of prominent Black content creators to give Williams a pep talk. She also infers Williams’ decision is a win for white supremacy.

Bloom says:

How modest! How self-effacing! You can almost hear all the old white people who benefit from the status quo nodding their approval. We did it, they whisper. We have succeeded in instilling in yet another competent, confident young woman a total lack of understanding of her own self-worth! We didn’t even need to undermine her; we gave her the tools and she undermined herself. Well done all. Good show. Let’s play eighteen holes and then hit up Hooters for lunch.

Jessica Williams, respectfully, I reject your humility. What on earth does “under-qualified” mean when it comes to being a comedian? You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re self-possessed. Is there something I’m missing?

Ironically, Bloom, a white woman, doesn’t see the contradiction in her speaking over Williams and not respecting her agency. White feminists have this nasty habit of speaking for and over women of color and they get away with it because they supposedly have good intentions. They have good intentions but they aren’t using them to give women of color jobs or opportunities.

Women of color are only useful when they need a token negro keynote at a conference or some page views. They’re so quick to tell us how we should feel and what we should do but when we need something substantial or they piss us off, they get defensive, disappear or in Bloom’s case, offer a half-assed apology. The following apology came after Williams told Bloom to “lean the fuck back” after she read the article.

ETA: I apologize for being insensitive here. I should have underlined that of course the choice belongs only to Williams. If she had said, “I don’t want the job,” I would have left it there. Her saying “I’m not qualified” is what intrigued me, especially since I’ve read so much about Impostor Syndrome lately and that’s so often the language women use.

Again, I want to emphasize that I have enormous respect for Williams. I think she’s talented and funny and great. That said, Williams is not accountable to either old white tastemakers or, as the also talented and funny Wyatt Cenac pointed out, to young opinionated ones like me. The decision is entirely hers.

How many times are white feminists going to have to apologize before they realize that sometimes, it’s alright to sit down and shut the hell up?

Welp.

Women of color don’t need you to speak for us. Dealing with those old white people Bloom mentioned is enough of an issue without some young white liberal using our backs as a soapbox. Either way, it isn’t us doing the talking.

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2 thoughts on “Lean The Fuck Back: Jessica Williams’ Doesn’t Need White Saviorism

  1. Sophia says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! To everything in this piece! Took the words right out of my mouth! She really didn’t see the irony in what she was doing at all. It’s tiresome seeing white women use black women only when they need to push their own agendas. I’m glad about Jessica Williams’ response. Of course we’d all love for her to host the show now but it’s her decision in the end, and she’s talented as hell so she’ll still do something amazing.

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