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Steele: F**k You, Gawker! If Black People Are Cowards, What Are White People?

by Tanya Steele
April 29, 2014 12:26 PM
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Gawker Fail

Certainly, I believe in free speech. Publications have the right to choose what they want to publish. We have a right to respond. 

The recent piece that ran on Gawker - "Black People Are Cowards" by Homeboy Sandman (a Black man) - missed the target. Most of these pieces that call on Black America to somehow rip the calcified racist monolith that is America always miss the target. Black people are solely responsible for challenging racism and obliterating it to smithereens. Us? Us?! As White people, liberal, progressive and otherwise, sit back and enjoy the show.

As stated in my piece, “Black Folks, It’s Time To Stop Taking Care of White People”, I refer to the endless parade of successful Black people who suddenly find themselves “race experts” in the media, talking about how they have twisted, turned and otherwise shrunk themselves to accommodate White neuroses. We don’t, on the other hand, see White people taking ownership of racism. Explaining how racism is birthed, enacted or quaking in their bones when they ride alone in elevators with Black men. Or, in any way speak to their inherent fears of Black people. Trust me, they have them. If you grew up in America, White, Black, Asian, etc. you will harbor some ill conceived perception of Black people. How can you not? The dehumanization of Black Americans is in the water we drink. It’s everywhere. So, unless you’ve done the hard work of exorcising those demons, they haunt you. But, why don’t we get to hear that side of it? Why are White people not a part of the conversation? We can not heal the great race divide if one side is saddled with the burden of explaining racism in America.

And, I see this constantly. White folks just sitting back and benefitting from our suffering. Yes, benefiting. Who do you think benefits from stories like Donald Sterling? Whose coffers are filled? It becomes a freak show in the media. An endless sideshow of replayed tape recordings, images of a broken and clearly insane man (Donald Sterling) and his equally disturbed mistress get paraded before us. And, we click on the stories, watch the shows and the commercials that sponsor the freak show. And, the media outlets benefit. Nothing in the culture changes. Not the complexion of the board rooms, not the complexion of Hollywood studio Executives. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. But, Black folks are asked to “do something”. 

Now, let’s take a look at ownership of the media outlets. Someone, I’m sure, will cry ‘BET’ in the comment section. Let me get that out of the way. Johnson publications and well, whatever else they can rustle up. We done? Now, CNN, FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, HLN, MSNBC let’s take a look at the level of diversity at these outlets. Who is in charge? Who is making the decisions? Who makes the most money at these outlets? Who has the most power?

Let’s continue. Go down the roster. Gawker? What does your Editorial staff look like? Who owns the site? Who benefits from the click on Sandman’s article? How many Black folks do you employ? How many Black writers are given an audience on your site? Yes, I am thankful that you had the good sense to feature Kiese Laymon. That was a great move. Who else? Who gets the most money from the number of clicks that the “Black People Are Cowards” article receives? Without listing them, I would offer the same questions to other magazines and online publications.

Going further. There is an endless flow of blood in Chicago. Yearly. Who gives this ink? Who gives this the same amount of time and coverage that is given to, say, the Boston Marathon Bombing. Or, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Or, the Aurora Colorado mass shooting? Who?! Why not? Because the previously mentioned concern all of us? Does Black life not concern all of us? Children are dying. DYING! Bleeding out. Families mourning. Grieving. Children’s lives are being obliterated by witnessing this blight. And, who gives a fuck?

I will end here with the roster and then I will sum this up. On the most immediate level, I will use my social networking threads as a small sample. Whenever there is the horror, the death of a Black child. A Black child like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis or Renisha McBride, my Black friends replace their profile photo with a photo of the deceased. We bear witness to the pain, we feel the loss. Every time, only ONE, ONE, I will see ONE of my White friends change her profile photo to acknowledge the death and the grief. I will see my other friends post about mindless events of the day. Baking a pie, what happened at the grocery store, etc. These same White friends will have posted their grief surrounding Sandy Hook, Aurora, whatever involves White life. Renisha, Trayvon, Jordan, somehow don't not impact their day- AT ALL! My Black friends change their profile photos for whatever horrid incident occurs- White, Black, Asian, doesn’t matter.  How is this possible? It’s possible because Black people are supposed to care about Black life. Everyone else is supposed to care about White life.

By default, White is grief. White is power. White is worthy of our time and attention. White is saintly. Doesn’t matter what White does. For christ’s sake, they recently canonized a Pope who reigned over an institution that was saturated in child molestation. Canonized him! Really?! White matters. 

Gawker, until you regale us with a piece about White cowardice, or, White disregard for Black life, think about your decision to run a piece about Black people being cowards. One of your writers, Kiese Laymon, is one of the boldest and least cowardly voices in the current cultural landscape. Jamilah Lemieux ain’t no coward. Brittney Cooper, Roxane Gay, deceased Karyn Washington, Tambay Obenson- these folks ain’t cowards.  In Academia, Scott Poulson Bryant, Craig Steven Wilder, do you know bell hooks. In the visual realm, Kara Walker, Carrie Weems, etc. Look, I can’t even begin to name names. It would be insulting to the vast number of individuals I would have to leave out- in ALL disciplines. There are countless numbers of us, actively, engaged in protest and resistance. Give me a break! Black folks are getting it done, getting it said in every way possible. There are brave and courageous Black people whose voices are loud and clear. But, it is not OUR choice that they are not on our televisions around the clock. WE don’t make the choices. 

Whoever sits in front of the camera or gets to pen a piece is chosen by the same cowardly muthafuckas who could give two shits about Blackness unless it brings ratings. Or, unless some racesplainin’ needs to happen to help White people understand why people are acting so crazy when it comes to race. 

Black people are not cowards. You got that damn wrong! We are patient, we are hurting, we are grieving we are tired of fighting, we are marginalized, we are creators, lovers, musicians, activists, writers, raising families in the midst of a culture that is hostile to us. We are holding up a light, trying to keep the flame burning that our ancestors, gracefully, held up for us so that we could see the way forward. So, Sandman, maybe you need to get to know my friends. But, more importantly, maybe you need to understand that our cowardice is not what is keeping America in the dark ages. It is the cowardice of a culture that deifies Whiteness and forsakes all others. 

Sandman, I understand your frustration. And, I wrestled with what I would write about Clown Sterling. I was very careful to keep the attention on his vileness. Because, this is an opportunity to examine White racism. But, I did not  publish it because the story is way too greasy and the benefit to humanity would be next to nil.  

But, I, too, want the Clippers players to know how powerful they are in this moment. I, too, want Magic Johnson to stop jockeying so hard to be the owner of the Clippers and let those men protest how they want to. From what I understand, the Clippers team wanted to boycott the game and were persuaded in another direction. So, they did the next best thing. Can you imagine how those men must feel?! I, too, want the “old guard” to get out of the fu**ing way and let the new blood find our voice in protest. I, too, want the NBA players to all take a gotdamned stand. And, the fans who fill the stadium. The fans, mostly White, who can afford the overpriced tickets. One good move would be to find every inner city kid in LA, who wants to go to their game, and fill the Staples Center with them for the playoffs! As a matter of fact, for the rest of the damn season, all tickets should be handed over to inner city youth! Or, I want the broadcasters to make a decision to not broadcast, at least, one Clippers game. We ALL have to make decisions, here. It is not, solely, the responsibility of Black people. Because things are different, right? Because we elected a Black President. Because America is post-racial. Because Black people are human and everyone treats us as such. 

When it comes to racism dude, don’t get it twisted, the cowardice is on the White end of the spectrum.

Follow Tanya Steele on Twitter at @digtanya. Or on facebook at Or visit

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  • alp | May 5, 2014 7:42 PMReply

    oh good GRAVY i cant read any more tanya steele

  • kmail | May 2, 2014 5:13 PMReply

    if you wonder why ticket prices are so high, because these players (mostly black) want to get paid an ungodly amount of money to play a game

  • mohameed | May 2, 2014 5:10 PMReply

    look at the facts and numbers on which race people (blacks,whites and Hispanic) adults interviewed think is the most racist. you might be surprised at the results

  • Jonathan | July 23, 2014 2:59 AM

    Obviously white people play mind games and reverse physiology, if you believe any opinion they give in an interview is not motivated by an agenda well, you need get to the 21st century. But you already knew that because you imagine kissing white butt will get you somewhere.

    Anyway, how the bombing of muslim countries by white people going? ;D

  • jase howard | May 2, 2014 5:07 PMReply

    do you have any positive statements to say, or just the same old reteric of "whitey got us down" there are racist people in every race but your comments don't do anything but get everyones negative feelings taking over. have a solution not just the problems.

  • Akimbo | May 1, 2014 1:05 AMReply

    ...Tanya, did you read the whole article?

    I didn't like it because it was obnoxiously click-baity, but I'm pretty sure the point was to shut people calling black people cowards up.

  • QB | April 29, 2014 5:52 PMReply

    Wait.. why shouldn't Magic "jockey" to buy the Clippers. We need more Black owners and people in REAL positions of power. Otherwise I agree with most of your points, but I think it's futile to rely on White folks to address racism. If Black folks can create and sustain real wealth in this country then they will have the power to make changes and confront any enemy. Do for self, because history has shown that they (generally) do not give a f--k.

  • Jenn | April 29, 2014 5:04 PMReply

    I really appreciate this post. Last night I made the mistake of clicking to this Gawker article and it drove me into the kitchen to find a drink. All this written by someone that doesn't even use his real name. How are we cowards? We go at it every single day and this joker has the nerve to say that because we didn't protest the way he felt we should, we are cowards? OMG. There is not enough STFU sandwiches to feed to this guy.

  • Charles Judson | April 30, 2014 5:39 PM

    @Monkeysuite Agreed, it is laziness. My reply is hyperbolic. A definition of cowardice is the fear of facing opposition. The lack of action to match our collective "outrage" just barely makes it so. I look forward to skipping the future articles and op-eds that will be generated when the next batch of rich racist white dudes are outed.

  • monkeysuite | April 30, 2014 10:46 AM

    @Charles No, that's called laziness. And what you just did is called hyperbole.

  • Charles Judson | April 30, 2014 8:31 AM

    Cowardice is calling someone out for not using his real name, when it takes 5 seconds to find it., while ironically replying using only one name..

  • Charles Judson | April 29, 2014 4:16 PMReply

    Hell yeah! Let's stand up to the racist billionaire! What? He'll still be a billionaire? Can we flog him just a little? That's not legal? Can we give him an Indian rub burn? Just kidding. Seriously, how can we drop the hammer on him? ... ... Bueller? Bueller?

    The majestic towers and palaces we could build if rhetoric and words were only made of marble.

  • Old Lady | April 29, 2014 3:05 PMReply

    Toni Morrison says black people can't be the patient and the doctor.

  • Aaron Smith | April 29, 2014 1:17 PMReply

    Uh. Ur an idiot lady! You obviously didn't read that whole article which was written by a black man!!!! This is a time we need this site to agree with articles like that because it's true. He ends the article with 500 words about how he doesn't really think black ppl are cowards but Everyone is especially your beloved white man. It's jus times and situations like this that us a black ppl have to set ourselves apart, take risk and shake up the world. By doin so you prove your worth without the help or acceptance of Any of race but ours. Delete this damn post and promote that gawker so we can start the engine to empower black folk

  • Aton | July 23, 2014 3:10 AM

    *not in the email itself - which candidly said something along the lines of thanks for meeting with me and agreeing to stop the race jokes - but by sending the email, it showed I was serious and provided an audit.

    This is how you fight white people. You fight fire with fire. Whites love rules, laws and regulations, even if only superficially. So the way you beat whites is in like manner. Out smart them and know that they are your competition.

  • Aton | July 23, 2014 3:07 AM

    At first the article sounds like a dig at people of Afro descent, but after reading it all the message is sacrifice, fearlessness (a nothing to lose mentality) and the importance of being strong. Once one realises these truths, you truly become free.

    For example, the other day I had to tell my (white) manager that I do not accept race jokes of any sort. I then sent an email with a time and date afterward confirming our conversation (this basically said to him, if you try me, I will sue your ass), the jokes promptly stopped.

  • Troy | April 29, 2014 2:33 PM

    How can you work with someone you called an idiot. Gawker has nothing to gain. Hate-mongering is a profitable business model. Black people reading that article won't elicit the unity you believe it would. Understood by the fact that Tanya read the article and doesn't agree with it.

  • Mawon | April 29, 2014 1:11 PMReply


  • Phill | April 29, 2014 1:06 PMReply

    Following your logic of social media empathy and activism by "bearing witness" to the pain of many of your black friends show regular visual support in solidarity for issues not related to race, mass-shootings, or natural disasters? I don't see much of an outcry gay marriage, woman's rights (not related to hair or Beyonce), trans issues, the Ukraine etc. We're all a bit guilty of the sort of self-centeredness you are ascribing to white people. Furthermore, I am all for a rebuttal, but you can't name five well-known folks in response to an essay that was challenging ever day people to stand up. Sure, The Gawker essay was inflammatory, but respond to what was written. He makes note of the Facebook activism you mention and challenges it as bullshit. You didn't say anything that contradicts his comments. No, black people aren't cowards, but that "We have no power" argument can't be the end of the discussion. I think the point being made in the Gawker article, though it may be hard to see underneath the attention-seeking title, is what can an individual do with the power they do posses.

  • Troy | April 29, 2014 2:30 PM

    The point of the Gawker article was to make money off of racism. Sandman wrote the article because he was in his feelings about how his network of uneducated people respond to these type of issues. Tanya wants Sandman to also call the people publishing his article for profit Cowards for war profiteering. You want Tanya to know she is also fallible. I want you to know that we all are fallible and none of us have never done enough.

  • Ty Stone | April 29, 2014 12:46 PMReply

    There are not enough words to say how much I love this. As an indie black filmmaker these words mean a lot and shit that is happen effects not just the NBA but this country. Thank you!

  • Aaron | April 29, 2014 12:36 PMReply

    A hit dog hollers, right?

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