So, NBC allegedly officially gave Megan Kelly the boot today following comments she made on her morning show Tuesday, ostensibly wondering why blackface in Halloween costumes is racist. I literally hate the fact that I have to type my own name over and over – simple spelling not withstanding – as I unpack why she completely deserves the boot.
“I can’t keep up with the number of people we’re offending just by being normal people,” Kelly said Tuesday. Honey, let me give you a tip. Normal people take the high road. If there’s a possibility that they could hurt or offend others, so-called normal people just won’t do it.
A racist person like Kelly, on the other hand, with an overinflated ego and a profoundly deep belief in Santa’s whiteness and her own privilege, will try to pull it, to push things as far as she can. Only this time she went too far, and her ass got fired for it.
Maybe she wanted to get fired, I don’t know. I doubt it though, since her agency CAA also gave her the axe. That’s a bit much to contend with money/career wise, even if you do think political correctness has run amok.
Let’s put aside, for the moment, what normal people do, and consider what professional journalists do who sit in the coveted “Today” anchor chair and have nearly $70M contracts. In that position, can you afford to be so oblivious?
Yes, Halloween is coming. The one day of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up as someone else, to take on a different persona, to pretend to be someone that you’re not. Based on that very simple premise, no, dressing up as Diana Ross if you’re a white woman isn’t wrong. But it is dreadfully insensitive, rude, careless, and potentially hurtful to others if you color your face.
Even in her twice-given apology she acknowledged that race is a sensitive, divisive issue, particularly in the current political climate. So, if she knew that race is a hot button issue why take the chance? She wasn’t advancing the conversation about racism in this country. She wasn’t talking about injustice or promoting tolerance or inclusion. She wasn’t unveiling new research or even commenting on a high ranking official’s recent missteps related to this subject matter. She was talking about the American version of a holiday where kids get permission to gorge on candy, and adult men and women wear silly/slutty costumes and reveal pieces of themselves that they should probably keep hidden.
Was it ego? Maybe she thought because she’s blond and white and once faced off against President Trump and lived that she was somehow bulletproof? Ultimately, all Kelly did was confirm her ignorance. I don’t expect everyone to know everything, I certainly don’t, but as a responsible journalist shouldn’t she have done at least a little research on blackface before she tried to explain it away so frivolously?
Blackface was makeup used in minstrelsy, which began in the 1800s. Minstrels were comedic performances of what it means to be black though working-class white eyes. One article I read said in its very first paragraph:
“Historian Dale Cockrell once noted that poor and working-class whites who felt “squeezed politically, economically, and socially from the top, but also from the bottom, invented minstrelsy” as a way of expressing the oppression that marked being members of the majority, but outside of the white norm. Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.”
I Googled “blackface origins,” and that article, “Blackface: The Birth of an American Stereotype,” came up on the first page, spot three. That’s how quickly Kelly could have confirmed that blackface is not okay for your Halloween costume. It’s also how quickly she confirmed that she’s lazy, rude and generally just crap at her job.
The sad, galling thing is, while Kelly may have lost her gig, I bet she’s going to be paid to leave. It likely will not, however, be the rest of that $69M she would have made for her three-year contract. What Kelly forgot, and it’s a lesson I think she’s about to learn, is that society is far less forgiving of high profile women who make public mistakes than their male counterparts.
NBC News chairman Andy Lack said at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, “There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks, there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate.” Kelly, you are now unfortunate. Yuck.
It will be interesting to see who picks her up after this, what path her career takes. It will also be interesting to see who gets her spot permanently. May I suggest Tamron Hall, who was replaced by Kelly’s low-rated show initially? I bet Hall is savvy enough to know not to – on live television – promote the acceptability of racial stereotypes as long as you win best costume on candy day.