In the aftermath of NBC cancelling Megyn Kelly’s show after her comments of growing up with black face costumes, the controversy continued over on CNN after CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers declared that the feelings of white people are irrelevant in barring the use of Indian and other costumes as cultural appropriation. When commentator Kris Paronto (who is famous for his role in guarding the CIA annex during the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi) criticized Powers for saying the feelings of white people “didn’t matter,” Powers responded by calling Paronto and others criticism her “racists.” The exchange is an example of how little dialogue is actually occurring despite the focus on this issue. I have been critical of university efforts to ban certain Halloween outfits, but I can see the objections raised over their depiction. The problem is that no discussion is possible when maintaining an opposing view is instantly and conclusorily dismissed as racist.
The latest Halloween flare up occurred after Powers tweeted, “Dear white people who are upset that you can’t dress up as another race or culture for Halloween: your feelings don’t matter. The only feelings that matter are of those who feel disrespected/mocked by you appropriating their culture for entertainment. Show some common decency.”
Paronto responded with an insulting picture from “Game of Thrones” with the caption “How Kirsten Powers sees herself after complaining about white people dressing up as other ethnicities for Halloween.” The picture showed Daenerys Targaryen, the white queen of dark-skinned Dothraki tribe being carried by the tribe in adoration. You can find the scene here.
Powers was understandably insulting and there were other such criticisms in response on her Twitter account. However, Powers responded by charging racism: “Sorry racists, but people of color don’t need a white savior. But they need white people speaking up about racial discrimination and no amount of harassment by crazy racists online is going to stop me from doing that.”
The insults capture perfectly the problem that we are having in the United States in discussing race. It is not true, as is often stated, that we do not discuss racial issues. We actually talk a great deal about race and always have. The problem is that we talk past each other — tossing insults and attacking the speakers rather than address the underlying issues.
There is no room in our politics for a recognition that the other side may have good-faith reasons for their views. The Powers-Paronto exchange shows precisely why you can have a roaring national debate on race with little actually being said.