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Amanda Seales, the HBO Insecure actress and comic, breaks down her take on what happened between her and the transgender Trump supporter, whom she dubs, “The Obstructionist.”
“I’m not hostile. I’m just passionate.” That’s what I told Caitlyn Jenner as she sat across from me, her red nail-polished fingertips clasped in indignation, during a June Youtube live-streamed Friends and Family: Dinner With Discourse hosted by Katy Perry. The gathering — a part of Katy’s 96-hour, Big Brother house-style “World Wide Witness” live stream produced to promote her new album, Witness — brought together a diverse group of minds, including CNN’s Van Jones and Sally Kohn, The View’s Ana Navarro, DJ Skeeter, comedian Margaret Cho, Vanity Fair writer Derek Blasburg and me, Amanda Seales. The point was to encourage the importance of having difficult conversations with people you may respect, but with whom you have diverging and very disparate views. It lived up to expectations.
The dinner quickly devolved when Caitlyn bristled at statements I made regarding the current president’s proclivity for tyrannical behavior. With urging, she defended her position, saying that she “loves this country.” When I began to candidly, yet courteously, explain mine — that her white privilege informs how she views America, and that it contrasts with my perspective as a black woman — shit got real. [Jenner stated she wants a non-interfering government, and rolled her eyes when told that African Americans have historically faced government interference, including having interracial marriage be illegal, as in the 2016 movie Loving.]
Everyone could feel it. Everybody knew it. A moment was happening.
About last night at Katy Perry live dinner. I don’t take being in these conversations lightly. As a black woman they will far too often consider your intellect a threat and your passion a problem. I hope I inspired others last night to live in your truth no matter who is at the table. Let’s grow not just a discourse of love but a DISCOURSE OF COURAGE. Because that’s what it takes to face and deliver these inconvenient truths. Made my momma proud last night. Thanks for the love y’all. [Feel free to RP the vid]
A post shared by amandaseales (@amandaseales) on
Moments of unfiltered truths being cast at unwavering points-of-view — like opposing spells from the wands of Dumbledore and Voldemort — have happened at countless dinner tables since the election. These moments force everyone to play a role in whether the conversation will be an effective one.
Our table was no different. There was Sally Kohn and Katy Perry playing the role of The Listener, the safest and often the most courteous position to play — especially if you’re a white person and a black person is speaking about their black experience. Van Jones was The Moderator: He was vital in not allowing the conversation to be derailed by lack of perspective. For instance, clarifying the concept of governmental interference in the lives of black people, which Caitlyn seemed unable to understand. Margaret Cho and DJ Skeeter were The Allies: They may not have said much, but their demeanors read, “Speak your truth!” Margaret’s grin as I was breaking it down to CJ was like that of a proud mom watching her kid finally confront her bully.
Which is the kind of encouragement you need when you’re up against The Obstructionist: In this case, that was Caitlyn, the person at the table choosing to disengage when the discussion becomes difficult, willfully ignoring facts presented as counter to their point, nor genuinely taking in a new perspective. This stops discourse in its tracks.
Lastly, there was me, The Truth Teller, the person with the tenacity to speak directly to the heart of the issue. After the clip went viral, several people asked me, “Do you think she heard you?” My response? “I don’t care.” However, there were hella black folks who did and felt empowered by the exchange. Right now, we’re all at one big dinner table called America, and while it may not be live-streamed, we must remember to ask ourselves: What role will you play in the conversation to make sure you land on the right side of history?
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