PG got in one night, and found a summer storm brewing on facebook. “Dear white people who still love Sharon Needles. Before you begin to defend her or justify this as art or whatever, please keep in mind that THERE IS AN ENTIRE POPULATION OF PEOPLE AFFECTED BY RACISM WHO THINK THIS IS FUCKED UP. Can you respect that, or will you continue to tell people of color what does and does not oppress them?” The first question is, who is Sharon Needles?
A baby boy was born in Newton IA on November 28, 1981. His parents named him Aaron Coady. He did not fit in, and moved to Pittsburgh PA in 2004. His stage name was Sharon Needles. As the years went by, he developed a “personality”. There was a tv show, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Miss Needles won season four. The Pittsburgh City Council honored her. Meanwhile, some people did not like her act.
There was a link on facebook, Dragged into Debate: Reality-TV fame puts spotlight on Sharon Needles’ controversial act. PG looked at the article, and found a video of a performance by Miss Needles. The show was in a noisy bar, with some drinking jokes. The makeup and costumes were flawless. (flawful might be better, if it wasn’t the name for hummus hushpuppies) The act was what one might expect of a button pushing drag queen. It is tough to be outrageous these days, but Sharon Needles is giving it the old college try.
Later, the matter got a bit more personal. “Sharon Needles recently performed in Nashville. I went to the performance. One of my friends got her autograph after the show. Sharon Needles wrote a note in the autograph in which she called my friend a n****r. Several of my white friends continue to loudly and publicly worship and promote Sharon Needles, despite having been at the show and knowing about the autograph (nevermind having heard other discussion about Needles’ unapologetic racism). Just thought y’all should know that supporting and promoting someone who is unapologetically perpetuating racism and refusing to be held accountable for it, is racist!
The fuss was a bit puzzling to PG. We can begin by breaking down the opening post. “THERE IS AN ENTIRE POPULATION OF PEOPLE AFFECTED BY RACISM WHO THINK THIS IS FUCKED UP.” Does this include Ru Paul? What about the millions of People of Color (POC) who had no idea who Sharon Needles was?
“Can you respect that, or will you continue to tell people of color what does and does not oppress them?” Are those the only two options here? To “respect” the notion that a nightclub performer in Pennsylvania is oppressing 35 million Americans? Or, if you don’t “respect” this highly questionable concept, you “you continue to tell people of color what does and does not oppress them.” Are these the only two choices? What if you ignore the peroxide poster girl, and treat your neighbor with respect?
There is also the $64 question, is Sharon Needles racist? (Winning a tv contest hosted by RuPaul should be remembered.) The tumblr Fuck Yea Sharon Needles has a picture of the performer in blackface. She is singing the opening number of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, which all good fans know was a pair of lips against a black background. PG did not hear anything racist in the video he endured. But then, PG is a white person, and as such is not qualified to decide what is, or is not, racist.
Facebook is a magnet for people who enjoy a digital quarrel. Evidently, that sometimes includes PG. He made a comment: “There was a line in an article about Miss Needles that gave me a good laugh…”If Needles “were a straight person” engaging in this behavior, he adds, “people would feel more comfortable” criticizing it.”… I had never heard of this person before this conversation, and can’t say that I really enjoy her persona. It is like Charlie Brown after a four day speed binge. She is on the edge, which is where gay performers have traditionally been. I saw a video of her, and did not hear any racist comments… not that I doubt they exist. I found her act tough to enjoy, for reasons that have nothing to do with racism. Just ignore her, and find something more important to whine about. “
The notion that only a POC can offer opinions about racism is , well, racist. Anti white racism is a serious problem. It affects white people differently than it does POC, but can be every bit as hurtful. Do white people enjoy going downtown, and seeing the hate in the eyes of the POC multitudes? The fact is that when you hate someone, you hurt yourself worse than you hate that person. If POC would take a look at themselves, they might see a race of people repeating the mistakes of white people.
There was a second comment, which PG cut from the comment box. “Isn’t the concept that only “people of color” can judge racism a racist concept? What about anti white racism, which is very real and hurtful to a lot of people. If we are ever going to have a meaningful dialog about race in this country, then we need to consider the hatred against white people. Just because it takes different forms than anti black racism does not mean it does not exist.” And making noise about a drunken Iowa boy is not going to do much good for anyone, except for giving Miss Needles more publicity.
There was a reply. “Hey Luther, I don’t know how you meant for that to come off, but it’s not your job to tell us to ignore someone who is contributing to our oppression. Also, when you say, “find something more important to whine about,” I feel disappointed and dismayed because it sounds to me like you don’t understand that A) this is important to some of us, especially to those of us who are people of color, and it can be a very dehumanizing experience to be constantly confronted with people’s apathy around something that impacts our lives so intimately; and B) calling out racism in our community and “whining” are not the same thing, and, again, it’s really dehumanizing when we try to talk about something so important to us and people in the mostly-white communities around us dismiss our conversations as “whining” because they think our concerns or experiences are trivial, particularly when they personally, as white people, do not experience racism with the same intensity that people of color do. Obviously this is important to us and we have thought about it a lot. I stated that this has been going on (in my personal experience) for over a year and the autograph posted was signed months ago. It has actually taken us a long time to decide to say something so publicly about it, but I personally said something because THIS IS IMPORTANT AND PEOPLE NEED TO STOP IGNORING IT.
This person does not know very much about PG. She does not know about the time PG asked a professional Jesus worshiper to turn his radio down, and nearly lost his job. She does not know about the time PG was robbed at gunpoint. All she knows is that PG does not take a Pennsylvania drag queen seriously as an agent of oppression.
There is a lot of noise about racism. It is very one sided. Anti white racism is ignored or excused. The constant whining gets in the way of constructive action. There needs to be compassion and kindness for both people of color and white people. To focus this kind of attention on a PBR swilling loser says more about the complainer than it does the performer.
Pictures are from The Library of Congress. They are Union Soldiers, from 1861-1865. The spell check suggestions for POC are Cop and Pox.