Yesterday, BGLH posted about Russell Schiller, a white Howard University student who launched a #blackwomenarebeautiful photography campaign featuring black women from his historically black university. Many lauded his efforts to highlight black beauty in a society that is dominated by white assimilation and beauty norms. However, today some tweets of his came to light that made several question his sincerity or even his motives. I first saw the tweets posted by @brokeymcpoverty, criticizing Ebony Magazine for running the piece highlighting Schiller.
Now, there are several things wrong with these tweets and how they tie to Schiller’s connection to black women and our culture. For one, it seems that white people love to admire and emulate black culture, but don’t seem to respect it. Black people have expressed to other races ad nauseam that the use of the word “nigga” is unacceptable (I don’t care if it’s a song lyric or not), and yet, they refuse to stop saying it. The fact that Schiller thinks he can use this term (as early as a year ago, according to his tweets, which have now been deleted) shines a light on his white privilege that he clearly still exhibits and exploits.
The tweet describing his mother’s thoughts is especially problematic, as many white people inserting themselves into black culture often love to tell their black friends how racist or prejudiced their parents are against black people, then reassure us that they aren’t that way. We get it, you aren’t racist. Want a cookie?
Furthermore, after seeing these tweets, his campaign (which honestly, I wasn’t feeling from the beginning) shifts from “sweet” to remind me of the narrative of white men fetishizing black women. He may find black women beautiful, but does he respect us? Are we seen as equal, or should we be happy that a white guy is looking our way?
Schiller has since tweeted a statement of apology for his previous remarks:
That’s nice and all, but honestly, I’m not really buying it, nor do I care. We have so many uplifting hashtags and campaigns for black women — Black Girls Rock, Black Girl Magic…that were created by US. To see a white man fawn over black women so publicly and boldly while sliding into our space and disrespecting us doesn’t sit right. I think that this situation proves that we should continue to support and uplift one another without validation from men, especially white men.
So Russell, thanks, but no thanks.