Beyoncé | Drag Queens | Sierra Mannie

Mississippi Senior Inspires Debate with TIME Open Letter: 'Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture'

D16c95a2dd6ac974c88adceee250205cTIME Magazine contributor, and current University of Mississippi senior, Sierra Mannie has penned an open letter to the white, male members of the gay community concerning what she feels is the widespread appropriation of black female culture:

"Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Beyoncé and weaves that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Shanequa from around the way” voice. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you."

It’s not so much that gays have come to appreciate certain manifestations of black femininity that have flourished in the broader culture, Mannie argues. The line between the appreciative and problematic is crossed when gay men over-identify with black women to the point of forgetting that “strong black womanhood” isn’t something to be affected. It's an identity tied to a very specific kind of life experience inexorably tied to one's race and gender.

"In all of the ways that your gender and race give you so much, in those exact same ways, our gender and race work against our prosperity. To claim that you’re a minority woman just for the sake of laughs, and to say that the things allowed her or the things enjoyed by her are done better by you isn’t cute or funny."

Chuck Knipp, the comedian behind the drag persona Shirley Q. Liquor, has drawn varying degrees of criticism for his use of blackface and heavy reliance negative stereotypes about black women in his act. It’s easy to point out egregious examples like Knipp and decry their behaviour while overlooking the more subtle, but very real strains of misogyny and racism fostered within gay male culture--particularly when they masquerade as kitsch.


Reactions to the piece have varied from emphatic agreement to flat-out dismissal.

Reactions to the piece have varied from emphatic agreement to flat-out dismissal. In a piece for Thought Catalog comedian H. Alan Scott, challenged Mannie to broaden her ideas of what constitutes the “proper” kinds of actions for men and women, gay, straight, black, or white.

“Must I, as a gay white man, only like and act in a certain way because I’m a gay white man?” He asks. “Must that black woman pretend to like Beyonce when maybe, just maybe, she likes Katy Perry?

“[T]he last thing we want is for people to embrace other cultures.” Wrote another reader.  “Just have the blacks and the whites keep to [their] own sides of the town. Next thing you know they might start marrying each other and having kids.”

Far from calling for the resurrection of anti-miscegenation laws Mannie, like everyone else who has ever made her points is simply looking for people to be more cognizant of their actions.

"All of this being said, you should not have to stop liking the things you like. This is not an attempt to try to suck the fun out of your life.  

If you love some of the same things that some black women love, by all means, you and your black girlfriends go ahead and rock the hell out. Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not."

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  1. Seriously? This warrants discussion? Here's my discussion, STFU. When black women address the sever and unacceptable level of homophobia in their ranks, then, and only then, can they say thing one about gay white males.

    What I hear is that this woman lost her BF to a white dude.

    Posted by: DC Insider | Jul 11, 2014 8:56:18 AM

  2. The word "culture" is used pretty loosely here. I wouldn't want my "culture" to sound so illiterate. It is just fun slang.

    Posted by: TONEZ | Jul 11, 2014 8:57:33 AM

  3. I've always said that I was a young, black female vocalist trapped inside of a middle-aged white man.

    Posted by: johnny | Jul 11, 2014 8:59:17 AM

  4. What about the part where she says that white Gays are more privileged than straight african-americans? And challenges white gays to "check [their] privilege".

    This woman is an idiot.

    Posted by: Chris | Jul 11, 2014 9:02:56 AM

  5. "....or for which black male you've bottoming"
    Seriously, wtf? She sounds like she just found out that her man is on the down low.

    Posted by: Elliott | Jul 11, 2014 9:03:23 AM

  6. Okay, this only reminds me of our recent 16-year old Vines guy with too much readerdhip and too little time in the world. I'd like access to Time msgazine editorial pages mysself, wouldn't you? Certainly blackface has no place and it's hilarious that she can locate such an anomaly that most of us haven't heard of. If anythiing, she is prolonging the stereotype of Country Mouse, lol. She's been given an opportunity and squandereds it here, no white gay man will cut short anything as much as she did here in her generalization. Still, she's an undergrad with a platform, let's hope she finds subject matter that matters. Good luck

    Posted by: chevytexas | Jul 11, 2014 9:04:39 AM

  7. PS: I hereby swear to stop opining from a cellphone keyboard to an uneditable posting site.

    Posted by: chevytexas | Jul 11, 2014 9:06:37 AM

  8. it's been years since i saw betty butterfield,
    had no idea she created a new persona.

    Posted by: normadesmond | Jul 11, 2014 9:06:59 AM

  9. I find black woman identify with me instinctively in many work settings. I appreciate it. She should learn to do the same.

    Posted by: Markt | Jul 11, 2014 9:07:17 AM

  10. I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to pause for a moment and give thanks for the great contributions of the Black community to our society. Their peaceful and generous nature make them ideal neighbors, lending testimony to their exceptional family values and parenting skills unrivaled by any other culture. Their commitment to academic excellence enriches our schools and serves as an example to all who hope to achieve prominence as a people. Real estate values are fueled by the mix of African Americans into an area due to their caring and respectful nature of these communities, an example of all they have achieved through their enthusiasm for self improvement by hard work and a self-reliant can-do nature. And we certainly must not forget their abhorrence for crime and their dedication to observing the law. Without their industrious and creative drive, we would be poorer as a nation.

    Posted by: Oh no she didn't! | Jul 11, 2014 9:15:02 AM

  11. And she is absolutely correct. As my grandmother used to say "A hit dog will holler."

    And whether she just found out her man is on the download or any other put down you throw out, her point is still valid. Gay white (especially men) ARE privileged than straight African-Americans simply by virtue of being white males. As a gay African-American male, that's what I see.

    Posted by: Guy Johnson | Jul 11, 2014 9:16:15 AM

  12. Wow, I never realized I aspired to be 16, knocked up and living off welfare.

    Posted by: McMike | Jul 11, 2014 9:17:55 AM

  13. Who died and made her queen?

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Jul 11, 2014 9:20:23 AM

  14. Other peoples beliefs, feelings, and actions aren't about her, and non of her business.

    Posted by: spg | Jul 11, 2014 9:23:55 AM

  15. I read that TIME piece several times over in a futile attempt to find any empathy for the subject of her ire. I came to the conclusion that she is a mean spirited borderline racist herself who seems to relish her victimhood while claiming all rights to being marginalized.

    Posted by: Bobby McGuire | Jul 11, 2014 9:32:58 AM

  16. WTF????

    Posted by: Moniker | Jul 11, 2014 9:33:53 AM

  17. How about a little cheese with that whine. You can steal a copyright, but it's just not possible to steal "culture". This one is asserting that her oppression is somehow more valid than my oppression. Her egocentrism is on her sleeve, thinking that anyone does anything at all for her appreciation. The market is perennially sluggish for oppression as an excuse to fail to move on and be happy; it's cheep to free.

    Posted by: Greg | Jul 11, 2014 9:34:29 AM

  18. No one I know wants to be a black woman. I didn't read all the way through the post, but I'm tired of black people complaining because they don't think gay rights are civil rights. Fortunately, because many white gays..particularly white men, knew first hand what privilege they had and what was being taken away only because they were gay, gay rights have moved much quicker. However, its only because of the comparison to black rights that the injustice becomes apparent. Unfortunately, there remains much discrimination for both blacks and gays, so it seems like she's resentful that the issue has moved on from black to gay. She Shiu just wait till Hispanics start to more fully demand their equal representation to population and then go on a full scale rant about how she feels forced to learn Spanish to get a job.

    Posted by: steve talbert | Jul 11, 2014 9:35:09 AM

  19. College paper editorial....

    She is so off the mark. She seems to think guys on Grindr who claim to be "jocks" are all Beyonce imitating queens in real life.

    I don't see her calling out Iggy Azeala for imitating "black southern speech" in her rap and tweeting about "hanging with her n*ggaz"

    Posted by: Qj201 | Jul 11, 2014 9:36:20 AM

  20. Her message is pretty clear. People should stay in their racial, sexual and gender box. Yet, she clearly doesn't hold herself to the limiting standards that she wants to apply to others. She "appropriated" her hair style from white, female "culture".

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jul 11, 2014 9:38:33 AM

  21. Although I don't disagree with this entirely, I would ARGUE she should of been more broader than "White gays." It's actually my only real criticism because she's EXCUSING others who are very much guilty of the the things she's accusing.

    I would ALSO argue that WOMEN(Of all races) should STOP stealing gay culture as well.

    Posted by: Cory | Jul 11, 2014 9:38:39 AM

  22. Gurrrrrrl. Okaaaaaayyy. Werk.

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Jul 11, 2014 9:51:27 AM

  23. This is all news to me. I read it and thought WTF? She shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard if she hasn't taken her meds.

    Posted by: Guillermo Luna | Jul 11, 2014 9:55:26 AM

  24. I have many very dear friends that are black women and I know that they are oppressed as a group. Other than black trans, black women are the most oppressed in America. That said, I have NEVER done any of the things she claims white gays are doing. I never go around acting like a black woman. Does she know any white gay men? The vast majority of gay men I know (both black and white) don’t go around doing the things she’s claiming. If a gay white man makes a bad joke then tell them you don’t appreciate it, and if they don’t stop then that person is an A-hole. She's claiming we're all A-hole but I would never say all black women are like her. She comes off as VERY homophobic and prejudice. She’s building walls not bridges.

    Posted by: 1♥ | Jul 11, 2014 10:00:14 AM

  25. So this woman is saying that black women act a certain way? Stereotyping much?

    Posted by: Perry | Jul 11, 2014 10:06:32 AM

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