In that moment Sharon was more afraid of being labelled a racist then of actually engaging in meaningful discussion on racism itself.

I have to be honest. This whole Sheryl Underwood and Sharon Osbourne debate is pretty frustrating and boring to me. There are many media segments breaking down this episode of The Talk where Sharon reacts disproportionately to Sheryl’s question regarding her (publicly) standing by her friend Piers Morgan. But I do think it’s worth discussing if only because it is a prime example of white comfort over black experience or opinions on discussions of race. 

Sheryl: ‘ What would you say to people that by standing by your friend it appears that you give validation or safe haven to something that he has uttered that is racist?’

This must have been an anticipated question based on the media furore around the Piers Morgan/ Meghan Markle saga. Sharon could have said, ‘I stood by him because I don’t believe his coverage of Meghan was racist,’ ‘because he is paid to give his opinion’, ‘because I believe in freedom of speech’ – and whether I agree with these opinions or not Sharon had the right to calmly say them. She did not do this. 

Instead, she went on the attack, placing herself in the role of victim and the calm, even speaking Sheryl as the aggressor. Tellingly, she became tearful and said to Sherly, ‘…don’t try and cry if anyone should be crying it’s me.’ And there it is. The white woman’s monopoly on vulnerability and the prioritization of white women’s comfort over black women’s voices and trauma. This stems from misogynoir, of racial and patriarchal ideals overlapping to paint white women as the pinnacle of femininity and fragility, subsequently deserving of protection and black women as the opposite. 

“When white women cry,” Ruby Hamad author of ‘White Tears/Brown Scars writes, “it […] makes them able to leave the conversation and choose not to listen, whereas women of color do not have the ability to choose to leave.” 

This is exemplified in this exchange with Sharon Osbourne and Sheryl Underwood. When Sharon shouted ‘educate’ me she used this as an attack not as an opportunity to actually listen or learn.

In that moment Sharon was more afraid of being labelled a racist then of actually engaging in meaningful discussions on racism itself. And she used her privilege as a white woman, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to walk away from it…

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