The late Toni Morrison eloquently stated, “I’m always annoyed about why Black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else’s contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling, suddenly we’re demons.”
Ms. Morrison was an example of how a phenomenal Black woman can recalibrate your entire reality with a few sage words. My Editor was another.
While promoting my debut novel, Hollowstone some years back, my Editor learned of my online presence and “infamy” as an equal rights activist. Let’s just say I have a reputation when it comes to delivering takedowns to bigots. For the life of her, my Editor couldn’t understand how I managed to have garnered so many bitter enemies. After all, according to her, I’ve always been very regal, intelligent and amicable and she couldn’t imagine me being combative. Then she read some of the exchanges.
“Oh I see why they hate you,” she said only a few comments in. “You talk to [racist] white people as equals. Actually, you talk down to them. The same way white people usually talk down to minorities. That’s why they hate you. A Black person is never supposed to talk down to white people. A gay Black person at that? That goes against everything we’re taught. You’re essentially defying the laws of thermodynamics.”
This past week was a reminder of that. It’s also been a textbook example of anti-blackness, homophobia, microaggressions, gaslighting, dog-whistle politics courtesy of one Steven L. Sears, former producer and writer for Xena: Warrior Princess.
It all began with a DM from Sears who decided to “pay me a compliment” regarding a piece I wrote for the Nerds of Color, entitled Xena Was Black.
What Sears failed to realize is that during his self congratulatory sales pitch of why he’s one of the “good ones”, he told on himself. He said that the actual creators of Xena never mentioned Queen Amina. Facts don’t cease to exist just because they are unknown to you. I never mentioned my friends to a cousin, that doesn’t mean my friends never existed. Sears can’t make that declaration. Sears, by his own admission, happened upon my article and arrived at my doorstep because he himself was researching African culture (to appropriate) for upcoming projects. Sears deliberately ignored all of the evidence I listed just to protest he’s one of the good ones and made with the tone arguments.
“Racists will always call you a racist when you identify their racism. To love yourself now – is a form of racism. We are the only people who are criticized for loving ourselves. and white people think when you love yourself you hate them. No, when I love myself they become irrelevant to me.”
― Dr. John Henrik Clarke
Now even in spite all of this, I put the matter behind me and went about my day. I ran some errands and met with my magazine editor to map out my next columns. Sears was the last thing on my mind which is why I was surprised when I got messages and inquiries about the Queen Amina article. I also learned that Sears had posted a since-deleted Facebook post where he attacked me, vilified me as some crazy angry Black man who hates all white people because I’m totes damaged and hurt. But he was paying me a compliment. It’s a classic passive aggressive tactic to throw rocks, hide one’s hands, play victim and manipulate others to do your dirty work.
Which is why I posted the entire exchange with Sears publicly on my social media platforms for full transparency and so everyone can get the proper context of what transpired. It’s a lot more difficult for a bigot to lie and play victim when evidence refutes everything they say.
Nevertheless, Sears persisted. Here’s a followup post:
And a few of his “classy” sycophants.
Official House Negro Please!!!!!
Oh where to begin with the unpacking. We could start with the fact that he deleted the previous post prior to this followup post. What I would learn later is that Sears continued to be called out on his privilege and his hypocrisy by some of his supporters. Hence him deleting posts to cover his tracks.
Also, Sears and I both share mutual friends and acquaintances on social media. And they are of the caucasian persuasion. But how is that when I hate all white people simply because they’re white? And if I hate white people as he claims, why was I a Xena fan to begin with? Sears didn’t believe his own BS.
He Doesn’t Know Who I Am.
Going back to my Editor’s quote at the beginning of this piece, when Sears continuously reiterates He Doesn’t Know Who I Am, his cognitive dissonance won’t let him accept that his status as an old straight Southern white dude isn’t going to intimidate me in the sleightest. And that notion, he can’t take.
But I Paid Him A Compliment!
Oh that Sears did indeed. And people of color have heard those kind of “compliments” from old racist Southern white dudes like Sears since day one.
-You speak so well.
-You’re a credit to your people.
-You don’t act like the rest of them.
Too often whites conflate PoCs fighting for equality for aspiring to whiteness and seeking white validation. Examples of this are when confident and accomplished Blacks are accused of “being uppity.” To speak eloquently, be educated and having a regal demeanor is often mislabeled “acting white.” This is why Sears and so many others act betrayed and violated when it’s made clear that isn’t the case and they’re irrelevant. Sears expected me to be a sycophant like Jenkins and that didn’t happen. When you face life at the most difficult setting, empty platitudes from duplicitous bigots isn’t going to move you.
BUT I PAID HIM A COMPLIMENT!!!!!!!
When Sears swore he was moving on in the followup post, this was pretty much my reaction.
The fragile ego of a racist was not going to let this go. I didn’t have to wait long because minutes after reading Sears’s followup post, I got an email from “reporter” Heather A. Kays.
I read and really enjoyed your article on Xena being black and I am hoping to get a few comments from you for a story I am working on for The Brown Geeks site.
1.) How did you come to the conclusion Xena is black?
2.) What has the response been to your article?
3.) Why is this significant?
4.) Do you think there should be a reboot with a black actress as the lead?
5.) Is there anything else you would like to add or you think is important for people to understand this issue?
I did some research of my own. Kays has been a contributor for Faux News and a slew of other conservative rags. Which begged the question, why would a white conservative reporter want to interview a Black author about a piece published 5 years ago? When does anyone affiliated with Faux News ever have a genuine good faith interest in diversity and amplifying the voices of people of color?
I did inquire how the article hit her radar and Kays gave me some story about her “boss” saw the deleted FB post from Sears and “assigned her the story.”
While I didn’t agree to comment or answer any of her questions, as a professional courtesy I pointed her in the direction of potential leads for her to research. I did share a link to a followup piece which is a part of my These Moments In Whitewashed History series. I also informed her that a single Google search would provide multiple separate sources where other parties have also called out how Queen Amina was used as a template for Xena.
And for you skeptics out there: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, and Exhibit E for starters. I do wonder if Sears
harassed and argued with any of them paid them compliments as well?
While I wasn’t shocked when Kays’s article proved to be libelous, erroneous, and deliberately biased in Sears’s favor; I was quite surprised when I read the headline stating that I agreed to an interview with Kays. Of course the quotes of mine featured were the cherry picked ones in my exchange calling out Sears’s racism as well as fictional ones I never stated.
What’s even more curious is that while Sears referenced the argument he initiated, for some reason he didn’t want to comment on it. In fact for some odd reason, he wasn’t keeping the same energy that he had with me in my DMs.
Kays and Sears could’ve still done their interview about diversity and prove how totes “not racist” Sears is without mentioning me or his racist attacks. I mean seriously, the one time erasing Black people from a situation would’ve been a positive move and they opt not to do so. See this was never about diversity or historical accuracy. This was a PR move to spin the narrative, attack and vilify a queer Black author who got too “uppity” and assuage the hubris and fee fees a mediocre fedora wearing bigot who peaked in 2001.
BUT I PAID HIM A COMPLIMENT!!!!!
A racist engages in racism and their act of contrition is name dropping their Black friends, their favorite Black celebrities, paying lip service to diversity and equality, lather, rinse repeat.
This is textbook racism.
We witnessed this last summer when the Three Shaun Kings aka Lady Anti BLM engaged in performative wokeness and sued Lady A for rights to her own name. #TheCaucacity
Actor Ray Fisher was attacked by Warner Brothers and fandom alike only for it to be revealed that Cyborg maintains pristine receipts. BOOYAH!!!!
Let us not forget Effie Brown when she appeared on HBO’s Project Greenlight. Sharing her insights as a Black woman, Brown was yelled at and klansplained to by another white dude. And for added measure, Damon used his influence to whiteball the producer for daring to stand up for herself and speak her truth.
Speaking of Matt Damon, remember that time he and Russell Crowe used their clout to bury a 2004 news story that would have exposed Harvey Weinstein’s abuse long before the #MeToo movement did? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Actor John Wesley Shipp had a major hissy fit on social media and berated a Black commenter when they pointed out that America has never been a democracy for minorities. When called out on his racism, he responded by deleting comments, gaslighting and attempting to cover his tracks.
Gabrielle Union was fired from NBC’s America’s Got Talent for reporting racism and sexism on her job.
And speaking of stars of the 2000 cheerleading film Bring It On, let’s note the parallels. Two decades later and the teen comedy’s commentary on cultural appropriation, racism, privilege, white supremacy, and the exploitation of Black culture is just as relevant now. As Sears continues to demonstrate.
And speaking of “every time we get some, here y`all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different” wasn’t Sears also a showrunner for Sheena?
The thing about whitewashing, cultural appropriation, privilege and systemic racism is that while the may pay off for a season, eventually they return to haunt you with a vengeance. Case in point:
Tell Me That You’ve Seen A Ghost, I’ll Tell You What To Fear The Most.
And return to haunt with a vengeance I did. It’s rare that I make a move that isn’t calculated. I’m a firm believer in having contingencies for contingencies. That’s why I posted the entire exchange and the racist attacks from Sears publicly two days prior to Kays releasing her work of fiction. Couple that with me blasting them on Twitter and that PR stunt backfired and discredited them both. You may be able to get away with lying and changing a narrative if there’s no concrete evidence and it simply a he said/he said ordeal. But when one side posts screenshots and provides other concrete evidence while the other side is deleting posts, omitting details, declining to comment, and their version of ever-changing events are debunked by receipts……well……again textbook. So much so that a reply my buddy Aaron Radney made about me on an unrelated matter —he and I were defending Krystina Arielle from racist Star Wars fans—applies here.
Suffice it to say, Kays was forced to print a retraction. Suffice it to also say, someone was not happy.
Why would a complete stranger contact me and be this defensive over an article they didn’t write? It’s almost as if someone was using a sock puppet account to act unprofessional while saving face and………..oh!
Sears claimed he was dragged into the drama. No one can drag or bully you into something you initiate. Period, point blank, end of discussion. That’s why his story kept shifting. Keep in mind he could have at any time hit the block button, left me alone and went on with his life like I kept trying to do.
For Kays, I do hope the money Sears paid you was well worth it. I get it. These are tough times. A girl’s gotta pay rent. I hope you got a nice payday out of the deal because you just allowed this fool and his drama to torpedo your credibility and potentially your career as a journalist. Got you out here looking like Stephen Glass 2.0.
When you’re reporting and doing interviews, you have to be fair and balanced. Surely you learned that at Fox News. If I researched you and had you dead to rights when you contacted me, you think others won’t do the same? And many of them will see this account and not want to risk you dragging them into a scandal, lawsuit, or harming their brand. But hopefully others can learn from this cautionary tale. In terms of Gotcha/Yellow Journalism and Fake News, said cautionary tale warrants a round of applause.
Oh and by the by, Kays, the original post wasn’t published in 2016. It was actually published years prior on another site. This is why we do research. This is also why Google is your sister in Christ.
BUT I PAID HIM A COMPLIMENT!!!!!!!
Many people weren’t buying what Sears was saying because they witnessed what he was doing. Many continued to call him out on it also. Can’t even lie. The surprise support from the Xena fans who stood up and defended me (when they didn’t have to) both truly moved and humbled me. For a person who has learned to be his own superhero, I’m not used to this. I didn’t know most of these souls but I have certainly made some new friends. So for that alone, I am truly blessed. To those of you reading this, sincerest gratitude.
Note: Because this was a private message, I’m omitting their name for now, as a courtesy. If they wish to come forward, they’re welcome to but not obligated. I’m posting the message itself because it truly blessed me and felt it needed to be shared. Thank you!!!!
For those of you who still aren’t convinced that this is all connected and there levels to this shit…..
1) Kays ripped off the comments of PoCs for an article written 5 years back for her own agenda.
2) Kays lied and misquoted me when I refused to participate in the interview and she was forced to print a retraction.
3) Kays and Sears, two white individuals, used a PoC website to engage in performative wokeness and antiblackness.
4) By his own admission, Sears only found my article because he was appropriating yet again African culture for his own projects as he had done for both Xena and Sheena. He’s consistent. I’ll give him that.
5) The article in question was how Queen Amina was used as a model for Xena.
Anyone else notice the repeated theme of white people columbussing and exploiting Black people, Black culture, Black excellence for their own agenda?
The prosecution rests.
BUT I PAID HIM A COMPLIMENT!