I've been sitting on these thoughts for a few weeks, waiting for the internet to respond in some way. That lack of action is a charming benefit of white privilege, by the way.
season seven of Project Runway was "1940s German and Russian military". If you're unfamiliar with that period in time, the world was still battling Hitler's command over the German military and Stalin's incestuous relationship with him. Need me to be more direct? His inspiration was, in so many words, Nazis. I have attempted to find quotes from him in reaction to this reality, because I'm just so absolutely sure that referencing a time in history when a few psychotic men in power were responsible for ruthlessly killing other human beings was not his intent. What white folks need to learn is that intent does not erase the impact of their actions. It never has, it never will so long as we continue to use our privilege to ERASE our impact on people of color worldwide. Seth Aaron should've been reprimanded by Lifetime executives, he should've been smacked across the face by Tim Gunn. He should have lost the competition. But he won, and I cannot laud him for his achievement. He created a collection of clothing inspired by a terrifying history of whiteness on a murdering spree.
There's an agreement among white folks when it comes to calling out racism - unless we are faced with the emotions of POC, we are not always moved to address instances of racism when we see them. My grandfather attempted to raise me with overtly racist views, calling my friends degrading names and admonishing me when I elected to spend time with friends who were not white, including my best friends who were Latina. As I grew older, I felt confident that I had shirked off that "training" and was in a place where I was accepting of all people (I was colorblind! I loved people with purple polka dots for christ's sake!). About six years ago, I slipped, in public view, and was called out harshly by my peers. For whatever reason, I chose to react in a way that was not defensive but reflective. It was hard because whiteness and the privilege it affords is luxurious. Instead, I spent time attending workshops on prejudice reduction and coalition building. I read as much as I could, I chose to think before I opened my mouth, and I accepted my responsibility as part of the problem. Over the years, I've received a lot of flack for this. People have called me too sensitive. People have argued with me about the rage that boils up within me when I see white people with dreadlocks or when I call out crafters/hipsters for appropriating "ethnic" clothing and accessories for profit or fashion. It feels like I've tried a million different ways to share my thoughts on the subject with people. There aren't many that I've found effective. Whiteness is a stubborn beast.
So how do I phrase it now? Well, I don't like being an asshole. I wish white people would stop being selfish, defensive assholes. When Seth Aaron won Project Runway with his Nazi Regime line of clothing, he looked like a fucking moron even if he didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. And if white folks don't start checking their racism, overt or otherwise, we're going to continue breeding a culture of absurdly asinine beliefs and actions. Don't contribute to the downfall of civilization. Stop being racist.
ETA: Thanks to Christina from Crafty-Ass Witch for sharing this interview with Seth Aaron from Entertainment Weekly which does quick work of proving he is a complete and unrepenting moron of the highest order.