When I came across this story at Pandagon I immediately wanted to check the year on the calendar. Seriously WTF.... Mayor Mel Kuhn of Arkansas City Kansas, won a beauty pageant fundraiser last weekend, dressed in drag with black face.
According to the NAACP, Kuhn participated in the Men in Tights, drag queen contest that has become an annual fund raiser for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates. The agency supports foster children in the court system.
Kuhn named his character "Smellishis Poon," and the name appeared on programs and was announced during the event. He also had back up dancers for the talent portion, and called them his "Red Hot Puntangs."
This is yet another example of the greater good ideology. He was fundraising for a worthy charity; and therefore in his mind it was okay to be racist as well as display trans bigotry. This kind of thing is quite common in our society. PETA is the perfect example of a good cause that routinely resorts to sexism, or racism. The ends do not justify the means if the end result is that segments of society are demeaned.
Blacks and specifically black trans people are a particularly marginalized group in society. They are subject to gross personal violations, violence and economic disparity. To make a mockery of their life struggles to make money for a charity further places them in a position wherein their social position is reified. One social injustice does not trump another and to utilize racism or trans phobia in this way creates a hierarchy of oppressions.
When confronted by the NAACP, Mayor Mel Kuhn offered the following apology.
"It has been brought to my attention how offensive this was and I absolutely agree that it was shortsighted of me not to see that in the first place. I am sincerely sorry and I sincerely apologize for the offensive nature of my actions. This was not CASA, this was of my own volition, and I take full responsibility for my actions. The buck absolutely stops here". - Mayor Mell H. Kuhn
The fact that it had to be brought to his attention is particularly problematic. How is it in the year 2008 someone needs to be told that it is not appropriate to dress in drag and black face to make a mockery of someone else's lived experience? Of course to a man existing with cis and race privilege the 'other' can be deemed comedic because they have not been normalized. Everything around him daily affirms that his existence, and way of life are to be envied, while anyone else falling short is less than is some way. It is time we begin as a society to move beyond our individual privileges and recognize the degree to which the maintenance of said privileges constitutes the violation of the rights of other beings. As I have said on many occasions all people matter and until we can socially agree on this we will always have a society where injustice is the norm.