Dear Kathleen Lights:
After you were caught saying the n-word on fellow beauty guru Jaclyn Hill’s Snapchat story Saturday night, your defense was that you said it accidentally. “That isn’t who I am,” you said in your apology.
No one is perfect. Everyone does stupid things when they’re drunk. I don’t expect you to be camera-ready all the time.
Here’s the thing: It is who you are. You don’t have the option of tossing out a slur and then blaming it on a drunken indiscretion.
I don’t want to downplay the genuine aspects of your apology, or the fact that you’ve become such a successful blogger as a Latina woman. But there are some things we need to address.
During the video, we hear you say, "Oh, I said the n-word. Don't post that." In your apology, you mention that you told Jaclyn not to post it. People immediately jumped on this, accusing Jaclyn of trying to sabotage you.
Jaclyn released an apology saying she was laughing too hard to realize what was said and wouldn't have posted it otherwise. She was clearly distraught as she asked for forgiveness.
Jeffree Star even weighed in (because of course he did) and questioned Jaclyn’s intentions in a now-deleted tweet.
It doesn't actually matter that Jaclyn Hill wasn't supposed to post it: You shouldn't have said it. As I said before, no one is perfect, but the issue isn't this being revealed to the public — it's that it happened in the first place. On your Instagram, you asked people not to attack Jaclyn, and I respect that, but Jaclyn isn't the one who messed up here.
Then there's the matter of you being intoxicated. A non-black person using the n-word is hurtful, regardless of the intent. "I was drunk" doesn't work as a legal excuse, and it definitely doesn't work here. Additionally, I'd venture to argue that calling people "nigga" is likely a part of your regular vocabulary: I’ve been around a lot of drunk people, and I’ve never heard a white (or white-passing) person throw out the n-word. It doesn’t seem like I’m the only one, either.
Here’s the thing: When you’re drunk, you’re still responsible for your behavior. You don’t get a hall pass to say whatever you want because of alcohol. This is especially true when you’ve made a name for yourself and have many black fans.
Let’s talk about this as well:
I get it. People often act like the n-word ending with -er is an evil abomination, while “nigga” is simply playful. If you’re not black, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have license to use this word in any form, because it’s never been used against you or your people. You can’t reclaim something that wasn’t ever yours to begin with.
Hearing a non-black person say the n-word is jarring whether it's coming from the mouth of a 24-year-old beauty guru or a white supremacist. Sure, the intentions may be different, but the impact is there regardless.
Finally, being Latina has nothing to do with this. This point isn't on you. It's on your fans.
Thankfully, you didn't use your Latina heritage as an excuse, which I give you credit for.
"This message was directed to those of you who were truly hurt by this," you wrote in a follow-up to your apology. "Those of you affected by this word."
Thanks for getting that. But social media is filled with people pointing out that because you're a white-passing POC, you get a free pass with this.
There's a lot of discussion in personal circles about whether Latinos can use the n-word, but that’s a conversation that needs to be had between people of color. Many of your white fans rushed to remind everyone of your Cuban heritage as if that has anything to do with this.
It stinks when you realize your fave has done something problematic, but your fan base needs to have several seats. The appropriate reaction is to let black people receive your apology, because it wasn't for your non-black fans in the first place.
I’ve seen firsthand the unique struggles that white-passing people of color face. My husband is Latino but looks like white, and people often don’t believe him when he shares that he’s a Brazilian immigrant. I don’t want you to feel invalidated, but people cannot use this as an excuse.
Kathleen, I still have major respect for your hustle and dedication to your personal brand. I appreciated your apology and know you've been under a lot of fire this week.
But I'm having a hard time moving past this. I hope can you understand why.