Jeffree Star is not the first, nor will he be the last white person to side with his own comfort and fragility rather than truly being held accountable for the oppression that he upholds.
White fragility takes many forms. It can come in the ways that we see whiteness portrayed as innocent and the norm in mainstream media, despite the overwhelming evidence saying otherwise. It can come in the form of pushing whiteness as the default, while everyone else is forced to exist on the margins. White fragility is a staple within our culture, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without critique.
Online personality and makeup creator Jeffree Star has always been in hot water because of his racism and sensationalism. Now the owner of his own eponymous makeup line, Jeffree’s actions have slipped into the mainstream. It’s taken years of attacks, digital violence, and outrage for it to even be on the table, but the problem with Jeffree Star goes much deeper than just complacency for bad behavior.
White fragility is a staple within our culture, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without critique.
In what ways are we so invested in whiteness and white fragility that our culture is willing to allow a singular badly behaved racist to be protected, and not the BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) who have had to deal with his violence simply for disagreeing with his actions? Whether his apology is truly genuine or not, Jeffree’s complacency within upholding white supremacy and racism will always be tied to his legacy.
Jeffree has spent more than 10 years of his life online–even for digital content creators, that’s a long time to remain under that level of scrutiny. And while there’s a uniqueness with that experience, the question of a person’s integrity and sincerity has risen a lot over the past few years. In regards to Jeffree himself, the question asked the most has not been, “how do we hold him accountable?”– instead, it has been reduced to a shallow question of “is a person allowed to change?”
Let me be clear: change without accountability is simply performative action. It can be said all day long that things are different and lessons are learned, but until that action is accompanied by an understanding of the harm caused and a genuine push to learn and dismantle the systems within ourselves that make these actions socially acceptable, apologies and calls for forgiveness are nothing more than ploys to further mock and disregard the very real pain that marginalized people face.
Whether his apology is truly genuine or not, Jeffree’s complacency within upholding white supremacy and racism will always be tied to his legacy.
The issue isn’t the fact that Jeffree Star is a public figure who has created a livelihood for himself online that has lasted for over a decade, the problem is that his success and notorious reputation is too often used as an excuse for his inexcusable behavior when it comes to racism and oppression. Most recently, his actions have come to light after a digital confrontation between him and makeup artist Jackie Aina, where he resorts to calling her an “irrelevant rat”. The situation blew up so much that it finally prompted him to record and post a video on his YouTube addressing his racism, but many are still left unconvinced that Jeffree is challenging his racism or that he is even remorseful.
Jeffree’s actions are not unique, nor are they ones that exist in a vacuum. However, it’s important that we recognize them, because we are all living in a racist society, therefore it’s impossible to separate ourselves from racism. It is only under the guise of white fragility that white folks are able to claim otherwise.
Accountability is often the place where white fragility can truly show itself. In Jeffree’s video where he attempts to address his racism, it’s clear that accountability is something that he plans on dodging with all of his might–and he does just that. In the entire 15 minute, 11-second video, racism is only directly addressed in brief comments here and there. The video itself is more about Jeffree talking about his own experiences, shaping himself as a victim who has resorted to racism and violence out of defense of the pain that he has experienced himself. In talking about whether or not he himself is racist, he says that “I don’t know how [racism] lives in people”.
Accountability is often the place where white fragility can truly show itself.
In the entire video, there is a level of skepticism in the sincerity of his words. The accusations (and following receipts) have been public information for years. At the very least, these things prove that Jeffree is complacent in white supremacy and racism because no matter how marginalized he is, he is still white. Whiteness, as we have seen time and time again, will always be worth saving.
The most challenging part of this is not the fact that Jeffree himself has remained complacent in this entire situation, but the support from his (white) fans and even other YouTubers, makeup enthusiasts, and digital content creators has been staggering. Whenever a social media personality collaborates or shows support for Jeffree, it’s often met with remarks of “he’s a different person now” or “you don’t know the whole story,” as responses to justified critiques and reminders of his racism.
The move to defend whiteness at all costs, even with the overwhelming evidence that the person in question is guilty of large-scale harm, shows exactly the lengths that others are willing to go to in order to keep white fragility intact.
At the very least, these things prove that Jeffree is complacent in white supremacy and racism because no matter how marginalized he is, he is still white.
Jeffree Star is not the first, nor will he be the last white person to side with his own comfort and fragility rather than truly being held accountable for the oppression that he upholds. The responsibility of dismantling a racist society is the responsibility of white people because they are the ones that benefit from the oppression of BIPOC in exchange for their own power.