Watching Sharon Osbourne shout at a Black woman about racism on TV was triggering and tone-deaf on so many levels.
Tensions were high last week after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey, which opened a Pandora’s Box on the issue of systemic racism in the UK and allegedly within the Royal family.
Emotions ran and tempers flared (ahem, Piers Morgan) but the way that Sharon spoke to her co-host, Sheryl Underwood, on The Talk was completely unacceptable and hardly surprising that CBS would launch an internal investigation.
In her defence of former Good Morning Britain host Piers, Sharon was in turn forced to deny being a racist, which she had every right to do.
However, it was uncomfortable to watch the way she rebuked Sheryl and her views on the subject.
Her delivery was undeniably aggressive as she used expletives, raised her voice and demanded that Sheryl ‘educate’ her on racism.
The bottom line is that no one should ever think they have the right to demand that a Black person ‘educate’ them on racial discrimination. Aside from it being incredibly insensitive, it’s essentially asking a Black person to resolve an issue that they didn’t create.
Another moment during the heated segment particularly struck me.
Sharon pretty much belittled Sheryl’s feelings by telling her colleague ‘not to cry’ because she was the one who was upset.
It made me think, is Sheryl not allowed to also feel emotional during a discussion about racism which she could be a victim of?
That moment of watching a Black woman being put down resonated with me because I, like many other women of colour, have felt what it’s like to stop myself from reacting to avoid appearing as the aggressor in the situation.
In other words, the ‘angry Black woman’.
It’s a stereotype so tired and old as time but is still perpetuated to ensure that Black women are kept ‘in their place’ in social and professional spaces.
Sheryl exhibited an admirable level of self-control as she calmly responded to Sharon and considered her colleague’s feelings despite no doubt feeling emotional herself internally.
How she was spoken to has no place in any professional setting, regardless if it’s showbiz-land or not.
There are already so many prejudices and scenarios of discrimination that Black people have to navigate in professional situations, the least you should expect is to be respected by your colleague.
Can you imagine if the tables were turned in this instance? If Sheryl was the one shouting down at Sharon, using expletives, pointing her finger and warning her co-host ‘not to cry’?
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the ‘angry Black woman’ narrative would be in full effect.
This reality is exactly why Sheryl knew the best option was not to meet fire with fire.
There was fierce backlash after the clip went viral and Sharon later issued an apology.
Yes, the Meghan interview has reignited the conversation about systemic racism in the UK but therein lies the problem.
White people should not still be asking Black people to educate them on racism after everything we went through last year. The Black Lives Matter movement sparked all manners of discussion about how racism exists systemically.
Ultimately, shouting at a Black woman on TV about the very subject does very little to move the conversation forward in a constructive way.
People of colour spent months last year enlightening our white counterparts on what racism looks like for a Black person today.
We did our best to bring the issue to the surface but if you’re still asking for an education, that’s now on you.