Meet Anti-Racism Writer Shamontiel L. Vaughn
And learn how this truth-teller holds EVERYONE accountable for perpetuating racism
I’d like to introduce you to another anti-racism writer whose work I’ve been enjoying. Shamontiel L. Vaughn is also active on Twitter, and we’ve been on many Twitter threads together, where she’s called out performative action on racism, no matter who’s doing it. Please meet Shamontiel:
Shamontiel, what made you become an anti-racism writer?
I was assigned to read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" in sixth grade and saw the film Denzel Washington starred in shortly after for a school field trip. I was fortunate enough to go to an elementary school that made African-American history and literature top priority from jump.
But I should probably give credit to the first newspaper who hired me ("The Chicago Defender," which is 116 years old) for the way they showed me how powerful it is to see African-American journalists, photographers, print and web editors, and advertisers as the majority—not the token. The Defender has a long history of anti-racism writing, including clips from Langston Hughes, my writing hero.
What response have you had?
I've had a peculiar reaction. I expected it to be more combative than it is, but "I Do See Color" gets more readers (and interestingly, my own freelance clients who look nothing like me) who are intrigued by what I'm writing instead of being defensive. I get a lot of questions sent to my personal website address from white people who really want to ask questions but don't necessarily want to do it in the forum. Whether their question pisses me off or intrigues me, I almost always write a response.
With that said, in the wise words of Remy Ma, I throw block parties. Matter of fact, some days I throw so many block parties you'd think I was an event planner. I don't coddle to privilege and I'll stand my ground every single time. I don't want Medium clicks enough to curtail the truth.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
It would be extremely disrespectful to say "nothing has changed," especially after all the work of Civil Rights Leaders, Quakers, slave rebellions, etc. The fact that I have the freedom to bark back and write what I write would've gotten me lynched in prior decades.
I think every generation gets a little better while some are determined to be backwards. MAGA, are you reading this? But I also hold my own skinfolk accountable if they say something out of line (ex. the Black guy in my neighborhood who yelled "Ching Ching Chong!" when he saw me walking around with a Japanese friend) as much as I want other groups to do the same. I will point the finger if someone is wrong, but I think we need to talk to our own inner circles to check them as well. Too many people who claim to be anti-racist will read material that fits their anti-racist beliefs but still won't call out their immediate social circle for the same antics.
What are your top three anti-racism articles you have written?
By far, the one that has earned the most is "Scary factor: Sasha Obama and black boys with locks." I'm still surprised by the turnout on that one because I didn't expect it to get past 100 clicks. I just wanted to defend that boy minding his business in the background and getting attacked on social media.
The second is still on the first page of Google two years later. It is "Stop calling black women intimidating." The irony here is I was adamant about not being referred to that way, but anyone who types in "black women intimidating" comes right to my name on the first link in Google. It's a gift and a curse.
The third one is one I never planned to write. One of my freelance clients is a law firm that has a weekly newsletter full of world and national news. He'd recommended the New York Times post "This Is How Wokeness Ends." But I was so frustrated after I read it that I decided to write a counterargument. I told my client, so he wouldn't be blind-sided by it on accident. He read mine, liked it more and swapped the NYT post with my response. My guess is his subscribers helped, but "This is how wokeness ends--for white people" took off after that newsletter release.
Share one anti-racism article you've read written by someone else that resonated with you.
I'm still stunned that only one person of 131 figured out that the racism results were about them in this Psychology Today post: "Why We See Racism in Others but Not Ourselves." This alone is a great example of why people have such a tough time recognizing they're racist. I think this kind of questionnaire is especially needed for white people, but other people of color should consider it, too. I'm still flustered by a Mexican immigrant man I personally know who told me "All Mexicans are criminals, and they shouldn't be here." The self-hating boggles my mind.
Shamontiel, thanks so much for sharing your perspective.
Which of Shamontiel’s articles spoke to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.