Whether imagined by a semibored press or very real for those the post pissed off nonetheless, the controversy surrounding Mary Cheney's Facebook inquiry about drag and blackface speaks to many truths.
For starters, it proves for the umpteenth time that no matter what the privacy settings on your social media tell you, if you're a public figure or, in this case, you just happen to be the daughter of a former vice president, there's no such thing as privacy. It also shows that the LGBT umbrella is always wider than you think.
She asked this:
Why is it socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for men to put on dresses, makeup and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.)—but it is not socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans? Shouldn't both be OK or neither? Why does society treat these activities differently?
Now, like Cheney, I'm gay. And, like Cheney, I don't know a whole lot about drag shows. I'm familiar with some basic tenets of their history and their influence on pop culture through the years. I also know that many a drag queen has interrupted my performances of (insert any Beyoncé song) to perform Patti LaBelle's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or, more recently, Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" way too many times.
But there's one key difference between Ms. Cheney and me: If I'm unfamiliar with something—particularly an issue with even a smidgen of hypocrisy potential—I generally opt to exercise my intellectual curiosity. I use that magic machine I've heard cute, elderly people refer to as "the Google" or I look to friends who may be better versed on the topic at hand. Essentially, I hold off on forming an opinion about a subject until I am informed about it.
What I don't do is blindly and ignorantly use a public forum to pose a seemingly innocuous, but actually very much insulting, question that simultaneously screams "hyperbole" and "silly things white people say."
That's exactly what Cheney did, though, when she took her half-baked query to Facebook.
And she probably thought she was really saying something. It's just that people like Cheney need to be better about expressing a specific grievance about art without generalizing the entire art form itself. Especially if you're Cheney and clearly don't know much about what you're attacking.
In a thoughtful retort, drag queen Miz Cracker did acknowledge that there is some level of misogyny among some queens. Even so, she warned about using some bad apples to paint a bunch using one brush. Cracker noted, "Just because some drag queens partake in misogyny individually does not make the entire art form inherently misogynistic—and this is where the blackface comparison breaks down."
Cracker then interviews W. Fitzhugh Brundage, chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and editor of a book that chronicles black representation in American pop culture, titled Beyond Blackface.
Brundage notes that "Cheney's comments show very little understanding of blackface as a historical phenomenon" and goes on to further explain why the drag-blackface comparison is flawed. It's a fascinating read, but the most significant takeaway, for me, was that a VP's daughter didn't think to use her own vast access to numerous resources to get an answer to her own question.
Her post reminds me of those who, similarly, take to social media to post equally dense questions that a few moments of their time could easily settle, rather than have them burden the world with unnecessary rabble-rousing:
Why don't male domestic violence survivors get as much attention as female survivors?
Why does "coming out" still matter?
Why isn't there a "white history month"?
It's all the same, but each reminds me of the fallacy of the maxim, "There's no such thing as a dumb question."
Au contraire, homie. There is.
And even if you disagree with me here, you'll at least concede that when some people harbor these "burning questions," when they think them out loud before doing some homework, it speaks to an intellectual laziness. So now that Cheney's have been answered, here's hoping that she and others have learned more than just one lesson.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.