(The Root) — Actress Stacey Dash is in the news again, this time responding to the Twitterverse, which has gone stark, raving mad over her very public endorsement of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. Dash, who recently celebrated her reunion with the cast of Clueless (1995), the cult classic that made pretty much everyone involved a star, has been under attack because of the endorsement. "Shocked" and "saddened" over the abusive language being lobbed at her, she has been making the rounds defending her support of Romney.
When I first read about Dash's endorsement, I thought to myself, "Only Dash, who is notorious for being difficult to work with, would torpedo the opportunity to capitalize on her Entertainment Weekly cover with Alicia Silverstone and on the press junket surrounding the celebration of Clueless by endorsing Romney at the same time — and wearing a sexy outfit while doing it, no less."
And although I expected there to be pushback from a lot of Dash's fans, particularly blacks and women, based on Romney's racist and sexist rhetoric; his platform on issues that affect women and children; and, quite frankly, Dash's sexy salute to the candidate, I did not expect the level of racist and sexist commentary lobbed at Dash.
The Web is an interesting place because the same freedom that allows people to anonymously post comments that can help those voices be heard that are on the margins or that express differing opinions also fuels the phenomenon of hate speech by those who take exception to what people say or do on the Web.
Dash, a multiracial woman who identifies as black, has the right to endorse whomever she likes, in the way that she wants, even if supporting a certain candidate seems to go against her own interests and the interests of those who look like her. She has the right to vote and to have an opinion about the election process even if it is not popular or politically prudent for her to do so. It is possible to disagree with someone politically without calling him or her everything but a child of God.
In my mind, Dash is no different from the scores of black ministers who advise blacks to vote against their interests or not to vote at all because of a specific issue, like gay marriage, as if that were going to affect their lives more than job creation or access to health care.
While such pronouncements may be socially irresponsible, the ministers have the right to endorse and vote for a candidate for a particular "moral" reason, and their followers have the right to follow their lead, even if it means that they become more disenfranchised in the process. If some folks think that Dash's endorsement of Romney is irresponsible toward blacks and women, then say that instead of calling her every racist and sexist epithet available.
Inherent in this criticism of Dash is the idea that as a black woman, she should support only black or female candidates, which is also racist and sexist, not to mention self-policing. True equality is having the right to vote in general and to use that vote in the way you see fit. True equality is having the freedom to speak, even when your words are unpopular or against your self-interests and those of the communities of which you're a part. Conflict, contradiction and hypocrisy are very much a part of this democracy, so don't be mad because Dash isn't necessarily "rollin' with the homies."
Memo to the hate speakers: Not all blacks are Democrats — never have been and never will be — so pump your brakes on the "house nig—-" comments. While political-party affiliation can offer some insight into what people think, it doesn't tell the whole story, particularly if you don't know the history of the political parties and their constituents. Hell, Strom Thurmond started out as a Democrat, but if you don't know about Dixiecrats, the Civil Rights Act or the historical legacy of black Republicans — little things like background and context — then that seems ridiculous.
Memo No. 2 to hate speakers: Calling people out for being racist loses all validity when you use racist and sexist language to do so. That, in fact, makes you racist, sexist, self-loathing — and, ironically, clueless. In my best Cher voice from the film by that name, "Like, seriously. We're having all of this drama over what Stacey Dash thinks? As if."
That's the reality: Dash's endorsement of Romney is a nonissue because she has the right to vote for him even if it is against the interests of many of her fans and, I would argue, her interests as an actress. Dash has the right to self-destruct, just as many "Christian" blacks and poor whites do who plan to vote for Romney next month.
Like Dash, you have the right to vote with your dollars and not support any of her future projects if you so choose. No need for name-calling or abusive language. Besides, actions always speak louder than words.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.