Jay Smooth, a writer, DJ, and well known YouTube video blogger, was doing a guest spot on All In with Chris Hayes to discuss the awkwardness of the controversial Starbucks “Race Together” campaign. What Smooth most likely wasn’t expecting was an awkward moment of his own.
During the course of the conversation between Smooth, Hayes, and CBS Sunday Morning‘s Nancy Giles, Giles turned the attention to the subject of what she called “co-opting blackness.” That’s when Giles began to make assumptions about her fellow guest Smooth, and we all know what happens when you assume.
Following Hayes’ playing of a clip from Smooth’s YouTube video, “How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist,” Giles engaged Smooth in a discussion about whether or not he was being appropriate in the video. After Giles criticized Smooth’s talking like a “brotha” and the rap music that was playing in the background, Jay tried to play it smoothly by simply replying “I’m a rap guy.” But when Giles continued to rag on him, Smooth’s response most likely made Giles want to crawl under the desk and hide.
“Yeah, I know, but it’s another interesting, funny thing about race. Like, there would be some people that feel that you co-opted something like that, and other people might feel like that’s his background and that’s really cool, too. These are conversations, you know, ‘Yo, like ya know, yeah, if somebody takes my wallet,’ I mean it’s really interesting,” Giles egged on.
“It’s also interesting because I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise,” Smooth replied causing host Chris Hayes to burst out with laughter. Oops.
Smooth took it in stride and cooly went on to redirect the conversation back to the original topic of the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign, “And this is the sort of awkwardness that we can look forward to at Starbucks across America.” Nancy Giles awkwardly tried to commiserate with Smooth, “I am clearly brown skinned and people are always saying to me ‘You talk white. You act white. You want to be white. You white.'” Smooth appeared to uncomfortably take in what she was saying before being rescued from the conversational train wreck by Hayes.
The “Race Together” campaign has been mocked so heavily that the PR director of Starbucks was forced to delete his Twitter account. It was meant to encourage racial discussions, but as Jay Smooth pointed out, Starbucks may have been overreaching by expecting baristas to foster conversations with such heavy connotations.
“They’re already too busy to spell anyone’s name correctly on any of the cups and we’re expecting them to be this diversity trainer in this two minute interaction with someone who hasn’t had their morning coffee yet,” Smooth questioned.
It’s too bad All In isn’t filmed in the morning so Nancy Giles could’ve used a lack of coffee as her excuse for the Jay Smooth faux pas, but she’s not the first person and most certainly won’t be the last who will have an open mouth insert foot moment over race on the air. In January on the red carpet of the SAG awards, Danielle Demski commented on how tan Rashida Jones was looking prompting the actress to respond, “I mean, you know, I’m ethnic.”
[Image courtesy of The Root.]