In this week’s episode of Billboard Pride’s “Spillin’ the Tea” video series, Aja, Peppermint, Bob the Drag Queen, Gia Gunn and Jiggly Caliente tackle the subject of racism in the drag fandom and set out to differentiate cultural appropriation, appreciation and assimilation.
Kicking things off, Peppermint brings up a tweet Bob posted back in June, which pointed out that no black queens, aside from RuPaul, had over one million Instagram followers [Bob has since broken one million followers.] Bob said at the time that it wasn’t the show’s fault, but that it was the Drag Race fandom to blame.
Sometimes Drag Race makes me realize other things about the world. NOT ALL, but a lot of the most popular queens fall into the thin white category. And NO black queens, except @RuPaul, have over a million followers. It’s not the show. It’s the fandom. pic.twitter.com/ngevUfrSfU
— Bob The Drag Queen (@thatonequeen) June 15, 2018
“I think that the answer to maybe fixing racism is acknowledging racism,” Bob replies. “People saying ‘I’m not racist’ drives me crazy… All white people are racist… If you are white and you’re raised in America, you are raised through TV, through books, through every single thing to have racial bias towards white people and against people of color.”
“People online are probably favoring people that they resemble,” Bob adds. “Favoring people they see themselves in, and there are a lot of white people. So white folks are following the white folks.”
Asked if she has felt discriminated against for being Asian, Gia Gunn responds that she has not, but that because she speaks fluent Spanish and is very influenced by Latin culture, people often question why she is “trying to be Latina.”
To that, Bob points out that there is a big difference between appropriation, appreciation and assimilation. “Appropriation is when you take someone else’s culture and you pawn it off as your own,” she explains. “Appreciation is when you appreciate what other cultures have, and assimilation is when a smaller culture assimilates to what a larger culture’s doing because they have to survive.”
Peppermint, meanwhile, notes that despite the fact that drag is about being a “renegade,” she often found herself, as a black queen, being held into a “really tight lane by the white folks” that would come to her shows. “I felt like what they would accept from me wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to present,” she adds. “I think that’s part of the issue with race is that people will accept a black queen, but only on their terms.”
You can watch the full video above to hear much more from the queens’ discussion on racism in the drag fandom, and watch the previous episodes of “Spillin’ the Tea” below.