In October of 2016, James Charles was celebrated for being the first cover boy for CoverGirl’s franchise.
Today, Charles is being chastised for making insensitive comments about Africa. His tweet read, “I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today.” His tweet continued with “… what if we get Ebola?”
The teen tried to block followers who attempted to bring it to his attention, saying that his tweet was inappropriate. Eventually, Charles had to address the issue on his page by saying, “Okay, I’m NOT going to post a [vulgarity] apology.”
CoverGirl also released a statement, saying that Charles’ views didn’t reflect CoverGirl’s.
Being called out for a mistake or something that you’ve done wrong can be annoying. But when you’re posting to a public forum where anyone can see what you post, it’s important to remember that you’re opening yourself up to criticism. That doesn’t mean a comment like this would have been any better if it was in a private conversation. It’s kind of like “kitchen talk” — these are things that you say in private because you’re less likely to offend someone. If you say an offensive comment and nobody is around to hear it, does it make it any less offensive? No. Ebola hasn’t been prominent in Africa since last year. The World Health Organized cleared Africa of Ebola in last January. Maybe Charles wasn’t paying attention, even though he seems really concerned with this disease. Maybe he was just playing off the stereotype that Africa is full of diseases. Maybe he just thought it would be a funny tweet. It wasn’t.
It’s good that people on Twitter say something when tweets like this are posted, even if it’s someone with millions of followers. Without that, we would be quietly letting people believe that making such comments are okay.
Admitting you are wrong is always a good place to start. “I’m sorry that I made an assumption on a subject that I don’t know much about… Thank you for letting me know that I was wrong.” A sincere apology makes it easier — or maybe you should just listen to people when they explain why a statement is wrong. In class when you don’t understand the subject, you listen to someone that knows more about the subject so you can ask questions. The same applies in real life if you don’t understand a certain culture or continent. Asking questions before making assumptions always helps.
If public figures aren’t held accountable for their mistakes or wrongdoings, then they’re going to think it’s okay to say anything without regard for how inaccurate or rude their actions could be.
Now people are going to Twitter to ask CoverGirl to drop him from their campaigns. Tweets like, “@COVERGIRL remove him as your cover guy or I will boycott your company.” have received attention from their followers.
I understand that CoverGirl has already claimed they don’t agree with Charles’ views, but letting him continue to be their spokesperson could leave a bad taste in their audience’s mouths.
Due the climate that started to get traction this past year ended, there has been a lot of tension. The election has sparked a fire in most people, and they’re willing to march and protest more often. So, it’s not surprising to hear someone call out an insensitive comment.
People need to really think about what they are going to say, and how their words might come across to their audience. People need to try to keep an open mind about why making a generalization of a certain group of people or a continent might be insensitive. They should also be ready to learn why others interpret it that way.
Open your mind and close your mouth.