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The strange, bitter case of Black Twitter vs. Stacey Dash

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On October 7, 2012, Clueless star Stacey Dash tweeted support for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, ostensibly coming out as a black Hollywood conservative.

Clad in a red bathing suit, with an American flag background that screamed "patriot," the actress declared that she would not be supporting the country’s first black president a second time around.

Dash, whose celebrity is mostly limited to C-list films, faced major backlash from Twitter, with many suggesting she betrayed her race. To take one example of the incredible disdain directed toward her, a now deleted tweet read, “You're an unemployed black woman endorsing @MittRomney. You're voting against yourself thrice. You poor beautiful idiot.”

Yet, rather than let this anger silence her, Dash, an actress in need of work, volleyed this publicity into an appearance alongside cable TV’s troll extraordinaire on Piers Morgan Tonight.

Through sheer wits and media savvy, she twisted a simple endorsement into a heroic defense of the First Amendment. Manipulative? Definitely. Genius? Maybe. Dash would soon tap into the free publicity of that comes with being a black woman actively advocating against institutions that benefit minorities and women—and find out what that betrayal cost.

Her right-wing beliefs garnered enough attention from Fox News that Dash was eventually hired as a correspondent to provide “cultural analysis and commentary” for the notoriously conservative network. Upon her hiring, Bill Shine, Executive Vice President of Programming for Fox, said, “Stacey is an engaging conversationalist whose distinctive viewpoints amongst her Hollywood peers have spawned national debates—we’re pleased to have her join FOX News.

Suddenly, Stacey Dash went from fading actress to TV personality. And with mo’ money comes mo’ problems.

Twitter cried foul, characterizing Dash’s role at Fox News as completely exploitative. Managing editor at Broadway Black (and the force behind #OscarsSoWhite) April Reign detailed her potential value in comments to the Daily Dot: “Stacey Dash is on Fox News because they were looking for a Black 'conservative' to pander to the lowest common denominator. Facts don't matter, which is great, because Stacey is low on them.”

Dash was evidently a mouthpiece for conservatives to denigrate minorities and women. To many, she was cashing in an an opportunity to hate-monger. Twitter personality Simone Fiasco (@SimoneFiasco)—not her actual last name—explained, “It's not like anyone else was beating down her door to give her a check...”  

And this was true. It’s been 21 years since she played her biggest role. Reign again: Stacey struck fool's gold with Clueless and she's been trying to recreate that success ever since. Unfortunately for her, none of her career choices have come remotely close.” Dash had bounced from project to project in entirely forgettable performances on Vh1’s Single Ladies, BET’s The Game, and a litany of TV movies.

And the irony that the former Clueless star was on television to make clueless remarks was not lost on the community.

On Fox News, the actress proceeded to make calculated statements on race and gender, infuriating the liberal set. Whether she was pandering to the lowest common denominator or voicing her actual views, Dash would spare no feelings when discussing sensitive issues.

There was the time, for instance, when Dash blamed rape victims for sexual assault, saying:

“The other bad girls—bad women—are the ones who like to be naughty, might go out and play and get hurt and then, you know... But the other thing about this is that it then blames the alcohol instead of the person who over-drinks. So it's like, the same thing with guns. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. Alcohol doesn't get you drunk; you get yourself drunk.”

There was also the time Dash said the democratic party had a “plantation mentality.”

And there was the time Dash said that women who highlight the U.S. gender pay gap are peddling “an excuse.” 

“It’s an excuse. Stop making excuses. If there are opportunities, seize them. And be prepared for them. And be the best, if that’s what it takes. If you have to be extraordinary, be extraordinary.”

But the Internet reserved its full fury until January 20, 2016, when Dash called for the abolishment of the BET Awards and NAACP Image Awards, saying:

“We have to make up our minds… Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the (NAACP) Image Awards where you’re only awarded if you’re black.”

Twitter wasted no time. The Roast of Stacey Dash had begun.

The recurring criticism: that Dash was was advocating to eliminate the very institutions that supported her middling career. She had routinely appeared in Jet, King, Smooth, and other other black publications.  

Dash’s first guest appearances as an actress were on The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, two iconic black television shows. She had even presented at the Image Awards, the very “segregated” show that she was now against.

Dash’s accusations seemed hollow and calculated, especially considering all that the black entertainment industry had done for her career. And Twitter took vicious note.

Reign saw through it all. “Her antics are painstakingly transparent,” she told the Daily Dot. “Her words would hold more sway if they were factual. But Dash said that only Blacks win NAACP Image Awards or BET Awards, which is untrue. A simple Google search would have told her that. In fact, Dash attended the 2011 NAACP Theatre awards. Dash also said we should get rid of channels like BET, yet she used to be on The Game, a BET program. She's also been on the cover of several magazines that are marketed to Blacks, including Jet and Heart and Soul.” 

Dash was speaking non-truths, yet she stood by her statements on Black History Month and black networks as separatist in nature.

Finally, the Internet had had enough, and decided to kick the roast up a notch by inciting BET to get involved. Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) told the Daily Dot, “I haven’t been that proud of BET since Big Tigger was still on the channel.”

The rest of Black Twitter erupted with support as well.

And it didn’t stop there. BET went on to play a marathon of black music videos that Dash had featured in. This brand embraced pettiness with open arms, clapping back thunderously and catalyzing a movement. Where criticism of Dash had once been largely limited to the Twitter community, prominent celebrities now began to react to Dash.

NewsOne Now read:

Gabrielle Union shade:

Anthony Anderson drag:

Dash went from beloved C-list starlet to despised conservative pundit in four short years. How could things have gone wrong? 

Describing her trajectory, Phil Lewis said, “Sometimes we get so used to the characters actors play that we tend to forget there are people behind the roles, very much like Raven-Symoné. Stacey Dash may have held these feelings for years, we may just be starting to hear about them as she gets older.” 

But perhaps Dash wasn’t meant to have a platform in the first place. As with Raven-Symoné before her, many on Twitter agree that Stacey Dash expressed controversial thoughts just to elicit a reaction.

Time after time, Dash snared Black Twitter, which reacted to her conservative soundbites and gave her the publicity she needed to continue working. It’s impossible to say whether her hypocrisy was genuine or by design. All we can ultimately conclude is that her ability to troll Black Twitter is paralleled only by Raven-Symoné’s.

As a black conservative, Stacey Dash is the troll that Twitter never wanted. But until we learn to ignore her, we’ll have to keep rolling out burns.

Photo via @realstaceydash/Instagram


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