Is Sharon Needles racist? In RuPaul’s Drag Race
Season 4 she (playfully) poked fun at fellow contestants Dida Ritz and Latrice Royale’s race early in the season and served up a pair of “Navajo-realness” shoes for a mini-challenge. According to Project Q Atlanta, she is now facing criticism
for using racial imagery and the word “nigger,” to the point where she organized a time to sit down with two protesters in Atlanta, Enakai and Maura Ciseaux.
Needles defended her use of racially charged material, stating that it's her right as an artist to subvert and that it’s done transgressively, arguing that she has been oppressed for being gay. The Ciseauxs drew attention to the fact that Needles is not black and that she has every right to subvert white gay images, but not black ones, saying that gay clubs in Atlanta are barely safe places for people of colour.
The Ciseauxs asked for a public apology and a promise that the offending material would be dropped from her act. Needles apologized to them, saying that the language has been dropped from her vocabulary, but she said it's her prerogative to apologize publicly and decide what goes in her act on her own terms. After the Ciseauxs left, unsatisfied, Needles said, “Language has the power that we give it.”
No easy answer, but at least commendable on all sides that everyone was willing to sit down and talk about it.