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Why It Matters That An Assistant Attorney to a Houston DA Is The Colorist ‘TikTok Chef’

Various screencaps from Waymond Wesley II and Melissa Maily's social media behind a gavel. Image: screencaps remixed by Alyssa Shotwell.

***Content warning: This post discusses suicide.***

Within hours of popular TikTokker, Chef Way, posting a viral tutorial on making oxtail pasta, tweets resurfaced of him making violent comments (and threats) towards women over the years. These tweets included colorist, fatphobic, Islamaphobic, and misogynistic remarks, seemingly exclusively towards Black women. Other standouts included nasty remarks about the death of Sandra Bland. What’s worse is the man, Waymond B. Wesley II, also works as an assistant to the Harris County District Attorney (DA) in Houston, TX.

In addition to the resurfaced tweets, women have come forward, speaking about being the victims of Welsey’s attacks and witnessing sexual harassment of his classmates in law school. Writer and founder of the Thurman Perry Foundation (a Louisana-based organization dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated women and girls), Gabrielle Perry, tweeted that Welsey harassed her for years and told her to kill herself. Educator Jameelah Jones made a TikTok explaining that she witnessed Welsey bully young women into deleting their accounts.

@sunnydaejones Im a student of history, and I hate when supervillains try to act like that wasnt their place in history. #sunnydaejones #chefway #loveblackwomen ♬ original sound – Jameelah Jones

A common response to this level is misogynoir (hatred of Black women) is to bring up how self-hating this attitude is and how many of these men were brought into this world by a Black woman. In 2015, Welsey’s mother, who works as a preschool teacher, tweeted under a thread, “I raised him exactly opposite of [this] BS he’s spewing. I do not condone his ludicrousness.” Even his mother expressed shame of Welsey’s behavior, and publically condemned her grown son as he was tweeting. The same can’t be said for Wesley’s current fiance, Melissa Tran (also a foodie influencer), who, in now-deleted tweets, shared people calling the criticism “cancel culture.”

@charcoochiechat Black girls: it was never about you. #greenscreen #fyp #bougiebitez #chefway #twitter #blacktiktok #racism #colorism #blacktwitter #roblox ♬ original sound – truthhurtz

This week, mother of Welsey’s five-year-old daughter denounced him and apologized for her own racist behavior while with him. (She is a white Latina that was found to have tweeted the n-word multiple times.)

The irony of Welsey’s anti-Blackness being found out due to a recipe for oxtails (a food rapidly being gentrified by non-Black people he seeks validation from) is not lost on me. With over 250,000 followers on TikTok, almost three million likes and videos that average regularly get tens of thousands of views, this was not a small account. Brands like Walmart, Ninja, Central Market, Kevin’s Natural Foods, Lifeway, Herbal Vineyards, Acorns (finance), Anova Culinary, and more have worked with Welsey on sponsored posts. The day after Welsey’s video, Anova CEO Stephen Svajian announced their ending affiliation with the chef, and depending on public pressure, more brands may follow suit.

Second chances for whom

To those I’ve hurt with my past tweets that have resurfaced, I am deeply sorry. That was a moment in my life where I was sick in more ways than one. Cooking saved me. You have watched a flawed man heal. I will continue to heal and learn. Thanks for being along for the journey.

Waymond D. Wesley II

The day Welsey went viral, he put out a written apology (on Twitter and TikTok) and claimed that cooking healed him. In addition to making this statement, Welsey has blocked people from commenting or making stitches across different social media platforms. Despite the ability of most people to grow, Welsey is making it very difficult to believe him in good faith considering this only came when the fallout threatened his ability to make money and have a friendly brand.

There is overwhelming data showing that despite equal rates of crimes when accounting for class, Black people are disproportionately targeted by the police and incarcerated at higher rates. Despite the fact Black people make up less than 13% of the population, we make up a third of the prison population. Over the last twenty years, further studies have found the darker the defendant is (as well as having more Afro-centric features and hair texture), the harsher the punishments they receive. This is why colorism is not simply a single issue, but something baked into to larger structural racism.

This goes beyond the criminal justice system, but it matters here because Welsey works as the assistant prosecutor to the DA (Kim Ogg) in one of the most diverse counties in the country—a country that incrcerates all people (but especially Black people) at alarming rates and continues the largest jail in the U.S. Welsey’s role includes him analyzing cases, selecting jurors, and questioning witnesses. He has a say in pushing cases of certain people and requesting longer sentencing.

These biases he had/has about Black women and darker skin inevitably spill into his professional life. The tweets and the accusations from women came in his mid-to-late twenties when he was in law school and posting “Black Lives Matter.” Hopefully, those that feel they were wrongfully or unfairly prosecuted by him can act together and get appeals at the very least.

The Kim Ogg of it all

His boss, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, released a statement regarding these tweets, saying, “His recovery is ongoing. I am a believer in second chances, and Mr. Wesley has conducted himself professionally since joining our staff. I am confident that will continue.” This was a very interesting choice of words coming from a DA of all places (whose job is to punish people) and especially Ogg.

As one of the major cities that’s made strides towards bail reform in the last few years, Houston had pulled through in electing many compassionate judges. With such a large backlog of cases, it’s important that people’s day in court is handled carefully because these decisions so many lives. Ogg has made it her mission to undermine these judges by working with Republican lawmakers to forcibly remove these judges from the bench. Despite campaigning on bail reform in 2016, she’s gone after judges for “setting too high a standard for probable cause” and made baseless claims trying to tie no-cash bail to crime increases.

So, her endorsement of Wesley may safeguard him from punishment or oversight, but does nothing to prove that he’s changed. Neither going through law school nor working for cops means that you are a better person or have grown, and in my experience, can mean the opposite. Time passing doesn’t mean someone has grown. People like Ogg (an elected official, by the way) and Welsey have a lot of power and flex it with their biases.

CORRECTION 1/17/2023: Originally miswrote “Black people are appropriately targeted” instead of the now corrected “Black people are disproportionately targeted.”

(featured image: screencaps remixed by Alyssa Shotwell)

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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with experience and an educational background in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. A resident of the yeeHaw land, she spends most of her time watching movies, playing video games, and reading.