#OscarsSoWhite: Why Jada's Right and Stacey's Out of Her Mind.
In light of #OscarsSoWhite (for the second year in a row), Jada Pinkett-Smith and a few other black celebrities are boycotting the award show. I totally get it. The Oscars are really so white, that not one single black person was nominated in any category this year. Hard to believe, considering films like “Straight Outta Compton”, “Concussion,” and “Beasts of no Nation,” all led by black actors, were so well-received. The outrage is understandable, though I'm not sure a boycott is the answer. After all, it seems they didn't want us there in the first place, so black celebrities might be doing them a favour by not showing up. Still, I haven't yet come up with a better solution so I can't knock this boycott.
Many have though. Plenty of white folk, specifically the kind who love the confederate flag and the NRA, and hate affirmative action and liberalism, have flocked to the Internet to explain that black people are just a bunch of whiners who just won't accept their mediocrity. Adding to their chorus, are a few black people who think the Oscar’s issue isn’t a bone worth picking, led by the ever-irritating Stacey Dash, who declared that if we are to get rid of racism we should get rid of BET, Black History Month, and other black-centric networks/programs/celebrations first. Yes, this is the same Stacey Dash that happily cashed a cheque for her appearance on BET's “The Game” and had her glutes prominently featured on the cover of King magazine. Her whole spiel stinks of hypocrisy and privilege.
I agree that segregation is not the answer. I, like most people, would love to live in a world where people of all races experience true equality and peaceful coexistence. However, it is delusional to act as if that is the world we live in now. We don't. Black people are still painfully underrepresented, unacknowledged, and excluded in a number of areas, and this year's Oscars is just one example among many. And it is not for lack of talent, skill, or execution. The hashtag #BlackExcellence, and any number of incredible performances by Hollywood's black actors this year, are sufficient to show we are not falling short of the mark. Still, we go unrecognized and underestimated on the award show stages, in the history classroom (and several others for that matter), in media, in business, and just about everywhere else we could be wrongfully shut out of.
And yet, the burden to integrate is placed on us: we who continue to shine despite the fact that this white world rarely accepts our light, and when it does, it does so almost begrudgingly; we who must work harder than they do to get half what they have and are expected to accept that without question or complaint; we who know more about their history than our own, who are mocked for our culture even as they steal it, who are constantly being forced to subscribe to their beauty standards while our hair and bodies (as they grow naturally) are deemed unprofessional.
How can the responsibility to integrate be ours when we have done everything it takes to be included and are still shut out at every turn? And when we attempt to carve out our own spaces, we are accused of being segregationists and divisive. We wouldn't need Black History Month if we learned about more than Columbus and slaves in our history classrooms. We wouldn't need BET if major television networks properly represented us. We wouldn't need the NAACP Image Awards if the Oscars and the Academy actually recognized amazing acting by black actors. We wouldn't need affirmative action if hiring practices and university application processes were not discriminatory. We wouldn't need #blackgirlsrock and #blackgirlmagic if our women weren't being put down and hated on by just about everybody. We wouldn't need #blacklivesmatter if were treated like our lives had inherent value. See, if we allow Hollywood, the Academy, and other white institutions to be the authority on what qualifies as art, excellence and valuable, all while excluding our people, we do nothing to dismantle the idea that we are not art, not excellent, not valuable. We cannot allow such a cancerous way of thinking to fester, so we recognize ourselves.
So, for all those bashing black-centric hashtags, events, and celebrations, and asking why there's no white history month, #whitegirlsrock, white power, or white pride, please remember that inventions are born of necessity and all these spaces and hashtags and celebrations we, as blacks, have created for ourselves came about because we needed them. If you are white, consider how fortunate you are, that you were born into a world that told you that you rocked and that you mattered from the moment your mother delivered you. Remember it was white power and white pride that allowed the Europeans to colonize the Americas, the Caribbean and India, ripping human beings from their homelands and enslaving them, or claiming the lands of others as their own. You don't need the months and the hashtags and the spaces because you already have them, and you've had them so long and so naturally, that you don't even realize that you do. And to Stacey and all the other privileged/deluded black folk who want to pretend that we don't need these things, their very existence and their endorsement by so many black people who find strength, encouragement, and solace in them, are enough to prove you wrong.
I will support Jada Pinkett's boycott because until the Oscars are equal, or another option is presented for an integration that doesn't reduce us to an afterthought, something ought to be said and done. I'll leave you with the words of an actress whose elegance and eloquence I admire immensely: