I am coming off an amazing 5-day writer’s retreat taught by “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed, and expected my next blog post would be focused on detailing the experience and everything I learned.
But then I saw this: “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings—About Time or Too Much of A Good Thing?” And I have to speak on it.
If you haven’t read the article, it basically looks at Hollywood’s recent acceptance that non-white people exist in society, and concludes it is putting white people at an unfair disadvantage. The small steps the industry is taking toward rejecting homogeneity may be leading it down a dangerous path- so watch out!
My first reaction to this article was not anger, but hurt.
It literally hurt my feelings.
This woman completely marginalized my existence as a black person. My story shouldn’t be told, she says, because a white actress isn’t the right person to tell it. Sure, white people need hundreds—thousands—of TV shows to depict their lives, but I should be more than satisfied that How to Get Away with Murder, Blackish and Empire depicts my truth. She suggests that art like mine, which has minority characters, is in opposition to art that features white characters. The idea that all TV shows, whether they feature black or white people, are at their core, stories about humanity with universal themes are inconceivable to her. The concept of people identifying with characters not of their same race is beyond her (unless, of course it’s non-whites identifying with whites because their stories are always universal). Honestly, it was so insulting.
My second reaction was an intellectual (as opposed to emotional) one. That reaction was that the article is racist.
If you follow this blog, then you know that I don’t go around calling everyone racist. Nicholas Sparks, for example. I said he was an asshole, but I’m not comfortable calling him a racist. The Sony chick who joked about Obama watching Kevin Hart? A person who said something dumb, not a racist. The reporter who asked if Fresh Off the Boat would feature chopsticks? Ignorant, but not racist.
This Deadline article was actually racist.
It’s racist because she turns the celebrated idea of diversity in television into something that is adversarial to white people. She turns it into a zero sum game, engaging in the age-old technique of using racial division to advocate for a white, male-dominated status quo.
How does she do this? By suggesting that Hollywood is using affirmative action in its hiring decisions, knowing this is a trigger. The problem is that she presents no real evidence that anyone is actually using quotas, and if they are that it’s nothing more than anomaly. She completely dismisses the concept that the directed focus on increasing diversity and having color-blind auditions is a) a response to demand and b) an attempt to capitalize on the opportunity present in this moment to finally be able to hire the best actor, instead of the best white actor.
Any attempt to reinforce structural racism is, to me, racist. Any attempt to capitalize on our nation’s racial trigger is, to me, racist. So the Deadline article is racist to me. And frightening.