What Jada, Stacey & Janet [RE:] Women of Color in 2016

So many have showed disdain towards Jada Pinkett’s recent boycott against attending the 2016 Oscar Awards. Shade and grace have been thrown from all corners of the internet world in defense or in opposition of the lively debate amongst prominent Black women in Hollywood.

Jada Pinkett stands amongst a league of Black female actresses who helped push open the door for more Black female recognition in film. This much was clear when Halle Berry, the first Black woman to nab a ‘Golden Boy’ during the 2002 Ceremony, marked the inaugural moment with a powerful speech.

Miss Halle was in tears. Heck, the actress was sobbing when she received that award (as was I). This easily ranked as the rawest moment in recent live television history which depicts the true power of a woman of color. The raw emotion was strongly rooted in the fact that no Black female actress before her had ever been recognized for their craft. This goes further than what any camera lens can ever capture; the effort, the commitment, the stress and the sacrifice that one experiences in the name of creative passion.

Not Whoopi Goldberg in ‘The Color Purple” and not Angela Bassett as the relentless Tina Turner in “What’s Love Gotta Do With It” (hell, give Miss Tina an award for her bravery to tell her story). Halle stood on that stage, with her heart visible for all the world to see, and in her acceptance speech, she recognized Miss Jada Pinkett.

“This moment is so much bigger than me … It’s for the women that stand beside me. Jada Pinkett .. and it’s for every nameless face that’s a woman of color that now has the chance because this door tonight has been opened.”

But when Miss Jada Pinkett revealed a glimpse of her experience as an actress in Hollywood since that historical moment, many of us got upset.

Now, if you forget for a moment the politics and listen to her as if you’re sitting across the table, enjoying some lemonade with the wife and mother of two who has worked tirelessly for her family, for God, and for the community(ies) she belongs to, you may internalize it differently. Miss Jada speaks without malice or ill intention; only with timely experience. And in turn, she implicitly invites other Black female actresses to join the trending conversation. She, with grace and compassion, is creating space for many of us, nameless or not, to have this dialogue with her.

Miss Jada’s point of view is integral in understanding how oppression operates in the theater and film business. She critiques the Academy’s lack of diversity not to assist making it more efficient, but to begin showing resistance towards this systemic racism that for so long has marginalized women of color. Miss Jada recognizes that Black female empowerment can never occur in a context that is characterized by oppression and social injustice.

Yet by listening to only Miss Jada and ignore the experiences of Stacey Dash (Dionne from Clueless) and Janet Hubert (‘Aunt Viv’ from Fresh Prince) who have also leveraged their fame to speak on this issue, we may miss the big picture.

Both Miss Stacey and Miss Janet refute Miss Jada’s point(s) of not attending, or tuning into, the 2016 Oscars. Miss Stacey stated on Fox & Friends that Black people have to choose a side – segregation or integration – and if the former is chosen, every minority network must stop giving out awards to well, Black people. Miss Janet Hubert took to her own style of coverage with a video much like Miss Jada Pinkett’s and shared her differences on the matter too. She cited many people in the making of her video, proving it obvious that her approach may have been reactive rather than pro-active.

But nonetheless, these strong women of color have accumulated so many likes and further discussion on this topic that, prior to that moment in 2002, was not on our radar and could not be found on our Facebook timelines. So, with each shared experience it is imperative that as community allies and even greater so as women of color, we must allow these conversations to live and breathe for what they are because this is much bigger than just attending/not attending a Ceremony. This is a revolutionary platform being created for women of color in America BUT the only way it can be sustained is if we, people of color, stop collaborating in the victimization of these women. These three are EVERYDAY SURVIVORS of systemic racism, as are thousands of us. Their perspectives are different as are their experiences, but one is not more valid than the other. Let us have this space, for once!

Stop pinning Jada, Stacey and Janet against each other, because each of their stories are valuable fragments that, altogether, tell a compelling story. They are each but individual voices in a dialogue amongst women of color in America who have been silenced for a long time.

Stop trying to pick a side, because there is no side but rather intersectionality; these stories are woven together by the fabric of a dominated industry of whiteness which for centuries have blanketed over the residual effects of slavery, oppression and second class citizenship granted to people of color.

Let these women own their stories. Empower others to do so, too. This, right now, is what we need to be grateful for. Women of color speaking nationally on behalf of so many of us who can recognize pain and prejudice when we hear it.

All three women exemplify that we indeed have reached a time where we no longer have to be afraid to voice our stories. No matter how ‘politically incorrect’ we may sound, or how ‘unaware’ we may seem – the point lies in widening the space so that more of us will choose to contribute to this story and thus begin to cultivate a collective voice. Knowledge is power and silencing one another is destructive.

If we are really about human empowerment, let us prove it through practice. That is where the real power lies.

And if all points were missed, my main point is this – it’s not about a damn awards show, but about principle. Women of color and our issues are always seen as trivial compared to mainstream politics and quite frequently fall low on the priority list of social injustices. Stop marginalizing us as second class!

 

 

 

(… #OscarsStillSoWhite though.)

 

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