Ah, it’s long been the end of the 88th Academy Awards AKA ‘The White People’s choice award’, and as Bette Midler put it:
Another year in which there were no black candidates for any of the coveted acting and directing awards.Something that even the 12th Oscars managed- the Oscar ceremony which forced its black actress to sit on a different table from her white costars was more capable of (grudgingly) recognizing black talent than we are in 2015.
Of course, while a lot the internet was up in arms about it (including celebrities such as Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith), predictably there were legions of white people ready to silence those uppity brown people and Social Justice Warriors by accusing them of playing ‘the race card’.
You know the type of white person I’m talking about. The type who pout and stomp their feet complaining ‘why is do they get a black history month when we don’t get a white history month?’
The answer to that question of course is yes, silly, we have white history month- only it’s called ‘every school curriculum ever’ and it lasts all year, every year and it dominates the entire Western Media. But perhaps we should swap. Maybe we should make the secondary school curriculum and the majority of the higher education history subjects about black people, and then give white people a White History Month to look at all our now overlooked achievements. That means bye bye Downton Abbey, The Tudors, and all the shows about ancient Rome and endless shows about ancient Cush, the Queen of Shiba and Dahomean Warrior Women (wait, that would be kid of awesome). Maybe then they’d understand why all those brown people are so hung up on race all the time . Yes, I’m ranting. But do you see what I’m getting at?
But they’ve got this defence. This defence of the status quo which is white privilege on speed masquerading as progressiveness. When they talk about the lack of diversity in the media, they say they don’t ‘see things in terms of race; just people’, as if it somehow makes them evolved to a higher level of humanity to all those petty SJWs and POC who don’t understand the world’s moved on and racism is dead.
No, racism isn’t dead. The reason they don’t see race is because because they don’t have to. The vast majority of lead characters and support characters in television shows and movies are white men (with the odd woman and POC slipping in once in a blue moon). Everything centers around white male issues and their problems. Even with female leads, although we’ve had a spout of stronger leads in The Millenium Trilogy, Fury Road, The Hunger Games, Bridesmaids and the Ghostbusters reboot, as well as Jessica Jones, Supergirl, Wonderwoman and Harley Quinn finally showing that women can be good superheroines too, it’s easy to forget it isn’t getting much better for non white women. The last action film lead by a black woman was the heavily criticized Alien vs Predator, and as for black superheroines we have Storm who was vastly underdeveloped in the X-men films and don’t even mention Catwoman.In the new Ghostbusters, it looks like the sole black woman will not be a brilliant scientist but the ‘streetwise’ one.
It’s become so overwhelming that the lives and issues of white men are universal stories. Even in more understated ways like with The Doctor being able to travel at any point in time without anything to fear; or a largely useless everyman audience insert being told ‘he has hidden potential to be the saviour’ , while a POC has to be brilliant to prove everyone’s expectations wrong .Good news for white women certainly does not mean good news for POC (see Jane Eyre and Gone With The Wind).
But the crux of the matter is that ‘not seeing race’ means they don’t have to listen to black people. They’ll happily like Geordie LaForge or Vampire Diary’s Bo play a neutral support character, which for various reasons (futuristic setting for the former and lazy writing for the latter) ignore any issues or markers relating to race. They don’t have to listen to black people complaining about ‘that thing they don’t see’ that affects them every day. That’s not universal; that’s being politically correct. ‘Not seeing race’ really is a good way to avoid listening to brown people.
This wasn’t meant to turn into a rant, and I know I’m preaching to the converted but the failure is disgraceful and needs to be codemned loudly. And not quit now that the Oscars have passed. We need to do this as loudly and proudly as often as possible so that Hollywood is held to a higher standard. We need to keep on proclaiming loudly so that Hollywood knows that not only are POC unhappy with the way things are, but the precious white audience they fear alienating.
And we need to stop trying to silence black people who only want to see themselves in the shows they love, just like us; that way, we truly can watch shows that aren’t about race, but truly are just about people and talent. That is, if we truly don’t want to see race and aren’t using it as an excuse to silence black people.