So, earlier this week actress and Fox News Contributor Stacey Dash said in an interview that we should not have Black History Month or award shows that only feature black actors. She was responding to questions after several prominent, black Hollywood names publicly declared their intention to boycott the Oscars because for the second year in the row there were no nominations for black actors.
Dash said: “We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration, and if we don’t want segregation then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black. If it were the other around we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard.”
Um, Stacey? We are up in arms. That’s why filmmaker Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting the Oscars. The Oscars and many mainstream recognition vehicles like it frequently omit critically-acclaimed film contributions made by minorities, specifically, African Americans. Think about the blackout – or should I say white out? – that happened with the 2014 historical drama “Selma.”
Everyone was talking about that film. What did Oscar say? Nothing.
But back to Dash. In the same interview, she also said, “There shouldn’t be a black history month…we’re Americans, period.” Her comments are too – forgive the descriptor – black and white. She provides no context, and as a result completely misses the point.
The Image, BET and other multicultural award shows were created because African Americans frequently don’t get acknowledgement in the other venues. In the same vein, Black History Month was created because our history and the good, valuable contributions we’ve made usually don’t make it into the history books, or out into the media.
Think about television programs and other recordings that live on in perpetuity, things that another generation can look back on to see what was happening and what was important in life and the arts and in the world. Without targeted vehicles like multicultural award shows to recognize black contributions, it would appear as though we haven’t made any. It would appear as though black people had done nothing except play sports, sing, make crappy rap music and be murdered by the police.
If it was as simple as Dash makes it sound, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. If all Americans were treated equally, and merit was the only system of record that mattered, diversity and inclusion wouldn’t even be a thing. And wouldn’t that be something? The mind reels at such an image of the world. I would absolutely—100 percent—love to live in that world. I’d probably be one of the masters of the universe, instead of just a big mouth with a little blog.
But, sadly, we don’t live in that world. So, for Dash to say we shouldn’t have Black History Month because there is no white history month is simple-minded. All, or at least most, of the history that we currently learn in school is white. So, technically, every month is white history month. Can’t we have this little 28 days so our kids can see that their ancestors are special, too? That we have contributed significantly to the betterment of society and the world?
I actually don’t want – and there are a lot of people who will agree – anyone to call out black or female or LGBT or disability before they call out a person’s name. I don’t want us to have a month or a separate show or anything separate at all. But women and minorities cannot leave it up to others to give us the acknowledgement we deserve. We have to help ourselves. If we left it all up to the powers that be in the workplace, we’d be stuck in typing pools or other low level, low-paying jobs, getting pinched on the ass and chased around desks, or we wouldn’t have jobs at all.
Then Dash attacks President Obama for getting funding from the liberal elite in Hollywood “yet there are not very many roles for people of color…” So, the leader of the free world is supposed to run this country and Hollywood, too? Should we have President Obama sit in on casting sessions when the Weinsteins or the Cohen brothers have something big coming up? Dash, take several seats.
She wants to know why this—the boycott over #OscarsSoWhite—is just now being addressed? Well, the time is right. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is hot. We’ve had a long string of black murders by police, as well as a ton of high profile diversity-related news in the past year. People are aware of the inequities, they’re pissed, they’re protesting and they’re listening. Now is the perfect time to talk about this.
And yes, it’s notable that Pinkett Smith is one of the people calling for the boycott, and her husband was passed over for acknowledgement, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. The Academy’s demographics—what we know of them, since it’s all a big secret—are predominantly white and male. That needs to change. That governing body should be reflective of the film-viewing public, which is representative of the world that we live in, because almost everyone loves movies.
I can’t figure Dash out. She’s utterly beautiful—and no one can deny she was fabulous in “Clueless”—yet every time I see her I want to cover my own eyes. I feel like she’s just saying these crackpot things for attention in hopes of landing herself a rich Republican husband. At least, I hope that’s what’s going on. If she actually means what she’s saying…*whistles*
Let me state again for the record. No one wants to talk about this stuff. I don’t want to talk about this stuff, and LinkedIn gave me an award for talking about this stuff. We have to. Like, literally, we have to. If we don’t, nothing will change, and we need change. We need change in the workplace, in film, everywhere that people are treated differently for reasons that have nothing to do with performance.
I wasn’t planning to watch the Oscars. Not because of any race-related beef, but because I don’t really watch live TV. But I hope Chris Rock hosts and cracks a ton of jokes about Dash and #OscarsSoWhite. I hope he makes it hot for the Academy. Discomfort is often a precursor for change, and change is good.