“The race card.” Or, do you really think this is a game?!

Nineteen days into the new year and I’m already behind with my resolutions. In my previous post, I had said I wanted to blog once a week. Aside from that post and this one, I have not. But instead of beating myself up, I’mma gonna get writing.

And I’m gonna start with the controversy I was greeted with on my FB feed this morning when I woke up. Apparently, self-proclaimed “blacktress” Janet Hubert is calling out Jada Pinkett-Smith for publicly pondering a boycott of the Oscars because, let’s face it, it’s got it’s own hashtag now and everything: #OscarsSoWhite.

Janet seems to think that Jada is doing this solely because her husband didn’t get nominated because her first critical piece of commentary was

First of all, Miss Thing does your man not have a mouth of his own with which to speak?

What the hell does that have to do with anything? What, Jada can’t take to her own twitter and express her own thoughts and disappointment that there were NO actors or actresses of color nominated? She didn’t talk about how upset she was that Will didn’t get nominated. In a series of three joined tweets, she noted that:

At the Oscars…people of color are always welcomed to give out awards…even entertain, But we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together? People can only treat us in the way in which we allow. With much respect in the midst of deep disappointment.

How is that solely her being bitter about her husband not getting nominated? It’s no “my husband was robbed!” It’s speaking as a person of color about other people of color. I’m sure I wouldn’t have to dig too deeply to find that she also thinks Idris Elba should’ve been nominated, like the rest of the world that isn’t the Oscar nomination committee. She makes a damn good point. For decades, all awards shows have been whitewashed. It’s not that her husband didn’t get nominated. It’s that this year, when her husband and other actors of color were creating Oscar buzz by receiving nods from other awards ceremonies, there were no Oscar nominations. For any people of color. Again, there’s a reason why #OscarsSoWhite is a hashtag.

So here’s Janet Hubert criticizing Jada Pinkett-Smith, trying to make this like Jada’s butthurt about Will not being nominated and is speaking for him. Well, she kind of is. But she’s speaking for him and every other person of color who wasn’t nominated. Idris Elba. Michael B. Jordan. Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., and Jason Mitchell.

Jada is addressing a clear inequality in representation. And, fine. Perhaps, as Hubert says, a perpetual imbalance in awards ceremony accolades isn’t as imminent a threat to safety and life as poverty and police brutality. But to denigrate the arts and their importance in helping people express themselves, learn about themselves, and change the world around them seems short-sighted and mean-spirited at best.

Because there’s more to this.

My husband tells me to never read the comments, but one of them caught my eye on my FB feed under the article:

This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard. This is something she is trying to use to become relevant other than being wills wife. She’s using the race card and it sickens me

“The race card.” So Jada calling attention to the fact that #OscarsSoWhite is just pulling “the race card” and “trying to…become relevant other than being wills wife.” Do these people not know that she’s an actress in her own right? That she’s a mother raising two children who’s in the entertainment industry? That she’s more than Will Smith’s wife and doesn’t need to hide behind real issues just to gain “relevance”?

Apparently not. So then I went even further into the comments and just…was appalled. After growing up in a very racist neighborhood with very racist family members, I’ve culled my life and my FB friend’s list to the point where I don’t see this racist bullshit vitriol on a regular basis. Maybe that’s not good, as when I do see it, I’m shocked. The one that got me the most, though, was this:

RaceCard-2016

In this day and age…seriously?! Let’s start with

the constant crying from, mainly libral black people, “we didn’t get enough people with Oscar’s, oh we didn’t have enough diversity in this or that” guess what maybe there just wasn’t any Oscar caliber roles played by a black person this year. THAT is the race card we are sick of.

First of all, dude. Learn how to spell and learn some basic sentence structure before you go calling other out other people. I’d love it if The Grammar Card could be a thing. Like, here’s a Grammar Card. Go get yourself some. But the argument he’s making, that “maybe there just wasn’t any Oscar caliber roles played by a black person this year” is infuriating. Really? There were none? And yet other awards ceremonies thought there were at least a couple. And in the 88 years the Academy of Arts and Sciences have been giving out awards, I’m sure there have never been deserving people of color who got snubbed. You can’t be that naive, dude.

Apparently, he is. Cause after that, shit gets really bad.

He goes on to say:

As a white male who never once owned a black person nor had a relative who did I find it offencive that people of color can scream and cry and have their own TV station BET, but if a white person wanted WET, they’d be racist, or lets see black history month, if I wanted white history month I’d be a racist, so in closing, I’d like to say get over yourself, racism works both ways 99% of whites are not, or at least were not racist until the last 8 years of Obama and his race baiting horde.

Dude. Duuuuuuuude. No. First of all, black people aren’t screaming and crying solely because they want a TV station. They want representation, equality, to not be shot just because of the way they look. And you’re upset that they have ONE TV station dedicated to black entertainment? The reason why it would be racist for a white person to want WET is because white people already have WET a bunch of times over. They’re just dba as NBC, ABC, CBS, HBO, etc.

And you’re taking umbrage with Black History Month? Really, dude? You wanna know why “screaming and crying” for white history month would be racist? Because white people get ALL THE OTHER MONTHS! School curriculum is written largely by and for white people, from the history that’s taught to the novels that are read. As author and teacher Nicholas Ferroni said in this article, We Teach Racism, Sexism, and Discrimination in Schools:

Our text books do not blatantly encourage students to be racist, sexist or discriminatory, but it’s the lack of figures and truths which give students the impression that certain groups didn’t nearly have as large of role as others and, in some cases, groups are completely nonexistent. When broken down statistically, our textbook mentions eight white males for every one African American, women, Jew, and one figure from other various minority groups. The term “gay” is only mentioned twice, and there is only a single paragraph with any description of the “gay rights movement.”

I read an article talking about the SCOTUS decision on legalizing marriage for gay people and there was a quote there that’s stuck with me:

The problem with being privileged your whole life is that [after] you have had that privilege for so long, equality starts to look like oppression.

This is the thing. When you’re used to something, like turning on the TV and seeing 99% of the shows geared towards people who look like you, and seeing people who look like you in places of power, and seeing books written by people who look like you featuring people who look like you, and people like you getting out of tickets from police, you begin to become blind to it and just think of it as the way life should be.

When the images you see of people of color are in roles that paint them as servants, criminals, drug addicts or dealers, cheaters, abusers, struggling single mothers, welfare recipients, or overly drawn caricatures, you begin to think that’s how “those people” are. And anything or anyone challenging that, trying to say there is more to people of color, that there should be more opportunity, that the playing field is skewed and shouldn’t be, that people of color and women can excel in the arts, in STEM subjects (like this amazing young man, Dr. Jalaal Hayes) is “playing a race card” or oppressing you if you try to counter what the “other” people want.

You don’t realize how imbalanced it is to counter “let’s create a TV station for people of color because there’s hardly any other representation anywhere else” with, “well, if you get a black TV network, I want a white TV network and if you say no, you’re racist.”

You begin to say that the people getting shot are “thugs” who “deserved it” because they “must’ve done something.” You don’t see the subtle ways headlines differ to call one mass shooter “mentally ill” and one shooter is called a “terrorist” or, again, a “thug”. Why one mass murderer is given a hail of gunfire and another (who confessed to shooting several black people in church) is given Burger King.

And that only begins to touch on how the Media Treats White Suspects and Killers Better Than Black Victims. 

Janet Hubert misses the point when she shames Jada Pinkett-Smith for speaking out about inequality in the Academy Awards, saying “it’s just not that deep.” Oh but it really is. It’s all connected. Because when you don’t nominate people for things, assholes like the guy above truly think that it’s because there weren’t any worthy performances, not that the Academy isn’t fond of diversity or uncomfortable racial subjects like police brutality or leading a children’s army.

I say all this as a white woman who is only recently beginning to understand and check her own privilege. I say this as a woman who has had previously not wanted to identify as a feminist because I wanted to be a “humanist” and elevate everyone. I tried to erase race when dealing with people, only to recently discover that that doesn’t really help either because celebrating diversity is better than pretending race doesn’t exist (I mean, technically, it’s a man-made concept, but that doesn’t help address the majority of the world that sees color and draws some fucked up conclusions based on it) nor does it confront head-on the uncomfortable conversations we’re going to have to constantly have for a really long time to get anywhere with equality.

This isn’t a game of cards. People are standing up and saying “no more” and white people, white men especially, are getting scared. Women are saying “no more” and men are getting scared. White men especially are being confronted by their privilege and it’s terrifying to them. Because if we start evening out the playing field, that means there’s less there that they automatically get. And you know what? Too damn bad.