"Its just movies", said the white guy.
I sat there, speachless..but not shocked..
"It's JUST movies"..
I tried to think of a quick response.
How could he say that its JUST movies?
This guy wasn't some racist bigot from the backwoods. He was a friend. Nor did I view his statement as such... Ignorant? Yes. Perhaps even lacking empathy. Nevertheless, I sat there. Mouth agasp..
First and foremost, let me start by saying that I am not the Lorax of all mothers of black children (google the Lorax, if you are not familiar). Nor am I an actor. Simply put, the outlook shared in this blog post is reflected from a mother of two black boys, and that alone..
Jax, my oldest was six years old. He was sharing attributes of one of his many favorite super heroes at the time... Super Man. The friend whom he was having this discussion with listened intently, and commented on how one day perhaps he could be a super hero, or even better, perhaps HE could be Super Man. Jax responds, "I could never be Super Man..I'm not white." His friend and myself stood there shocked. More than likely sensing the surprise now resting on his two member audience, Jax quickly added "I can be President... I just can't be Super Man."
Why did my son feel this way? I couldn't necessarily disprove his observation. I, his mother, who has enforced repeatedly that he can do anything, had nothing to say. Could this be true? Could it be that MY brown boys have a greater chance at ruling the free world, than being a vigilante in tights? Perhaps. Either way, there was obviously a clear message being received by my then six year old. I CAN'T BE SUPERMAN.. and more specifically, BROWN BOYS CAN'T BE SUPERMAN.
Initially, I purposed for this piece to be centered around the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that has circulated social media. However, the truth is... there is a deeper rooted issue than simply African Americans being nominated for a gold trophy. Black actors would first need to get past the role/opportunity gatekeepers to be cast in the coveted roles that lead to the nominations. Actress, Viola Davis, said it best, “You cannot win an Emmy (in this case an Oscar) for roles that are simply not there”...“The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity.” Blaming the Oscars simply puts a bandaid on a gunshot wound that needs healing. Perhaps sincere change starts with the previously mentioned "gatekeepers"... the producers, studio execs, and casting directors, who deem it socially acceptable to not cast a positive super hero of color OR the next African American James Bond... Yet still find an a majority white Egypt far easier to digest. Could the root problem begin with the lack of diversity in positions of power?
Based on USA Today's Diversity Report of 14 major film studios, we are headed for another possible repeat of an all white Oscars for 2017. None of the studios recieved A's... only 4 received B's... majority received C's... Paramount received an F. Acting head of the NAACP Hollywood branch, Robin Harrison mentioned of a coaltion that has been meeting with TV networks for the past 15 years... thus resulting in TV making more progress than the film world. Needless to say, there is work to be done.
Entertainment plays a part in our everyday lives. The diversity that we see in our day to day run around should be reflected as such. When black men are cast as astronauts sent into outer space, or simply a teacher (who rescues a classroom of inner city kids...not just black kids either)... that is when we have made true progress. As I mentioned previously, I am not an actor or The African American's Lorax. I am simply a mother who feels that the narrative must change... not just for my boys, but for all children of color. To the Studio Execs, Casting Directors, and Suits....Our children hear you loud and clear..
"Its just movies", said the white guy. But is it, really?