The Room Where It Happens
It's been a crazy few weeks, and just when you think you can relax and breathe again, boom! Something else happens that makes your hair stand up. If you've been living under a rock lately or were at least away from all electronics for an extended vacation, let me fill you in on some stories that happened while you were away. One of George Floyd's killers, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on all three counts, with a future trial date set for the remaining three officers also responsible for Floyd's death. Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win for Best Director at the Oscars for her film, Nomadland. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first black women to win Best Hairstyling and Makeup at the Oscars for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Chadwick Boseman, the heavy favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actor in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, lost both the BAFTA and the Oscar to Anthony Hopkins for his performance in The Father (it may take me, along with plenty others, a while to get over this one.). Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) also lost the Best Actress Oscar to Frances McDormand (Nomadland). For the first time ever, there were two women sitting behind the President during his address. The Senate almost unanimously voted to pass a bill to target hate crime against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. One person voted "nay." (Did I mention that hate crimes against the AAPI communities skyrocketed over 150% in the past year, hence the reason for this bill?) In Chicago, a young Latino boy named Adam Toledo was killed by the Chicago Police Department, but his shooting was only made public on 15 April when after claims by the CPD that Toledo was armed actually showed the opposite. Toledo was unarmed. This sparked protests across Chicago and more anger and frustration over killings against minority communities by police officers. And much, much more. It just seems like we can't get a break, even though we've been begging for one lately. But do you know what really gets my goat? Statements and questions that begin like this: "Do we really have to bring color into this?" Oh, boy. You know good and well what the answer to that question is going to be. HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!! The reason why will make sense once I share this story with you.
I didn't watch the Oscars, but I heard about it the next day. You can imagine my surprise and anger when I saw that Anthony Hopkins beat out Chadwick Boseman. But what especially confused me was how they placed the Best Actor category at the very end of the award ceremony, and Mr. Hopkins wasn't there physically to accept the award. It was as if the producers thought Boseman would win, but it turned out to be a disaster once again. Of course, I believe Mr. Boseman was robbed of the Oscar. Fight me. Anthony Hopkins, of course, was gracious about his win. He released a video clip the next day thanking the Academy for the honor and honored Chadwick Boseman for his performance. (Just for the record, I have nothing against Mr. Hopkins. He is a very talented actor, and I appreciated his graciousness in his speech. But I just didn't agree with the Academy awarding him the Oscar.) I think one of the mistakes I made that day was reading all of the comments on social media, with an even, if not slightly more than, negative response about the result of the Oscars, particularly for Best Actor and Best Actress. One comment on Facebook made plenty of sense, and it started out like this: "All the hate towards Anthony Hopkins is disgusting." Once I cooled down a bit, I added my input about the Oscars, saying that a big reason why there was so much hate towards Anthony Hopkins was that he has at least one or two more fantastic performances ahead of him in the remainder of his lifetime, while Chadwick Boseman does not. And we believed that Boseman's performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was his magnum opus and he should've won. (I would like to mention that I did this with as much decorum and kindness as I could afford.) I left it alone at that. Later that day, one person liked my comment, but there was one response that made my blood boil. This man, let's call him "Tom", had this to say. "You only wanted Chadwick Boseman to win because he was black. 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄" It took all of my patience to not lash out at him, as I told him to go watch Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and see that it was the performances and the content of character that shone through, not the color of their skin. Then I turned off all notifications of that post and another one I commented on earlier because I simply had no time to argue with either one of them. But you can imagine how heated up I was about this. It was if the only reason that a person should deserve an award is what's on the outside, and not the artistry of the individual as a whole. And yet, the question still lingered in my mind even after I signed off. "Why do we have to bring up color in awards shows?" "Why is color so important?" "Can we just not talk about color for once?" And the list goes on and on, sometimes not as nicely put like those questions above. Can I ask you something? If some of you are fed up about color being represented in awards ceremonies, the arts, academics, government, and more, why do proceed to go on social media and rant about it to begin with when you know what the answer is going to be? Haven't you ever heard of the phrase "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything"? Or are you just content with looking stupid? I'll never know. I guess the only thing I can do is pray for you. Do you really want to know why color, gender, sexuality, and religion is being brought up more and more these days, especially in light of the hate crimes against the AAPI communities, police brutality and murders against the black and brown communities, the #metoo movement and women's rights, and the LGBTQ+ communities rights being threatened each and every day? Well, I have a pretty good idea, and you may not like it. But just the same, it needs to be said. So you want to know why people bring up color everywhere they go, even if you don't want to hear it anymore. It's actually quite simple. It's because it's still not normal for some people to accept color, gender, sexuality, or religion everywhere they go. They're filled with so much fear and hatred that they cling on to these emotions as a way get through each day, if only to make themselves feel better through asserting their superiority by making others feel inferior... without their consent, mind you. Think about it. It's still not normal to accept people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community in the room where it happens. It's still not normal to see and recognize people of color beyond what they look like on the outside. It's still not normal to give the jobs to people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities based on their qualifications and character. It's still not normal for women to be treated and paid equally as men in sports because of the idea that they are so "delicate." It's still not normal for homosexuals, transgenders, non binaries, and more to be accepted for who they are and to get married like heterosexuals do. It's still not normal for women to openly talk about how hard it is to be a woman - periods, miscarriages, boobs, mental health, motherhood, C-sections, menopause, being catcalled or taken advantaged of by men, you name it. It's still not normal for people of color to receive the same healthcare as Caucasians. It's still not normal for people of color to get a fair trial. It's still not normal for people of color to get excellent schooling in their neighborhoods because of their income status or where they live. It's still not normal for women and people of color to be considered or even given a promotion at their job even though they've worked harder and smarter than their Caucasian counterparts. It's still not normal for people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ with disabilities to be given the same rights as those who can maneuver through life easily. It's still not normal for people of color or women to be the CEO of a major corporation or organization. It's still not normal for people of color to be accepted and appreciated in the arts like Caucasians. It's still not normal for people of color to enjoy a sunny afternoon in the park without being called out for their skin color or even looked at suspiciously. Or worse. It's still not normal for people of color to have heroes and heroines that look like them and can look up to. It's still not normal for women to run for public office and be heard and respected in a debate because of their femininity. It's still not normal for people of color to afford a place to live or to eat a good meal. It's still not normal for people of color and women to openly talk about domestic violence, mental health, physical health, or even their dreams without being told that it's impossible. It's still not normal for people of color and women to be respected and admired in fields like the military without being taken advantage of. It's still not normal for people of color to play outside safely in their neighborhoods without getting shot at. It's still not normal for women to enjoy a night or weekend out with girlfriends without the possibilities of getting harassed, raped, or worse things hanging over their heads. It's still not normal for some people of color to be accepted as LGBTQ+ within their families and communities. It's still not normal for women, especially women of color and LGBTQ+, to be recognized or even have the opportunities to direct great works of theatre, film, and TV series. It's still not normal for women to decide not to be mothers or even remain single for a long period of time without being criticized by other women and society as a whole. It's still not normal for people of color to be accepted in sports where it's less common for them to participate in and still want to play and excel at. It's still not normal for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community to be treated as PEOPLE. It's still not normal. It's still not normal. IT'S STILL NOT NORMAL. There are so many protests and demonstrations going on all over the world, where phrases like "Black Lives Matter" or "Immigrants Are Welcome Here" or "Stop AAPI Hate" or "Love Is Love" or even "A Women's Place Is in the Resistance," and yet we are still far from accepting people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities in places where representation is needed so badly. The question is, why? I think I have a suggestion. It's because we're not willing to be EDUCATED. It's because we're not willing to LISTEN and UNDERSTAND one another and where we come from. It's because we're not willing to LOOK BEYOND outer appearances. It's because we're not willing to MOVE FORWARD with the times. To put it bluntly... It's because we're NARROW MINDED. Social media is the absolute worst place to debate, or even argue with, narrow minded people. No matter how much common sense you have and are trying to hammer into their minds, they simply won't listen or accept anything that is beyond their comprehension, even if it is the truth. But it's not just finding these people on social media. They're all around us. We see them on TV, both on the news and even on reality shows (yuck!). We get glimpses of them whenever we go out with friends or by ourselves. They are in our jobs, classes, auditions, workshops, restaurants, and more. I hate to say it, but they're everywhere. And they seem to attract other narrow minded people who think like them and agree with them. And because of that, things like the examples below repeatedly happen: Caucasian men and women are being celebrated and recognized more than people of color and the LGBTQ+ communities. Caucasian men are given more opportunities to be directors, producers, managers, CEOs, show runners, politicians, and much more than people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities. Caucasian men are seen as the victims, even if the crime or action was unintended or they committed the crime, more often than people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities. Caucasian men are often holding all of the power and prestige in every place they go because of their skin color, and not necessarily because of their experience or willingness to change with the times. Caucasian men and women are taught to fear people of color and the LGBTQ+ communities because of what was passed on to them from past generations. Caucasian men are often celebrated in the history lessons for at 75% of the time, while people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ are probably celebrated for less than 25%. And so much more. What's sad about this is that these same narrow minded people are intent on keeping things this way, not willing to be flexible with the change in seasons and times, and even telling themselves that this is the way things have to be in order to remain in power over those who pose a threat to their very existence. Yeah, it's pretty sad. I know what you're asking: is there anything we can do in order to make things seem "normal" for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities looking for those opportunities that have been given over and over again to Caucasians, sometimes not by effort but by power? Well, yes, there are some things you can do. The first one to do is pretty simple, but it's so hard for narrow minded people to do, let alone the idiots of the world. And that's EDUCATE YOURSELF. TALK to people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities and get to know them as PEOPLE. READ stories about their lives from their perspectives, and understand their histories and how to move forward with new thinking and information. That shouldn't be so hard to do, and yet unfortunately, it is. After you've had the chance to talk to them and get to know them, ask questions about the things that frustrate them greatly, whether that's experiencing racism in school, on the job, or wherever they go. Or even sexism and homophobia. From there, your eyes, mind, and heart will open up to their pain, strength, resilience, compassion, kindness, bravery, and love. You will actually begin to see them as people, and not as a statistic or a threat. A podcast I recently listened to one day had this quote for actors to remember: "You have NOTHING to prove; you have EVERYTHING to share." I think the same could be applied to everyone in their respective fields, even outside of the arts. Each and every one of us has something to share with others, but it is our choice as to see it as a catalyst for good or a threat to our very existence. Which do you choose? (I thoroughly enjoy creating these blogs for you every other week, but it bears repeating that these are just my observations and thoughts. You are welcome to disagree with me, if you wish. But I won't stand for any hate speech or disrespectful language of any sort. If you don't have anything nice to say, please do me a favor and don't comment. I will block you if you do say anything that is derogatory.)
I get it. It's hard to talk about color, especially these days. And women and the LGBTQ+ communities. And many of you wonder why these group of peoples have to brought up everywhere we go. It's because it's still not normal for color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities to be celebrated, recognized, or even acknowledged in the room where it happens. It's high time to move past that fear, hatred, uncertainty, and confusion against these groups of people. We need to give into open mindedness, and that's through educating ourselves by talking to others, reading their stories, asking questions, and (this is important) seeing them as PEOPLE. And once we do this, wonderful things can happen for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities, and not be singled out every single time. It will actually be okay to have people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities be in the room celebrated for their character, and not for their skin color, gender, sexual preference, or religion. It will actually be okay to recognize the talent, persistence, and passion people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities doing what they love and not be overlooked by their Caucasian counterparts. It will actually be okay to celebrate talent, skills, and especially the values of the people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities that are held in high esteem by EVERYONE, without being racist, sexist, homophobic, or just generally narrow minded. It will actually be okay for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ communities to be considered equals to Caucasian men. It will actually be okay. It will actually be okay. IT WILL ACTUALLY BE OKAY. This is why we have to bring color, gender, sexual preferences, and religion into these things. This is why there has to be months celebrating Black History, Hispanic Heritage, Asian Pacific American Heritage, women, and the LGBTQ+. This is why it's high time to accept the different races, genders, sexualities, and religions in our culture, no matter how scared we are. It's a chance for EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US to accept one another as people, and not be afraid of the differences we see outwardly. We're more alike than you realize. It will actually be okay to accept every human being as a PERSON. It really and truly is going to be okay to do this. To all of the individuals, organizations, companies, and business taking steps to do this, I applaud you for your efforts. Keep it up and don't stop now. Don't give into fear or hatred. It will actually be okay. And I believe that day is coming. Hopefully sooner than we think. I have faith.