The future will have no pity for those men (and women) who, possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and sometimes of cold complicity. Fanon
I dislike being viewed as a victim. I dislike viewing my Self as a victim even more. What often amounts to pleading for visible acceptance ranks high in my list of things “victimstance like”. Yes, it is Oscar season, again.
The business of storytelling, myth promoting, image conjuring and overall consumer propaganda spinning is a marketplace controlled predominantly by Whytes in the USA. In manners similar to those found when Whyte companies embrace US Black popular trends in style or language, US Black actresses and actors wish to open their stock portfolios to Whyte audiences. While pandering to one another’s bases for further exposure seems fair enough, it also enters my mind that there will be limits placed. US Blacks witnessing Whytes lunging their arms about askew in their rendition of Harlem Shaking are quick to bemoan such cultural exchanges as “culture theft” and “misappropriation”.
It is this objectification of culture as thing possessed by particular parties that raises my eyebrow. While originators should be recognized for purposes of intellectual property and proper compensation, these same cultural artifacts we kick and scream about are being sold directly to those we kick and scream about possessing them. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter in only stretches of our imaginations that would rip them asunder could build his empire without selling large quantities of units of his portion of “cool” to Whyte audiences. In similar fashion, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter cannot amass her queendom without selling tons of her branded shares of “Black Woman Magic” to Not-So-Black Women and Not-So-Black Men.
These are at root –a radical notion, surely– transactions of market. Simplistic, maybe. Historical trajectories of bondage and inequality in this United States, this pluralism of color coded totems, only highlight facts pointing towards our deliberate use of entertainment and stylized posturing(The “Cool”) for economic gain in markets predominately controlled and consumed by Whytes. Furthermore, there is no collective financial benefit when these transactions of cultural possessions are sold by these individuals and their stakeholders. Whatever sacral essence is to be distilled from banging beat, proverbial word play, and dexterous dance move it is removed once point of sale has met dried ink on contract.
I understand that many of us wish to view a country built on slave sweat and pick-a-nigger family outings as fair and just. A viewpoint that casts skin color and family traditions aside for a wholesome, yet, altogether fictional, unity of purpose. There is nothing about USA as a pluralism that dictates such has ever existed or will ever exist. Whether we consider this moral, history and contemporary events show this United States of America is very much a nation with separate but unequally empowered groups. Those relationships forged across aisles of Anglo and Afrikan descendants are but exceptions to rules governing this land. As such, each individual seeking to gain benefits and livelihood from those transactions without consideration of past infractions does so at their own loss as well.
I was never fond of “fleek” as a term. It just never rubbed me right! However, Kayla Newman’s “on fleek” resonated with enough people to enter national parlance. Such was its embrace that it was used by Ariana Grande, IHOP, Denny’s, and Anderson Cooper. Her statement, “We in this bitch. Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on fleek. Da fuq,” used to compliment her well-groomed and manicured eyebrows may have cultural significance in a very loosely defined manner. However, young Kayla did upload that recording, and all of its sacral cultural essence, onto Whyte-owned Vine. It seems hardly worthy of energy loss to debate about cultural artifacts stolen, cultural possessions misappropriated, or intellectual property violated when we are sharing, when not selling, them with audiences and via services we deem unworthy after the fact.
I could be quite wrong here. At times, I sense that movie making for actresses and actors is akin to freelancing. Freelancing in any industry is difficult. It demands high level networks of people willing to name drop you when not employing your services. Networks in pluralist societies like ours often feel homogenous. Anything of value in a pluralist society will be spread amongst those of ones people before ever being allowed to be touched by another group’s members. If ever. Hollywood is not a cultural possession of US Blacks. I would imagine it is damn difficult securing work in a world not only highly competitive, but also just extremely controlled by groups adverse to other groups.
In ways common to our on fleek cultural contributor Kayla, US Blacks in Hollywood seek to use an apparatus predominantly controlled by not-so-Black corporate interests. They are useful for particular roles, roles that actresses and actors can turn down, but like any freelancer, turning down even degrading projects can lead to homelessness, if not just debt. I understand: Bill Must Be Paid. This is where institutional racism, or structural racism, gets its Black minions to dance in Black face and tell little Whyte girls,”you is kind, you is smart, you is important”.
However, no matter how structured racism is in any field, there is still one’s allegiance and dedication to one’s own grouping. Loyalty demands loyalty. I cannot get upset with a 94% 64 year old Whyte Male body of people who do not want to give you recommendations for your job. I am not getting any awards in my field this year either. But, being recognized by those closest to me always carries me forth. I do not do my job as some indication that US Blacks can also code, design, and write, though. I suspect that most Blacks in acting professions do not either. If it was so important to represent US Blacks from a political perspective — an impossible task, actually– then this discussion would not be relevant either because with all the money flowing from successful US Black entertainers, a Black Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would have been established long ago.
All white Oscar nominations are another example of the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Like the Rocky Mts. The higher u climb the whiter.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) January 14, 2016
Hollywood has a fraudulent image of progressive and liberal politics and policies. We must take direct action to correct this. Talk is cheap
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) January 14, 2016
As often as Al Sharpton shows up after the fact, it is my contention that many of us do not consider our responsibility to fictive political groupings such as “US Black People” until we are in need of collective support. Everybody is an individual until they getting jumped on. While I think Kayla deserves at least credit for originating the term, even more I think US Blacks should have gathered around a US Black video site long ago. It is not that we do not have them, we just do not think highly of them. Yet, we will hear Al Sharpton attempt to galvanize those same US Black individuals that we frown upon for using Black owned video sites for his campaign for elite US Blacks being snubbed by elite US Whytes.