Regardless of status, anyone black is liable to be called a "n****r." During the Toronto International Film Festival, Academy award-winning director Barry Jenkins participated in a Q&A for his upcoming film, If Beale Street Could Talk, and told a story of the time his driver nonchalantly called him a "n****r."
The 38-year-old was asked if he knew the moment everything "clicked" for him while filming the movie based on James Baldwin's novel of the same name. Jenkins further elaborated on the eye-opening encounter.
He recalled leaving last year's Governor Awards, and heading to meet a driver to take him to his "homeboy's" afterparty. The notable screenwriter says he was greeted by a “shocked” valet person, according to Vanity Fair.
“I’m like, ‘What’s up?’” Jenkins said. “He goes, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t get in the car with that dude.’ I’m like, ‘Why?’ He goes, ‘Oh, because when I was out here before, he looked all agitated, and I said to him, ‘What’s wrong?’ He goes, ‘Oh, you know, nothing, I’m just sitting around here waiting around to pick up this nigger.’ And then he smiled and said, ‘Oh, and he’s probably going to get nominated for best director.’ Subtext: But he’s still just a nigger.”
The fully transcribed conversation can be read here.
There's a particular scene in If Beale Street Could Talk, where Jenkins says he immediately drew a comparison to his personal experience. Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Daniel Carty, a man recently released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, discusses how the police claim he stole a car when he doesn’t even know how to drive, and that prison is a place where white men would do anything they wanted to you.
Jenkins draws attention to the irony of this man calling him a n****r right before saying, “This dude is probably going to be nominated for Best Director.”
"We got to that scene I was like, This is f**king it. This is it. Everything we’ve been doing. Yes.”
This encounter occurred while Jenkins rocked a $5,000 suit. "If it could happen to me with someone who’s driving me, a person in power, what the hell do you think happens to some dude working a shift at the factory?" he said.
"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone and we’ve got to tell these damn stories."
Of course, the trailblazing producer went on to win Best Adapted Screenplay, just as the driver sarcastically predicted.
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