Our favorite unapologetically unconventional wife, mom and social justice advocate, Jada Pinkett Smith, spoke out about the lack of diversity in this year's Oscars. You can expect that from Hollywood every year but the difference this time is that Smith suggested a boycott of the event altogether. In a short video posted to Facebook after a series of tweets suggesting forgoing the awards, Pinkett said, "Have we now come to a new time and place where we recognize that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement or respect of any group, That maybe it's time that we recognize that if we love, acknowledge and respect ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do that that is the place of true power?"
From what I saw online there was resounding praise for the actress and calls to support her and just create our own. Who needs the Oscars! The Oscars were never for us! I was pleased with how quickly folks came out in support.
*in glides Janet Hubert trailing salt and in possession of zero cares to give*
This is where things got interesting. The original Aunt Viv of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame then made her own video decrying Jada's call to action as nothing more than a publicity stunt because her husband was not one of the nominees. She can be seen in a Facebook video saying, "First of all, Miss Thing does your man not have a mouth of his own with which to speak?"
"The second thing, girlfriend, there's a lot of s--- going on in the world that you all don't seem to recognize. People are dying. Our boys are being shot left and right. People are starving. People are trying to pay bills. And you're talking about some motherf---ing actors and Oscars. It just ain't that deep," she continued.
I will note that she later made a point about it not being easy, even and maybe especially in Hollywood and that to take a stand on certain issues. That point was valid but overall it was just a shade-fest and I think we already have our fill of that in modern society.
I remember the same being said about Nicki Minaj when she called out the VMAs for celebrating a specific body type and noted the racial undertones of who is nominated and who ultimately wins the awards.
I find myself thinking exactly the same thing now that I did then. Not a single lie was told. You can debate all you want about the motive behind the statements made but it doesn't make them any less true.
For a middle-aged sista' to come for her younger fellow actress as publicly and viciously as she did truly saddens me. We get enough of that from other folks and really need to work on talking to one another from a place of love, even when we disagree. What's more, anyone with five seconds and internet access can easily find out that Jada is about this social justice life, far beyond a publicity stunt or an award show snub. Anyone who has ever listened to the woman talk will be made immediately aware that she speaks for herself and no one else, and that no one else needs to speak for her.
The worst part is that all you team Jada heads jumped right on the Original Aunt Viv bandwagon and started calling Jada's motives into question as if she's not a constant advocate for women and people of color in her work and even in how she is raising her own daughter.
And now we're back to the age old 'we have better things to do' conversation. Like really? Y'all didn't want me to laugh at the Meek and Drake Beef to take my mind off police murder for like two seconds. Y'all won't let me live and enjoy Empire without mentioning the 'feminization of the black male' every damn week. Y'all still calling Kerry Washington a bed wench over a FICTIONAL CHARACTER SHE PLAYS at which point she goes home to her REAL LIFE AFRICAN HUSBAND. And now y'all are telling me I can't build with my people AND hold institutions and systems that disenfranchise my folks accountable for their bullsh*t? I have to choose ONE when BOTH benefit me, mine and future generations? I have to EITHER boycott the Oscars and create my own awards show *cough, I bet y'all can't tell me when the NAACP Image awards air though, cough* OR keep 'begging' for acceptance? Nah b.
Let's clarify some things:
1. Begging for something and demanding what is rightfully yours are two incredibly different things. We're not outside the academy askin' for a bowl of gruel with some tattered fingerless gloves on. We just know we're talented and deserve the same opportunities and accolades as everyone else without having to play specific kinds of roles.
2. Black folks can walk and chew gum. We can even listen to music while doing the first two! So please don't act like building a black community independent of outside entities can't happen in conjunction with transforming the systems and industries that currently devalue us. The truth of the matter is that our people deserve respect and recognition no matter where they are in society and that includes Hollywood. We need to support our folks in tinsel town as much as we keep claiming online that we support black businesses because visibility and representation are important. Some of those very start-ups you want to support were made possible by the inspiration our folks received from someone doing it big in an industry they had to struggle in to get their just due.
And we are still struggling. Even in Hollywood. Even when a black man and a woman can set box office records in a sci-fi action movie. Even when network television is twinkling with young starlets of color from Priyanka Chopra to Gina Rodriguez to Aja Naomi King. Even when a black woman dominates an entire primetime weeknight with some of the best writing and character development you'll find on television.
It's not enough to say 'this was never for us' and be done with it. It's our job to stand up to racist Hollywood as much as it is to stand up to corrupt commissioners who defend murderous police or politicians who allow black children to drink lead poisoned water and then have the audacity to try and charge their parents for it. It's all connected, it's all important and it's ALL worth our time, energy and at the very LEAST, conversation, and we can only have those conversations as the glue that holds the black community together when we, black women, squad up. We cannot do that if we are constantly attacking one another.
Tajh Sutton is a proud Williamsburg NATIVE currently educating in East Harlem. She is a proud mother, published model and writer, step and dance instructor, aspiring musician and fake foodie. She is also creating the world she wishes existed as the CEO of Young People of Color Inc. & Loc Love Lives Here. Check out her beauty & politics online community at Instagram.com/locloveliveshere and her non profit geared toward promoting critical thinking, empowerment and creativity in youth PoC at Instagram.com/