Last week Lee Daniels went on record again stating that much of his success can be attributed to his not embracing racism. Daniels went on to state that he doesn’t “have time to deal with racism” and expressed that his denial of racism in our country came from a place of not wanting to be seen as the “angry black man.”
Earlier this year we experienced the same rhetoric from Stacey Dash when she went on record stating that she, too, didn’t feed into ideals of racism. Like Daniels, Dash felt that other actors and actresses who do call out racism in the entertainment industry have the mindset of a “plantation slave” and are “simply living in a psychological prison of their own making.” We even see Kanye recently commiserating with Donald Trump, sharing that if he had he voted, he would have voted for Trump.
As of late, it feels as if there are more and more black celebrities dismissing racism and the systems that have upheld it within the entertainment industry. But why? Simply put, it’s easier to dismiss racism than to do the work to dismantle it. Ya know, respectability politics.
Last year The Root published an article around topics related to being black and privileged in the entertainment industry. The article called attention to the idea that some celebrities get so far removed from reality once they attain a certain status that they forget who they are and where they came from.
While some may refer to this as “black privilege,” I believe that privilege is just the tip of the iceberg when we start talking about black folks who embrace anti-black ideology. For many celebrities, it’s easier to stay in bed and go back to sleep than to actively get up, get dressed and go do the work that needs to be done for the black community. The level of their celebrity affords them that option and opportunity.
When black people make a comment that they “don’t believe in racism” or they “don’t have time to embrace racism,” they are ultimately stating that they are content with where they are in their lives and don’t need to acknowledge the struggle because, quite frankly, they no longer have to.
The reality is that these celebrities are benefiting from white privilege, and if it’s keeping money in their pocket, why would they want to give it up? By embracing whiteness, they no longer have to see a problem, and they for damn sure don’t have to become part of the solution. Whiteness has always been synonymous with privilege, and privilege affords one an opportunity to keep problems at bay.
What these folks need to understand is that siding with the oppressor and denying racism doesn’t simply make the problem go away. In fact, it only makes the problem worse. By denying racism, you make it easier for directors and producers to validate why their films lack equitable representation. This denial also undoes all of the work our ancestors and black leaders have done for us.
The black bottom line is that, when you deny racism, you make it easier for wypipo to justify their acts of injustice. Embracing elements of whiteness never has and never will save us, and I truly wish that certain celebrities could fully grasp that concept.