Last Friday was such an outpouring of emotions [alongside a fair amount of research] that even with roughly 2,700 words there was bound to be something I missed. While I had initially planned on making room for it, an omission was made starkly apparent to me once I began sharing the post. As those of you who read it [and you should, before continuing on with this one] it ended with a call to action: kickstarting the discussion about diversity and representation through asking others to read what I’d written [or however else they felt led].
That’s a risky thing to ask of anyone, for obvious reasons.
One of my friends shared the post on Facebook, and was immediately faced with another friend of theirs who had an issue with a small section that I’ve since amended. Here it as it was originally written:
“Chiwetel Ejiofor is an Academy Award winning actor. He’s also a Black [not African American] man, part of a demographic that has not struggled in Hollywood compared to many others.”
Going back you’ll notice that it now refers to Ejiofor as being “Nigerian English”, which is of course much more accurate. The issue that the person had with the original was that by going so far as to state that other actors were “Asian” and even “East Indian” I was snubbing Ejiofor’s own background. I was even accused of doing racebending of my own by overlooking this fact.
I should probably take at least a few sentences to explain my intent. What I wanted to do was explain how Black males actually have a significant presence in Hollywood, at least compared to most other minorities. I elaborated that he was not in fact African American since many in the States assume that the two terms are interchangeable. The truth is that many Black actors from other parts of the world [primarily the UK] have been breaking into the industry lately, with Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje being the biggest names.
To go back to the conversation taking place on Facebook, I tried explaining that the purpose of this post was to focus on the minorities with little or poor representation in the media, ie. those of South and East Asian descent. While I have a passion for representation of all ethnicities that was another discussion for another time. This person refused to relent, however. For them I had slighted both Ejiofor and, ostensibly, all existing Black talent. I needed to own up to my actions and admit my wrongdoing.
So I did.
I made the change, as you can see, and immediately began regretting what I had left out of my final draft. Under the section “I’m Tired of Being Told What to Be Angry About” I had yet another gripe that I was never able to air out. To write it up as it may have appeared in the post:
“And I’m tired of Hollywood’s view that dark-skinned people are interchangeable turning us against one another. This shouldn’t be a victory for Black talent and a loss for South Asians, we’re all in this together.”
This should never be a competition where we’re dragging others down to lift ourselves up, and it’s always the ugliest sort of situation when that’s what it boils down to. The ultimate goal is every one of us moving upward and onward. As for the conclusion, echoes of High School Musical aside, it’s a sentiment I fully stand by.
Two years ago I wrote about the Boston Marathon bombing, but with a specific focus on how we processed the news. While obviously a tragic event, it brought to mind instances where
“I’ve watched the news where a small plane goes down in Europe, killing all passengers, and the story is delivered with the words that ‘a single Canadian was on board.'”
To put it more simply, problems are only problems when we are somehow affected. If it doesn’t at least tangentially have to do with me and mine then why bother talking about it. I posted what I’d written to the subreddit /r/asianamerican in my efforts to share my thoughts, and one of the few comments my submission received was this one:
It’s a commendable stance, and one I wish more people would espouse. My issue with it, and what I responded with, was that it was so remarkably narrow a position. Would dragon_engine, the redditor in question, still watch a movie like Pan which cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily? Did they not have a problem with the overwhelmingly whitewashed Exodus: Gods and Kings?
Being vocal about diversity and representation and a whole slew of other issues is very clearly important and most definitely a good thing. How good a thing is it, though, when there’s such a singular focus? Of course it’s good, but couldn’t it be better?
The ever-reliable Wikipedia defines “intersectionality” as being “the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.” It’s also a subject that Kat looks like she’s covering next Wednesday, specifically in regards to feminism. Having said that, and very much looking forward to how she covers the topic, I leave you with a final question: when the option of what’s good for all doesn’t diminish or detract from what’s good for you, is there really any other choice?