Talking about diversity and representations of blackness can be frought terrain, even now when we are seeing so many more black men and women in key roles in front of, and behind, the camera.
I thought about this immediately when I read Michael B. Jordan’s recent GQ article. I knew immediately after reading it that it would cause a stir. And not just because of the ongoing internet outrage phenomenon – though that’s certainly a part of it – but because most of us have insufficient language for describing the desire for fuller representations of blackness in art and entertainment.
Particularly when we fall for the trap that white supremacy presents us:
“I want to be part of that movement that blurs the line between white and black,” and tells me this: “I told my team after I finished Chronicle [the successful low-budget sci-fi movie that first partnered him with Fantastic Four director Josh Trank] that I only want to go out for roles that were written for white characters. Me playing the role will make it what it is.”
…Perhaps a more accurate way of putting it is that he would like the same breadth of opportunities as the white actors he takes as career models. The two he has mentioned most often are Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling. “They made smart choices,” he says. “They played people, not being ‘a white actor playing a person,’ them playing a person. When I play a person or profession, it’s black this, black that. It’s obvious that I’m black, but why do I have to be labeled as that?” And the best way to guarantee himself a better path, he says, is to be involved when the material is conceived: “Instead of taking something conceptually written for a black guy, I want the stuff that was written for a guy.” (emphasis added)
The emphasis I’ve added really gets to the central problem with Jordan’s point of view – it is rooted in the false notion that white people get to play “raceless” roles.
I haven’t written a round-up on television in 10 years. Which is strange because I watch a fair amount of television. As someone who used to want to be a screenwriter, television has always fascinated me because it provides such ample opportunity to explore humanity. I enjoy tremendously watching characters develop over time.
And even though I remain frustrated with the lack of great roles for black actors on television and with the way diversity on television is horribly superficial and disingenuous (its stupid, insulting emphasis on so-called race-blind casting makes me want to throw my television at the wall) there is still quite a lot to enjoy.
Here are the 11 shows that most thrilled me this year, after the jump.
Nope, what is most striking to me is how Campbell equivocates throughout the entire piece and then ends with:
I don’t think talking about racism in fashion will change anything. Even if fashion changes, it’s not going to change the world. I’d rather just have a positive attitude. If I were feeling discriminated against, I might go into a casting thinking I’m not going to get this job. It’s negativity that will disadvantage me.
Well, what's the point of writing this open letter if not to "talk about racism"? Lawd!
It's interesting to watch the millennial generation – Campbell is 19 – tie themselves in knots trying to talk about race in a world where they have been told that it is not something that we need to talk about anymore. Clearly they want to. Clearly Campbell wants to talk about what it is really like to be a black model, but she knows she can't just call the entire industry racist — even though the primary goal of the fashion industry is to reinscribe whiteness and white beauty standards around the world, i.e. racist.
If anything, despite her prostestations, Campbell's letter makes the need to address racism in the fashion industry more critical than ever.