Glory & White Privilege

My wife is a writer for an entertainment magazine. Scratch that. My wife is a writer for the biggest entertainment magazine in the world. What does that mean for Doug? I’m glad you asked. It means a couple things. First that my premier life is poppin. I’ve been to more premiers than I know what to do with. Secondly, our “free shit” closet is craccin. Everybody gives writers free products. We haven’t spent a lot of money on Christmas for the family in like 3 years. And it also means that every single awards show has to be watched live and recorded to watch again because the recap of every single awards show is important to bring hits to my wife’s employer’s website.

The Oscars happened this past Sunday night. I normally don’t watch the Oscars. I very rarely go to the movies (something I should really work on) and I just never really had an interest in watching over-privileged white people receive awards for things I don’t care about and talk about struggle that they no longer have. But now that these types of events bring money into my household, we’re all in.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because I was moved during the performance of Glory. I’ve seen this song performed 3 separate times. I know all the words. I always know that John Legend will kill, because he’s John Legend. I also know that Common will enunciate his words well and the audience will understand him, which I also think is dope considering the content. But for some reason, Sunday night was different. The performance gave me goose bumps, something that rarely happens now a days. Maybe it’s because I was upset that Selma was snubbed from the director and leading actor nominations. Maybe it’s because the Academy is 94% white and 77% male. Maybe it’s because I REALLY like watching Ava DuVernay speak (seriously, go youtube her interviews) and I felt there was an injustice that played as a microcosm to racial tensions in the country today that loosely parallel the struggles that they were going through in Selma 50 years ago. But the weight of the performance JUST. FELT. DIFFERENT. All those black and brown faces on the Oscar stage, sounding beautiful in front of all the white faces in the audience, the tears in the crowd, the standing ovations; everything was just awesome!

Selma was nominated for best picture, but we all know that it was never gonna win. It was a formality.  It was a formality I appreciate, as oppose to the opposite, but a formality nonetheless. Still, with knowing that it wasn’t going to win, I felt that the academy and the at large community watching the awards understood the importance and power in Selma because of this amazing performance. I felt hopeful. I felt accomplished. I felt understood. I felt PROUD to be a black man. Unapologetically, James Brown, black and proud.

But then I saw what Patricia Arquette said back stage after she accepted her best supporting actress Oscar. DAMMIT PATRICIA! Let’s rewind. When Arquette accepted her award she made the first of many political speeches in the night. She demanded equal pay for women for equal work! I actually clapped in my living room. CO-SIGN! I was ready to anoint her one of the good whites, but she just couldn’t keep her mouth shut afterwards. Backstage she said:

The truth is even though we sort of feel like there is, there are huge issues that are at play and really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

……….. WUUUUUT?!

Cmon son. I became lost after that. All of the understanding that I felt white people might have had vanished. Even the ones who make amazing political stands don’t understand their privilege. How little does she think of women of color? How about gay women of color? What about black male feminists?  And I’d love to know who was able to vote first, black people or white women? Maybe I forgot. I’m all for soapboxes, but there’s an issue when her soapbox cost more than my condo.

Arquette basically said that the Black struggle finished it’s time on the court and white women are choosing sides for pick up. It’s just so frustrating to read things like that. Especially from the ultra rich who didn’t give half a voice to any other recent civil rights issues. To fathom the notion that other communities fighting for their rights for equality need to stop what they’re doing (you know, because their fight is done thanks to… white women?), and come help the white women make more money is, well…. Privileged. It’s a clear proud privilege. An unapologetically, proud, rich white woman privilege.

I went from proud to confused so quickly. Blacks have so much work to do in order to be understood and accepted. It’s a daunting thought that can be consuming and did consume me last night. But then I re-watched the Glory performance because my wife writes for the biggest magazine in the world and we record every awards show – and everything became kinda ok again. So thanks, babe.


By: Doug R.