Integrity is for broke people – Steve Harvey

After years of being blackballed in Hollywood, Oscar Award-winning comedian Mo’Nique sat down with Steve Harvey to settle their differences. Mo’Nique’s relationship with Harvey became strained after he publically criticized and distanced himself from her after she became outspoken about inequality and discrimination in Hollywood.

Mo’Nique also called out Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lee Daniels for not publically defending her. According to Mo’Nique, they knew she had “done nothing wrong.” Instead, according to Mo’Nique, they allowed her name to be dragged through the mud, rather than telling the truth about what was happening.

Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Lee Daniel’s film Precious. However, she was only paid $50,000 for the role and was expected to travel across the country and around the world to promote the film out of her own pocket. When she refused, she was labeled difficult. Mo’Nique then spoke openly about Hollywood’s refusal to pay Black actresses fairly.

At this point, she was blackballed.

In her sit down with Steve Harvey, Mo’Nique stood strong in her conviction that she did the right thing. Stating, “When you allow people, to start taking your freedom and your gift and making it become what makes them comfortable, we then lose.”

Steve Harvey then responded, “When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. WE BLACK OUT HERE…”

He continued, “This the money game. This ain’t the Black man’s game. This ain’t the white man’s game. This the money game. And you can not sacrifice yourself. The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.”

In this statement, Steve implies that truthtelling is the road to poverty and that to thrive, one must play “the game.”

However, Mo’Nique bravely countered, “Before the money game is the integrity game. And we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money.”

Then Steve Harvey took a route that many people had an issue with. He acted as if standing up for Mo’Nique somehow would have made him lose his $100 million empire overnight.

Steve stated, “If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble. I can not for the sake of my integrity, stand up here and let everybody that’s counting on me crumble – so I can make a statement. There are ways to win the war in a different way.”

This is where we have a problem. I agree that in any situation, especially dealing with employment, we must be strategic and tactful. However, when battling a larger social issue, like the unequal payment of Black women – which is a huge issue – being quiet is the exact opposite of what we need.

This is especially true if you’re in a position of power.

Zora Neale Hurston said it best, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Mo’Nique is calling out a larger social issue. She’s calling out anti-Blackness implemented by expecting Black people to allow themselves to be overworked and undervalued. We may not all be in Hollywood, but working class Black women see it every day. According to the National Women’s Law Center and Equal Pay Today, Black women face steep wage inequality.

“Black women working full time, year round typically make only 61 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.” (National Women’s Law Center)

Just because Mo’Nique is speaking out about Hollywood instead of an office job or fast food restaurant, doesn’t mean her words are any less true. Mo’Nique is a comedy pioneer and legend. Her decades of work speaks for its self. Yet, there are some still expecting her to be quiet and “grateful” as if she’s just some novice off the street.

The larger issue that she is addressing is about Black self-worth. Are we willing to set higher standards and enforce them? Are we ready to stop accepting crumbs? Are we ready to call out injustice, even if it means a temporary set back?

Though this can be scary, history has shown us the benefits of taking a stand. Muhammad Ali showed us with his refusal to fight in Vietnam, which led to him being stripped of his heavyweight title. Rosa Parks showed us in her refusal to give up her seat, leading her to be jailed. Recently Colin Kaepernick showed us, by taking a knee during the National Anthem to bring awareness to police brutality against Blacks, leading him to lose his job.

Some may not see the connection but it is there. Mo’Nique is fighting for pay equality. Without it, Black women specifically will continue to face economic instability. This is race-based financial oppression with real-life repercussions for everyday people.

That’s where integrity comes in because the issue is deeper than Mo’Nique personally. The Steve Harveys of the world may think they’re flourishing by staying quiet. Yes, Steve Harvey may be building wealth for himself but what good is it if the people he claims to support are still dealing with everyday struggles of wage gaps and underemployment? What good is his wealth if he refuses to speak out against the mass economic oppression of his people? These are issues that he could speak out about, starting with his industry.

And standing up to Hollywood is not a far-fetched idea.

Remember when everyone thought that Dave Chapelle was crazy for walking away from his widely acclaimed Comedy Central show? Remember how the network tried to bury him, even spread rumors about drug use?

He left for his integrity. It cost him financially at first but eventually, he became even more celebrated for standing his ground and not allowing himself to be exploited for profits. Years later, he was able to fully recoup his losses and is highly respected.

This is more than about Mo’Nique. And yes, integrity may have no immediate monetary benefit. However, history has shown us that if it were not for bravery and integrity – we would still be sitting in the back of the bus being told we should be grateful just for a seat.

-Join my mailing list-

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a publisher and multicultural communications specialist. To reach J.A.M., email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Get Out: The Hilarity of Black Pain

get-out-allison-williams-daniel-kaluuya-1488144786

Get Out, the movie thriller that both horrified and effectively unveiled several layers of racialized oppression, is apparently a “comedy.” This is according to the good people at the Golden Globes, leaving many viewers like myself baffled. Get Out focused on a secret group of white body-snatchers that kidnaps young Black people to take over their minds and bodies in order to enjoy their physical attributes.

Did they even see the movie, I mean really see it?

The film resonated with Black audiences, especially since Black people in America have historically been used for medical experimentation and sexual exploitation. Furthermore, throughout society our physical attributes have been used for labor and enjoyment among the white bourgeoisie.

Though some view the film as an exaggeration, it’s actually not far from depicting actual medical practices that have taken place. For instance, the so-called “father of modern gynecology,” James Marion Sims, practiced painful experiments on Black slave women with no anesthesia. Also, for years enslaved Black people were sold on the medical market to be used as specimens for white doctors.

All of this was done in the name of science and medical history!

Though Get Out had some splashes of comic relief, it was in no way a comedy in its entirety. In fact, an alternative ending was chosen in order to lighten the pain shown throughout the movie, as America was in the throes of coming to grips with having Donald Trump as president.

Calling Get Out a comedy further trivializes the very real, very painful experiences that Black people have endured under the hands of white physicians and scientists. I’ve written before about America’s collective amnesia  that conveniently places painful Black experiences within an imaginary realm.

In order to prevent future horrific acts, it must be fully acknowledged that what we’ve gone through is real.

Even more so, in order to heighten accountability, we must fully acknowledge who inflicted the pain and for what reasons. The Golden Globes’ labeling of Get Out as a comedy is an effort (be it conscious or unconscious) to circumvent acknowledging the history of medical research in America.

With the story of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Henrietta Lacks’ stolen DNA, and the enduring legacy of our ancestors who overall survived terrifying acts of violence at the hands of medical physicians- few Black people were laughing about Get Out.

To further express this point, Jordan Peele, the film’s producer, writer and director stated through his Twitter account that, “Get Out is a documentary.”

Originally deemed a horror film, perhaps Get Out is difficult to place into one genre. However, none of us viewed it as a comedy. It’s hard to see the hilarity of Black pain.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

Join Mailing List

Assism Is Not Feminism

Assism-Feminism-OurLegaci

People need to understand that women who present provocative images of themselves are not automatically making a feminist statement. This isn’t to say that a woman can’t express herself, but when this self expression is deeply hinged upon supporting oppressive systems it is not a liberation moment. This is why Nicki Minaj can express herself and still glorify Nazi propaganda. Kim Kardashian can express herself #ALLDAY and still glorify the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. Provocative imagery does not automatically equate to activism or empowerment.

feministtheoryThis point of confusion was described by bell hooks in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center:

“A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. (p. 18)”

This statement feels even more relevant in 2014 as it did in 1984, especially with the emergence of what some are calling “Millennial Feminism.” Across the digital sphere conversations are constantly springing up around feminism. Still, few are actually producing or referring to a substantial definition of feminism.

The fixation on women’s butts, I’ll call it “assism” is a well documented form of objectification, deeply rooted in the commodification of Black women’s bodies. Kim Kardashian accentuates this fixation, layering it with the benefits of whiteness to score on monetary profits. Though Nicki Minaj is Black she comes as close as she can to Kim K by combining anti-black sentiments with the commodification of Black phenotypes to yet again benefit monetarily. Additionally neither of them are bothered by classism as a form of oppression. They are not feminists. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

ButSomeOfUsFeminism is hinged upon an awareness of oppression in conjunction with working towards ending all forms of it. In All the Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men: But Some Of Us Are Brave, Barbara Smith explains:

“Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (p. 49)”

To refer to Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian as de facto feminist icons is to minimize the anti-oppressive backbone of feminism. It’s reductionist thinking. Neither of these women have exhibited any substantial work towards ending sexist, racial, or economic oppression.

While some may point to their open display of sexuality as a liberation moment, this thought process over looks the fact that their displays are based more on the history of women’s commodified bodies under the patriarchal gaze. Yes, they make a lot of money doing this but that does not necessarily translate into freedom. They are riding the constant wave of hypersexualized images of Black women’s bodies with no intention of challenging the status quo. In fact it becomes a competition of who can promote sexual commercial objectification more, who can more closely embody the mainstreamed fantasy of women in sexualized positions.

Yet none of this is new or shocking. It’s actually pretty underwhelming. Another day another booty. Where is the triumph in that? It’s an attention getting tactic but it is not a feminist manifesto or challenge to oppression. The recurring statement is that they were “free” enough to show themselves. However if the only way for them to gain the public’s attention is through a constant stream of butt shots what does that say about society? That’s a far cry from freedom or liberation.

Nicki-Between-Women

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was an act of desperation used to counter the emergence of Iggy Azalea. Iggy then responded by appearing alongside JLo in a video for a song literally called, “Booty.”

Booty1

Since the emergence of her sex tape with Ray J, Kim Kardashian has been profiting from racialized butt adoration for years.

Kim-Kardashian-Jean-Paul-Goude-1stdibs

The sentiment has been, “You want to see more? Here you go!”

Oprah-Booty-Meme-Ourlegaci

Perhaps for her that’s winning. But is it winning for women overall? It doesn’t challenge the realities that women face everyday as constantly sexualized beings. This imagery plays up the dehumanization and never dares to deconstruct or even acknowledge it. This article is not suggesting a policing of women’s bodies. It’s about recognizing a thing for what it is. Nakedness can be a political empowering statement  but Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are not examples of that. This may be provocative but it is not feminism.

We already have a plethora of mistruths floating around about feminism. Why add to the list? It’s very dangerous for feminists to automatically embrace commodified sexual images as feminist modules. There are levels to this. Where are the discussions about about intentions and context? It is a teachable moment. But it is not a grand moment in Women’s History.

Sorry folks but assism is not feminism.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.