Friday, March 18, 2016

Team Light-Skinned defends Zoe Saldana: Queen Latifah and Paula Patton

Queen Latifah said.
"I think Zoe Saldana's a great actress, so I am looking forward to it. And, you know, she is of African descent. I don't see why she shouldn't get to play the role. But I just want to see it — you know, get rid of the hype, and let's go watch the movie."

Paula Patton said she wouldn't judge the film as she hadn't seen it yet.

"...Clearly someone thought she was perfect for it. She's an amazing actress, she's beautiful and you haven't even given her a chance and you haven't seen it yet," she said. "Imagine being in her shoes and enduring that. It's not cool, and it's not right. I think we have to be in a place where we celebrate each other and are kind..."
Again, these two defenses against common sense would allow Brittany Spears to play Nina Simone if she found an ancestor 500 years back that was black.

Some may be shocked at my calling Queen Latifah, "light-skinned"  Most of us don't think of her as light-skinned (at least I didn't until I recently) But I think the reason some of us don't think of Latifah as "light-skinned" is because she doesn't have white features.

Most days I see photos of Zoe Saldana? She looks darker than Queen Latifah, like when she was in Star Trek. And you know what? Now that I think of it, I don't remember us questioning Saldana playing Lieutenant Uhura at all.

Black folks failing to scream about Saldana playing the originally dark-skinned Lt. Uhura oughta make it clear to team light-skinned that Zoe playing Nina isn't a reverse-colorism issue.

Saldana's facial features fall in the chocolate-dipped white girl that Hollywood likes.
--That's one of the reasons why Zoe, and not Queen Latifah, has been hired by White Hollywood even when there was a white male lead opposite her.
--That's one of the reasons why Paula Patton, and not Queen Latifah, has been hired by white Hollywood even when there was a white male lead opposite her. 
--And this is why Zoe Saldana, Halle Berry, and Thandie Newton have all earned more, year for year, than most darker black actresses BECAUSE they've been able to get work from White Hollywood even when there was a white male lead, Angela Bassett being an outlier. They didn't have to wait to get roles in sporadic, lower budget, black movies and (until recently) black television.

Kerry Washington and Viola Davis didn't get a chance with their black looks, despite very different skin tones, to act in interracial casts complete with sad moods, glad moods, happiness, depression, sex, love, and tears until a black woman, Shonda Rhimes, was in charge of production.

Contrary to what Queen and Paula appear to think, Zoe Saldana wasn't hired due to her talent or appropriateness for the role (--not appropriate in looks or racial attitude). Zoe was hired for the same reason she's usually hired.

White Hollywood hired the chocolate dipped white girl look that White Hollywood has made itself used to.

Here is what I think of as "cool" and "right."

1) Acknowledgement from some light-skinned actresses that they were preferentially hired over other black actresses because they are pale.
2) Acknowledgement from some light-skinned actresses that Zoe Saldana's casting as Nina Simone was more of the same and ultra-ignorant because of who Nina Simone was.

3) Frankly, I think light-skinned actresses owe black women of all shades some gratitude for the unwavering support. And I do mean unwavering.

Between my grandmother, my mother, and myself, we have tried to see almost everything that Dorothy Dandridge, Diahann Carroll, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Queen Latifah, Paula Patton, and Zoe Saldana have put out. We have cheered at every sign that light-skinned black women were knocking down racial barriers into White Hollywood for black women.We cheered in

in 1960
in 1970
in 1980
in 1990
in 2000
in 2010

Only in 2000 or so did we begin to question light-skinned women's ability to knock down the door for dark skinned actresses too.

And now, in 2016, we have to question light-skinned actresses commitment to the rest of black-womendom.

Now, in 2016, these same women are going to lock arms in light-privilege, cry light tears, and brag about their colorblind denial just like white folks? Really? They are going to squawk because we insist that they join the rest of us trying to break down the colorism barrier against dark-skinned actresses?

They are going to link light-arms together against the rest of black women-dom even when the biopic we're discussing is about Nina Simone? Nina freaking Simone? They're going to try to defend black face with "give her a chance" and "She's a fantastic actress." Really?

Do Paula Patton and Queen Latifah know who Nina Simone was? Does Zoe Saldana? Zoe said it was okay for Olivier to play Othello in black face, rather than have a black actor play the part. Is that okay with Latifah and Patton too?

I hate to get petty but let me point out one things. While there are quite a few pale-skinned black actresses that are as just as beautiful as their darker-skinned sisters, some of these light-skinned actresses we've supported over the years will never, ever be mistaken for Cicely Tyson or Meryl Streep.

We knew that White Hollywood's preferences weren't their fault, so we supported them anyway.

But this denial of light privilege is Queen Latifah's fault. This denial of light privilege is Paula Patton's fault too. I don't have to watch any one of the three of them in anything again. And of the three, Queen Latifah is the one who's career will faulter.  Latifah's career is THE ONE built almost entirely on black support, and probably black female support she relies on at that. (Spike Lee, John Singleton, and Antoine Fuqua didn't hire her as a central character or a love interest. And I don't recall a single black man telling me they loved her performance in anything prior to "Bess")

Black women have kept Scandal, Being Mary Jane, and How To Get Away With Murder on the air with a little help from our friends. We have power. And we can decide we are done with colorism deny-ers in a heartbeat.