July 19, 2016
The following is an opinion piece written by African Artists’ Association member Jozanne Marie.
I wake up this morning and as I scroll down my Twitter feed, I ask myself why actress/comedian Leslie Jones has to defend herself to America about the beautiful chocolate color of her skin.
Why should she be targeted for her tall, regal frame and finesse? Why must she apologize for the definition of her features? Is this the America we live in? Apparently, yes.
Black actors, especially women, have been fighting to be heroes in film and TV for years. An actress must be a certain weight, height and bottle shaped. The shade of her skin must not be too dark. If she fits a certain physical standard that is defined as “Beautiful,” yep, we can see her saving the day. But the high melanin female, no. She remains the “HELP.” She must live in our world of amusement. She must dance for us, sing for us, but not save us.
So, my question is, who should be blamed for this racist cyber bullying of a celebrity? Is it possible that in our attempt to make the world a better place using fictitious entertainment, the media played a huge part in how we treat one another in the non-fiction of real life?
Is the black female actress a little too over-played as the maid or the funny, uneducated side-kick who speaks Ebonics and constantly rolls her eyes? What messages have we sent to the American people?
Could it be that our teenagers bully and mock over-weight kids in school because of what they see on TV? Could it be white America can’t see a black woman as anything besides “the help” because that is who she is on most TV shows? We can only be grateful to Shondaland for making a difference in our world.
Look, it’s time for Black women to stop trying to fit into anyone’s box. It’s time for the Black woman to stop explaining her beauty, defending her cultural rights and always being everyone’s help.
The truth is, just like white women, the Black woman is a hero everyday – on and off the screen. A Black woman does not have to play at being heroic; SHE IS A HEROINE from 9 to 5 despite the oppression she faces in a system whose only intention is for her to believe she is limited.
SHE IS A HEROINE because she actually works twice as hard to break down the barriers placed in front of her and yet her black don’t crack.
SHE IS A HEROINE despite being a single mother who doubled her shifts at work so she can birth AMERICAN HEROES who fought and died for this country – for us to enjoy the freedom we have.
SHE IS A HEROINE regardless of the fact that she took off her crown, laid it aside and cleaned the floors of her Masters and was still able to sing songs of freedom.
SHE IS A HEROINE when she walks into an audition room a hundred times with a dream to make a difference and gets turned away because to others, her face does not represent BEAUTY, yet she shows up again the next day.
SHE IS A HEROINE when she takes lower pay for her talent and services regardless of the fact that she knows her value is much higher. She works anyway to teach others never to give up.
Black women, you are not only BEAUTIFUL, you are strength and born of royalty.
To the ‘Ghostbusters’ production team – Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, Ivan Reitman, Amy Pascal – thank you for making this film and for casting Leslie Jones as well as the other fabulous women in it. Bravo. You have allowed the truth to surface and now we can have a conversation. From now on, every child will be watching, “the black child”, “the white trash”, the “the chubby kid”, “the stupid blond”, “the girlish boy”, “the boyish girl”, “the mulatto” and the “immigrant.” The next generation will tune in and decide how America will be within the next 15 years. They will make a choice about what their Twitter feeds read.
America said #YesWeCan. But the question is, are we ready for change? Are we truly ready for diversity? If so, this is the time for content creators to help make a difference in how every race and culture are viewed by the American people. #LoveForLeslieJ