We Need To Talk About Why Highly-Visible Black Women Are Still Invisible
Whiteness is still the obstacle
We really need to talk about why famed filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, who is responsible for some of the most prolific slew of hits like Selma, and ambitious undertakings, like A Wrinkle in Time, is still regulated to the diminishing effects of being a highly-accomplished Black woman, who is nonsensically mistaken for her fellow counterparts.
DuVernay recently tweeted about the messiness of receiving eager shoutouts from “non-Black folks in Hollywood,” who inexplicably assume that she’s the mastermind behind the lenses for Harriet and the newly released Queen & Slim.
We have to agree that this is a regular occurrence that goes beyond the realm of celebrity. White folks have this nasty habit of viewing Black folks with reckless adherence. It normally involves lumping our features into the collage of indistinguishability, so as to minimize our given individuality.
This regimen works well when it comes to assigning blame to all Black people, whenever there’s a discussion about celebrated shortcomings that usually activate those misguided and damaging stereotypes.
I had a friend who looked nothing like me, facially, but we both shared features that included being almost the same height, having slender templates, and thick long Black hair that we both styled in similar fashion
From the gym to general outings, we were frequently told that we looked looked exactly alike by fascinated middle-aged White women, who seemed to be tickled to death by the sight of two Black women who seemingly didn’t fit the generic presentation that’s reserved for our types.
You can switch it up and imagine seeing two White women who are about the same height with similar physical characteristics including a full head of blonde hair, and wonder why they’re not treated to comments about how they freakishly resemble one another.
White people are able to enjoy the respect of being treated as separate beings, outside of the membership to a race that’s deemed superior, and therefore carries the valued currency that shields them from the never-ending battle against damning labels and the deplorability of being lazily mislabeled.
Ava DuVernay, Kasi Lemmons, Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas are arguably our batch of prominent Black women storytellers, who are each triumphantly embodying this era of “wokeness” that’s heavily dominating a cowardly industry.
It’s disgraceful that it took the storm of a viral hashtag initiated by a Black woman creative, April Reign, in order for White Hollywood to finally wean itself from the disease of exclusivity.
Kasi Lemmons, who was the boss way before #OscarsSoWhite, has returned to the spotlight with Harriet, decades after the immaculate Eve’s Bayou and 2007’s Talk to Me. Lemmons has clocked in a lot of hours, behind-the-camera, in addition to the acting career (The Silence of the Lambs , Candyman, etc.) that preceded her directorial portfolio.
Lena Waithe, creator of Showtime’s hit The Chi, is the relative newcomer, who is on her way to fulfilling the enviable trajectory of a seasoned filmmaker, who also flexes her acting muscles simultaneously. Her latest offering, Queen & Slim, is currently undergoing a major dissection by those who love and hate it, which serves as proof of an engaging product that sparks cultural debates.
Melina Matsoukas is basically a veteran of the business at this point, with early roots that began in music videos, notably, Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” and Beyonce’s “Formation.” Her directorial debut is much-talked-about, Queen & Slim, and after its victorious debut, undoubtedly there will be plenty more to come.
Each of these exceptionally gifted women have earned their illustrious positions in a crowded landscape of preferred Whiteness. And that success is based on individual achievements, that are distinctively marked by personalized contributions, showcasing monumental endeavors, that rightfully amplify visibility.
Black folks are endearingly appreciative and encouraging of those who maximize massive platforms for the practice of elevating the appeal and tangibility of Black narratives, without succumbing to the watering down methods for the comfortability of White audiences.
White folks are always ready to insert themselves with motives that expose the desperation of not wanting to be left out of what is rapidly evolving past the fleeting trend.
Imagine that director Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame is able to be adequately feted, accordingly, without real threats to her career-making moves, in the form of being mistaken for a considerably younger heavyweight, Greta Gerwig, who’s being lauded for her upcoming offering, Little Women.
This is the almighty privilege that White women take for granted, while navigating the glaring spotlight or juggling the daily task of ordinariness.
As Black women, we are acutely aware of how we are easily replaceable and interchangeable in workspaces, high and low, where certain quotas are in place to regulate the comings, goings, and all around insecurity, based on the White faces that remain immune to this precarious status.
But when it comes to the ongoing shitfest of White Hollywood, that continues to operate with the condescending, disingenuousness, that ultimately dictates how Black creatives are received and processed on a broader scale, the invisibility of Black women, who’ve valiantly conquered the high stakes of their chosen professions, is the unforgivable trait that must be addressed.
It’s beyond infuriating and incredibly tragic that Ava DuVernay would be recklessly identified by the resume of her colleagues, despite amassing the tangible evidence of her signature style of storytelling, as one of the leaders of the pack.
This LA native has cemented her legacy through the expanding vault of notables via her production hub — Array Now.
And we can take it even further by duly recognizing DuVernay’s longstanding mantra of being unequivocally dedicated to the religion of humanizing the Black stories that matter.
That was graphically detailed in Netflix’s When They See Us, her critically-hailed homage to the Black lives that are cruelly destabilized and dismembered by a criminally-biased judicial system.
#MAGA wasn’t initiated by the Trump campaign. It’s been the long-running ideology of White America since American Indians were violently forced away from their birthrights.
The glowing reception to DuVernay’s homage to Black victims of societal brutality at the hands of well-positioned White punishers, was reflective of how the real-life drama was accompanied by the heroic presence of the #ExoneratedFive.
How can it be that DuVernay was robbed of an Emmy award for directing an epic mini-series, that was both life-altering and acutely instructive about the authentic Black experience in a racist America?
Perhaps her mind-boggling snub can be correlated to how DuVernay’s unapologetic mechanisms when it comes to relentlessly holding Whiteness accountable, without interferences that propel coerced vehicles like Green Book, is viewed through blurry optics by the Television Academy, and its White decision-makers.
The static of “woke” content and dramatizations that aren’t tainted by the recommendations of White producers, who need that “White savior factor” for good measure is the alienation that restricts rebellious Black creatives.
These rebels are unrecognizable geniuses, who won’t come close to the deep embrace allotted to Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, etc. or any of the Black elite, who have gone out of their way to make White people feel comfortable.
Fuck the White fans who righteously mislabeled Ava DuVernay with the incoherence that’s nauseatingly familiar and vulgar in tone.
Her invisibility in the eyes of Whiteness and all the supremacy to boot won’t curtail her fruitful journey as the Black storyteller, who was born for the mission of mattering more to those who were birthed to recognize her.
The obstacle that almost derails our profoundness can’t ever degrade our seat at the table that only we can furnish.