Meryl Streep Got Us F*cked Up
This woman is trying us. She really is. We attempted to give her another chance after Slave Shirt-gate last year. But, now, Meryl Streep is claiming that, since the human race originated on the continent of Africa, it’s okay for a panel of judges at the Berlin Film Festival to all be White. She’s wrong.
Streep’s words come at a time when Hollywood has been under major scrutiny for their lack of people of color in most leading roles. Simultaneously, the Academy managed to nominate scores of folks this year and not a single Black nominee. Streep literally couldn’t have picked a worse time to throw her name in the hat of ignorant White people hell bent on whitesplaining race to all of us.
As background, Streep is the jury president for the festival. Unsurprisingly, the jury is entirely White. And, when asked by an Egyptian reporter about her ability to judge films from North Africa and the Middle East, Streep said this:
“I don’t know much about, honestly, about the Middle East. And yet I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures,” Streep explained. “And the thing that I noticed,” she said with a chuckle, “is that there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture. And after all, we’re all from Africa originally. We’re all Berliners, we’re all Africans, really.”
B*tch you tried it.
Streep went on to defend the panel, noting the expertise they bring and their gender. She followed that with a few words about being human…because that was somehow up for debate?
This is one of those moments when you just have to watch whiteness work and stand in awe of the f*ckeduppedness of it all.
First of all, we are not “all Africans, really.” Leave it to a lilly White, blonde-haired, class privileged uber-celebrity to invoke African-ness when confronted with a race question. Because Streep was unable or unwilling to speak to the actual issues facing Hollywood, she decided to undermine the reporter’s question, implying that it wasn’t even based on reality since we can all just claim African heritage when it is convenient for us. Meryl Streep is no more African than I am Klingon. And, her answer was the equivalent of most white supremacist responses that should be translated to, “well, I’m White, and I can actually lay claim to everything, including blackness.”
Second, when confronted with their own privilege, this is how many White folks respond. There’s the initial panic that race was mentioned at all and the complete unawareness of how to navigate dialogue about race having rarely been challenged to do so. Next, there’s the attempt to stay cool and turn the topic back on the racial minority. I mean, what do marginalized racial groups know about race anyway? Last, there is always a feeble struggle to tie everything back to being “human.” As if a) all humans experience race identically, and b) that has anything to do with the fact that Brown and Black humans are systematically excluded from the same privileges as White humans.
Lastly, people like Meryl Streep irritate me because they act like we are all stupid. They position themselves as experts on shit they have absolutely no business speaking about. The truth is: Meryl Streep should have answered the reporter’s question with something more along the lines of “you know, that is a serious issue in the Industry but I don’t have the knowledge to comment on it. I would love to talk with you further if you have some ideas and are willing to share. In either case though, I think my team and I have some work to do to ensure that we aren’t reinforcing a very real problem with a lack of diversity in film.”
But she couldn’t do that because she wanted to speak slowly and dramatically, flash her Hollywood smile, and perform whiteness for everyone snapping shots of her.
In the end, I am sure Streep is getting a sufficient dragging across the Internet. It may or may not have an effect. Regardless though, this exchange proves that White celebrities should be pushed to comment on and think through issues of race and racism in the Industry. That they are arguably some of the most recognizable faces and are constantly in front of reporters is enough reason to continue challenging them on the system of privilege they rely upon.
Watch the video below.
Want More Convos Like This One?
Latest posts by Jenn M. Jackson (see all)
- And then there are the ones we left behind… - March 14, 2018
- On being Black, being disposed of, and seeking status. - January 31, 2018
- Getting socks for Christmas: On the pain we carry from holidays past - December 23, 2017
- It’s time to talk about the Black elitism and anti-Blackness portrayed on ‘This is Us’ - December 6, 2017
- Why I’m excited but cautious about the electoral wins across the country this week - November 9, 2017