The reason that we hold our media to such a high standard is because our films and television shows have the power to be subversive, start conversations, and create a status quo that can be seen in trends, in who gets work, and what stories get told next. If a person is able to see all walks of life presented on screen then a subtle shift about what is acceptable in the landscape of the United States may occur somewhere in their minds.
This dialogue, this increasing exposure is hard-won through years of activist work. And the activists take representation on our TV screens as seriously as they do anything else because if people are seen, are shown as human, emotional, and real, it’s harder to discredit them and to pretend like they don’t belong here the same as the white men do.
You know how easy it is for no one to take your allyship seriously ever again? It’s as easy as inviting the mouthpiece of white supremacy, disgraced or not, onto a show meant to celebrate the growth and change in an industry.
It’s as easy as being tone deaf to the historic wins that came that night, while giving the white man who actively took on the job of banning people, future creatives, from our shores based on their belief and the color of their skin.
In case you’re lost, I’m talking the Emmy’s and Sean Spicer and the disaster of a stunt that woefully missed the mark when he came out to be “funny”. They (being the producers, network, and maybe host Stephen Colbert) invited him on the show to be “cute” and make fun of himself, or whatever the fuck that was meant to be. Then the stars went backstage and gave him hugs and kisses. Everything was all sunshine and rainbows and the world knew peace forever.
Reality town, where everyone else lives, was a lot less rainbow-centric and more appalled that a man who did nothing to stop the prejudice, who stood for nothing decent, who gave power to the idea of “fake news” being those people who speak out about the current administration’s litany of human right’s violations was allowed a pulpit from which he could be normalized. (I say normalized, but prejudiced men who get away with being terrible is nothing new.)
What’s worse is that someone like Colbert, who has gone on record as being actively against the administration, lost all sense of righteousness when he did the Jimmy Fallon equivalent of ruffling Sean Spicer’s hair. These are people we rely on him to speak out, actively, loud, and with a solid base of people at their disposal to disseminate the good ideas, and they decided to tank that with a moment of normalization that helped no one, did nothing, and soured a historic evening where people of color took home a bunch of well-deserved awards.
The reason this matters is because you gave a man who actively supported the suppression of these creators who won awards time and attention away from them. You announced to the world that these voices weren’t nearly as meaningful as his, and you did it with a tone deaf understanding of why it could be seen as harmful to a nation on the brink of truly scary historic change. It might be nothing to the white men who make decisions, but I guarantee you that everyone else felt the tone you were trying to strike and understood that you did not value them the same way you valued allowing modernday Goebbels a “cute” little moment to shine.
Because that’s exactly what we need! More conversation about the people who want to kill us and less about the people who are actively supporting the equality of all. That’s who needs our support, the white supremacists. The poor dears haven’t had their say in our history, right? It’s not like they’ve written our laws and founded our country or anything.
This whole thing is proof that left leaning allyship only extends as far as nods of agreement and topical monologues meant to ignite fury for YouTube clicks, then promptly forgotten. They don’t extend to choice and action. Memory is for losers and, you know, the people who can’t afford to forget. Gentle acceptance of men like Spicer is more relevant and pressing than giving a voice to people of color, particularly women, and it says a lot about the fake allyship in the country.
White men are more comfortable writing redemption arcs for other white men then they are giving chances to creators who don’t look like them. They are more obsessed with making everyone think they aren’t racist than taking the time to listen to the creators and consumers who don’t fit their expected narrative. A white man’s redemption arc might be sexy to these decision makers, but it is the very last thing we need right now. (And perhaps ever.)
I’m not saying that if someone changes their tune we shouldn’t welcome them in, but that’s not what I saw. I saw a man looking to win over public opinion. I saw a man who took screentime away from historic wins I actually cared about, and I saw liberal “allies” forgetting all sense of history and horror in order to take cute selfies that only served to out them as indifferent.
People are mad about this because our media matters. What we present makes an impact on the nation. There were future creators who saw themselves in Issa Rae, in Sterling Brown, in Riz Ahmed, or in Donald Glover. A kid may have found their lifelong goal to create, and that is truly beautiful. But someone else found themselves in Spicer and decided that being terrible wasn’t such a bad thing. After all, you get to go on the Emmy’s and make jokes. Who cares if a few people get trampled along the way, right? You’ll still get the attention.
Do better. This isn’t a joke, and I’m not laughing. The only thing you need to normalize is the diversity of the shows we love and the celebration of those shows for the hard work they put into their creations. You can’t treasure diversity for the money it brings you and then kick it in the face every time you want to get cute. You’re not helping the narrative. You’re stalling it. And you have no one else to blame but yourself.