You know that old saying that goes: the chickens always come home to roost? Well, some folks have a lot more chickens finding their way home than others. Hartley Sawyer, formerly The Elogated Man of The Flash, found that out the hard way when he was fired from the series.
The convergence of the pandemic that has many of us still indoors and the devastating murder of George Floyd made it really hard for Sawyer to hide his online behavior. The Flash fans, with the help of Skai Jackson unearthed and elevated several of the actor’s old tweets. What they discovered was vile. Disguised as dark humor, Hartley Sawyer fired off tweet after tweet that ranged from racist, misogynistic and homophobic to just plain unhinged, in my opinion. Cutting off breasts, raping women, and calling himself racist are all tweets that screamed for attention, and now he has it.
What’s even more disturbing than the tweets is that Sawyer was allowed to work and thrive in the entertainment industry with this floating around in his past. It would have been so easy for an intern to do some searches before he was elevated to a series regular on a family show – one with a lead black actress and a gay man as the executive producer.
I don’t know that Hartley Sawyer mistreated anyone on the set of The Flash, but what I do know is that over time he wrote a collection of offensive tweets and until he was outed, he never even felt the need to delete them. Why? I think that I have an idea: white privilege.
White privilege is one of those things that exists but people hate to acknowledge. It is the thing that allows white people to embrace statements like: “I don’t see color” or “All Lives Matter.” It is also the thing that allows a white person with a checkered past to become a rising television star. Hartley Sawyer was given an opportunity that’s hard to come by even for most white people: he’s on a successful television show.
If it’s that hard for him, imagine how hard it is for someone black or someone of color to get that chance. Think about being that black person that has to be around someone that thinks it’s okay to say “Super Bowl! America! 80% of the prison population is black.” Or lets’ be generous and say he’s joking. What’s funny about this? “Enjoyed a secret boob viewing at an audition today.” I say absolutely nothing. These tweets are outrageous; however, they are on display for everyone to see. Sometimes what’s more hurtful is the stuff we can’t quite put our finger on.
Microaggressions allow folks to engage in behaviors that can seem very benign, but over time add up to be hurtful and enraging to its victim. It’s the shit like “Your hair is so rough” from the make-up person on a set or “I don’t know how to do make-up for your type of skin.” It can also be silence in the face of bigotry from people you thought were your friends.
In the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s violent and racially motivated murder and the murder of George Floyd at the hand’s of police, The Flash star Candice Patton has become fearless in using her platform to warn about how harmful racism, microaggressions and silence can be. The lead actress has used social media to post daily reminders of how these things tear at the very soul of a person.
Patton retweeted a thread by journalist Jarrett Hill where he described the microaggressions of a white female boss. Hill detailed how his former boss wouldn’t speak to him at times after speaking to everyone white, how she spoke tersely to him, how she wrote him emails to list everything he did wrong with no praise and so on. Hill eventually found out was that she never wanted him in the position in the first place. She was forced by a superior to hire him, and he paid for her hate everyday.
I tell you this because maybe it’s a story that Patton relates to all too well. She may not be ready to come out and name names, but I know she’s felt the weight of being unwanted on that set. I mean, lets keep it 100. There was so much hate directed her way for being cast as the black Iris West. That hate has continued on in a steady stream. “Gorilla,” “nigger,” “Grant hates you,” you name it, it’s been said to or about Candice.
Imagine getting that reaction to something that is supposed to bring you joy. Imagine being away from home for months on end and the people that have become your new “family’ can’t comfort you or worse, they won’t acknowledge your pain or stick up for you like family should. That’s the pain of the microaggression. The pain of silence.
Where We Go?
I don’t know where we go from here. I hope that in the aftermath of the deaths, the marches and the social media tsunami, that everyone is ready to do the work. White people need to do the work of owning up to what they’ve done in the past to be racist or intolerant. They may also need to do the work of acknowledging that they stood silent while the jokes flew and allowed the snubs and slights to go unchecked when they had the power stop them.
Some people’s work is to not be silent anymore when they are the target. Black folks also need to be willing to put it all on the line to make environments safe for themselves. Stop being the one who lets folks pet your hair like a dog or rap the word nigga in a song because they are your white homie. Stop being that girl who giggles when a white man tells you “you’re pretty for a black girl.” Stop it!
As for Hartley Sawyer and any other undercover racist, hating homophobe who gets caught – too bad, so sad. We all have to contend with the consequences of our choices. Hartley chose to write those deranged tweets and now has to deal with the fall out of being so privileged that he didn’t think they would cost him. I hope that he has changed as he said. One day I will genuinely wish him a period of growth and redemption. But today, in the blood and haze of the last few weeks, I simply hope he has enough room in his house for all of those returning roosters.