I appreciate all the powerful, passionate and on point responses to the Mike Brown murder many black celebs were able to make in the media, on social media and in person at Ferguson. It’s inspiring to realize how many famous people truly get it and are willing to use their visibility to speak out. But how many are really just …well good at acting or singing…but not so great or comfortable at discussing racism with insight, expressing anger or distress constructively or feel secure or strong or supported enough in their own lives to risk backlash. Some spoke out. Some spoke out poorly. And some were silent. Which honestly seems like a pretty normal distribution for any community. But when you’re black normal is not enough. We expect our stars to shine brighter. I’m definitely disappointed when “new blacks” start that kumbayah BS at the exact wrong time. And I’d love to see more full-throated support for Obama and other people I admire with visibility. But I wonder if setting such high bars for people who have already succeeded against all odds is another dimension of respectability politics. Another way we make sure that even our successes never can feel truly successful.No celebrity has to do or say anything, and those incapable of doing so in a beneficial manner certainly shouldn’t. There are also those celebrities who support any number of projects and causes privately. That said, every community with a cause, be it racial injustice, gender bias, discrimination of those with disabilities, economic disparity, etc., could benefit from a powerful, influential, notable person with a platform speaking out on their behalf. It’s why celebrities are used to endorse products. Often, the public will think, if those famous people buy a product, maybe we should too. Or if they support and donate to a cause, we should too. And why celebrities sometimes visit Washington on behalf of programs and initiatives that need funding. And regardless of the quality or worthiness of the product or cause, it now has attention brought to it; it’s “out there” so to speak, and being seen. Of course not all of us buy into that, but enough do. It absolutely works, otherwise companies and organizations in the business of earning and raising money wouldn’t continuously shell out big bucks to celebs. I don’t think it’s setting the bar too high to WANT those in the spotlight to speak out publicly, though it may be too high to EXPECT them to do so. I also don’t think it minimizes a celebrity’s success when noting that they don’t speak out about things. One of the criticisms of Michael Jordan was that he didn’t really speak out about politics or social/racial issues. It didn’t detract from his success or his money or his popularity (and may have even increased the latter two). If a celebrity chooses not to be a flag-waving, protesting, Twitter maniac beating the drum for every issue that comes along, so be it. They’re not obligated to do it and that is perfectly fine. It’s also fine to make note of that fact.
Celebrities get their fame and fortune, not from TV/movie makers; record producers or book publishers, but from people who pay to watch, listen and read. Who has most of the money? Which part of society? Knowing that answer is what keeps most celebrities silent. Well, People of all Colours (with an understanding of social justice), next time you want to spend what little money you have - ask yourself “is/are the recipient/s deserving of my hard-earned cash/credit/debt?” The power shift in the current paradigm will only happen if we realise that money is the principle tool that we need to use wisely. Your vote may count, but it’s the people with money who pull the strings. We individually don’t have millions, but together spend zillions.
To whom much is given, much is expected. I get it.
But what about self-care. If it can be too much for someone on tumblr and we can understand that they may need to take a break for their mental and emotional health. Are celebs not allowed that same option?
This idea that women celebrities in particular should act for the good of the community without respite, without time or space to react, mourn and reflect privately seems similar to expecting black women to put family first and never take time for themselves. Because we have to be strong we can never say we are hurt.
Right now Jesse Williams is tearing it up on twitter. And he’s getting backlash, push back and abuse for it too. I have so much respect for the work he’s doing and the risk he’s taking. But do we truly expect every black celeb, especially women, especially on a platform where rape threats are common, to be equally strong and fearless all the time?
I will side eye the celebs that jump in the conversation only to offer aid and comfort to the bigots and abusers. But I’m going to decline to critique the ones who are silent right now because we’ve all taken a lot of hits in a short span and some times the most revolutionary thing a black woman can do is to put herself first.
I agree with you to some extent. People with (lots of) money have access to resources the poor do not - security, media handlers, psychotherapists and gated mansions. Using the platform of their popularity to reach a public audience is the least they can do. Beside they are on Twitter dealing with trolls, not on the street dealing with Police.
But I wasn’t specifically thinking of any black celebrity whether a woman or a man. I was thinking more that WE, as consumers in capitalist economies worldwide, need to make informed choices about the people/products that we spend our money on. People who are rich stay that way with our money that’s in ever diminishing supply. There are a multitude of ways to protest - not paying for shit is what will hurt shit-makers the most.
You’re right, geejayeff, self-care is important, whether you’re celeb or not. Just ‘cause you’re a celeb doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to it, or to your protection or your privacy. And just ‘cause you’re in the spotlight doesn’t mean you have to talk about everything or voicing an opinion about everything. But, as scandal-maniac pointed out, being a (black) celeb/artist/entertainer also means they can afford to care about themselves, to withdraw, to protect themselves. Way more, a thousand times more than “regular” (black) folks. Also, if someone like Jesse Williams is taking a stand, and getting a lot of backlash, and risking way more than some (cause really, he is NOT that popular and know outside of Shondaland-related fandom), how come those who hare bigger can’t even send a tweet or wear a t-shirt or take a picture with their hand up? And it’s even riskier, as you pointed, for someone like Amber Riley ! So if someone more prominent & powerful doesn’t take a public stand at important time, I may think it’s less about self-care and more about their image/brand/business and self-interest. Now, I understand the difficulties for making it for black/POC, that is one of the reason I am always here for black/POC sisters & brothers making it, and I support them. I understand that no matter how successful, the white supremacist PTB can take it all back from you, in a matter of seconds. Heck, even people like Jay-Z, with all his b/millions, is literally owned by white power. But when “regular” people are losing their lives, and some celeb take a risk and take a stand against racism & injustice, but others, more powerful, just stay silent, I can’t just shrug and go. I am not going to talk ultra shit about them or stop appreciating their talents, but I am going to side eye them some, won’t look at them the same and at some point have less respect for them. Because as a black/POC/marginalized/oppressed, you get to know who will have your back and who won’t.