Yes. That really happened. Thank you Billy Crystal for reinforcing the fact that Black people are costumes.
Since this happened, there’s been a lot of grumbling about how it’s “just a joke” and Billy Crystal has been doing this forever, so “it’s not a big deal.”
This is followed by a lot of anxiety and hand-wringing about being “too sensitive” on the part of people of color, and a whole lotta labeling from the other end.
The implication is that if you are “too sensitive” then your feelings are invalid because they are extreme and those with feelings deemed extreme have no right to complain. ”Too sensitive” compared to whom, exactly?
The term frames people who accept depictions of racism in media as normative, while we who are “too sensitive” are the ones not getting with the program (or getting the “joke.” Even if the “joke” is awful.)
The culture that we live in is designed to label folks who “construe something as racist”—regardless of historical context or modern exclusion— as people who are “too sensitive.”
In our society, to be “too sensitive” is a bigger sin than “doing something that has a racist impact.”
Why? Because being sensitive is what people who are at an disadvantage do. (Hence sensitivity being a negative trait attributed to women and minorities who just want respect. Note that being a “pussy” is an insult to men and “having balls” is a compliment.)
In contrast, cultural bullying is something that people with privilege do. People with agent status make are lauded for making “gutsy” jokes and expressing their free speech without caring about responsibility or impact (that would involve being too sensitive.) The entitlement is such that the sensitive fee-fees of the people they are disrespecting shouldn’t matter.
Meanwhile, people with targeted status are expected to “take it,” as in, docilely receive and accept it.
White male privilege has made it worse for those impacted by a racist act to be called pussies than for the perpetrator to be called out for doing something racist. The majority of people with privilege are doing the former, making it impossible to win by doing the latter.
Sometimes people who do not have privilege buy in, too, to gain what little modicum of power might available from being associated with “having balls” rather than “being a pussy.” (Shush, you’re being too sensitive.) And, people who would otherwise be allies in situations like this (cis-men, people who are white, etc.) are also afraid to speak out because to be reduced to this label is a loss of esteem. (“I don’t want to be viewed as being ‘too sensitive.’” Why not?)
In order for privilege to keep its power, things have to be this way. Minorities have to be worried about being labeled as “too sensitive”—as if it were some sort of blight, having sensitivity, omg worst thing ever—if we dare speak out.
Here’s the deal: For decades, the practice of blackface was used to dehumanize, denigrate, and exclude people of color from society and Hollywood. The people complaining that we’re “too sensitive” are drawing comparisons to “White Girls” and Dave Chapelle’s white face without taking into account that whiteface was never used by historic Hollywood to as a tool perpetuate negative stereotypes that got people discriminated against, beaten, or killed.
Whiteface was never used by Hollywood on a sweeping basis to prevent an entire population of white people from having the ability to represent themselves on screen.
Whiteface has not contributed to a systemic national climate against white people.
Whiteface has not aided and abetted pattern of lynchings of white people across the country.
Can’t say the same for blackface.
Given that Hollywood continues to have diversity problem to this day, of course the scene touched a nerve. It is easier to label the outcry as “too sensitive” than to examine the historical context behind why people might be upset or disturbed.
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