What We're Reading: What the Oscars teach us about the urgency of DEI

"'If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.' This Zora Neale Hurston quote was what started to rattle around my head this morning, after waking up to the news that Angela Bassett’s visible heartbreak - for not winning Best Supporting Actress at last night’s Oscars - was already being critiqued by the talking heads of Twitter for its lack of ‘graciousness’," said author Ella McCann-Tomlin for Ardent.

"Ahh, graciousness. A term that we Black women know all too well. A term that’s lobbed our way anytime we do not show the required level of civility and gratitude for the crumbs that white institutions deign to throw our way. When the facade that we so lovingly craft of agreeability and likeability and ‘grateful just to be here’ is cracked, even for a moment, the condemnation is always swift."

"But imagine being a Black actor that’s been at the very top of her game for over 30 years; someone who should arguably have won multiple Oscars already, but who has only ever been nominated twice. Imagine working in an industry known for its anti-blackness, known for its snubs, and its disrespect - but holding out hope that this could finally be your night. And then being criticised for your authentic reaction to the news that you probably knew was coming, because history has taught you what to expect."

"Working in DEI means challenging and critiquing systems. It means wrestling with the hopeful desire to transform institutions that have long excluded certain groups, and the deep concern that these institutions may never truly recognise or include us. When it comes to the Oscars, this mix of joy and sorrow is built into our relationship with the ceremony."

"So - many of us are feeling a mixture of emotions today, as is often the case post-Oscars. The many history-making ‘firsts’ are both a wonderful, heartening sign of progress, and a damning indictment of how far we still have to go. Ke Huy Quan’s admission that (before making his glorious comeback) he quit acting for decades because of the lack of roles for Asian actors isn’t just an inspiring story of grit and perseverance, it’s a shocking revelation about industry-wide racial exclusion. And how wonderful it would have been to finally see a deserving Black actress win for a part in a Black-led film, in which Blackness is not only respected, but celebrated. Angela Bassett’s crestfallen reaction to yet-another snub in a decades-long line of snubs was both heartbreaking and refreshing. It was an invitation for Black women to be authentic (if only for a moment) in a world that expects only graciousness from us. Our pain is valid and we don’t have to be silent about it."

Read the full article here.