Janet Hubert’s Response to Jada Pinkett Was Vital. This is Why.

As much of the viewing public prepares to consume another episode of #OscarsSoWhite, there are a number of people – myself included – who will be abstaining from the ocular throwback to the Jim Crow Era when Black people had to enter the premises through the back door and in their servant livery. I suppose that the Academy, in preparation for the anticipated backlash for yet another whited-out Oscars event, sought out Chris Rock to host the gala with hopes that his consistent (Black enough) presence on stage would be enough to lull us into a state passivity.

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And for some of us, it will be enough. That’s okay! Realistically, we ALL can’t boycott the Oscars. There are a handful of people of color for whom it’s a requirement to consume these cultural televised events, whether they agree with them or not. They have to report on them. They have to be able to refer to them knowledgeably in 20 or more years. In short, it’s their job. It’s for the rest of us to make a stand, should we feel the need to do so. This is the essence of nuance where race and culture are concerned. This is something that folks like Janet Hubert – and those who agree with her wild utterances – don’t get.

In case you missed it, Jada Pinkett Smith posted a video asking the question about whether it’s time that people of color recognize their power and influence over American culture (and global culture, but extension) and pull back from participating in events that continually put us in a place of begging for recognition. “Begging diminishes dignity,” she asserted persuasively. As far as I can tell, she never made a call for specific Hollywood actors to jeopardize their careers by participating in a boycott, but rather asking if it’s not time that we ALL consider shifting our focus and resources elsewhere…somewhere where they will be more appreciated.

This is not how Janet Hubert, the Blacktress formerly known as Aunt Viv, interpreted the sentiments of Jada’s message. In a grainy video described by the UK’s Daily Mail as a “take down” of the Smiths, Hubert launched into a personal tirade bringing up old allegations and foggy memories from 26/27 years ago. She ended her note to the family with the following admonishment: “You guys are not Barack and Michelle Obama. Get over yourselves.”

Ooookay.

I found Janet Hubert’s response petty and sorely lacking in focus where the issue at hand is concerned, but I’m grateful that she made it public; for even in the foolish things of this world there are lessons to be drawn…and both Hubert’s and Pinkett Smith’s messages provide us all with valuable lessons that transcend the Oscars.

Presentation Matters

This is probably the most obvious of all the examples, but it must be said nevertheless. Jada Pinkett took the time and effort to set the stage for which to deliver her message. She is a professional actress, and therefore used professional equipment to convey an important idea concerning her craft and her industry. Meanwhile, the Actress formerly known as Aunt Viv looked as though she was delivering her content as an afterthought from her bathroom/kitchen table using her grandchild’s discarded $49.99 DigiLand tablet. The glare from her glasses and the graininess of it were horribly distracting.

The culinary equivalent of Hubert's message.

The culinary equivalent of Hubert’s message.

If you are in any field – I don’t care if you’re a plumber or the president – presentation matters if you want to be taken seriously as a professional, or as someone whose opinion should be taken uncomicly. Show up to the public with the best tools you have at your disposal! And if you only have a DigiLand tablet, ask one of your neighbors to borrow an iPhone. Everyone has one!

I suppose one could argue that Janet Hubert was simply “keeping it real” and therefore didn’t HAVE to look/sound her best. Dave Chappelle did several skits about when keeping it real goes wrong. This qualifies as one of those incidents.

 

Have Some Understanding of Historical Events…and Your Opponent

Janet Hubert declared that she was unsure about whether or not to do the video and then threw caution to the wind. “I’m 60 years old. I’m gonna say it!”

There was no need for that. She sounds like one of those crazy African patriarchs who consistently forgets to take his Alzheimer’s meds yet insists on running the country despite the feebleness of his mind. If you have something to say, just say it! Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of age. Unfortunately, “wisdom” is nothing something Ms. Hubert exhibited this week.

Her assertion that Jada (and Will, be association) preoccupation with trivial things – such as the Oscars – made them disingenuous and out of touch when “young people are being killed and dying in the streets” doesn’t completely dovetail with her claim that the Oscars are not important, especially on “this day”. (This day being MLK Day.)

Contrary to Ms. Hubert’s confused beliefs, MLK would have been very concerned about a whited-out Oscars, because he understood that minority representation in the mainstream is vital.

One of my favorite stories about MLK concerns him and Star Trek star, Nichelle Nicols. (MLK was a Trekkie, y’all! You better get on board!) In this NPR report, Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura talks about how she almost quit the show to pursue other dreams. MLK convinced her to stay on the show because it she was an important fixture in the civil rights movement. Because pop culture representation matters.

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This is something that Jada Pinkett understands very well. Furthermore, no one can accuse Pinkett of developing the disease of New Blackness. She has been about Black causes for decades. If anything at all, she gives Will Smith street cred. It was foolish of Hubert to attempt to paint her otherwise, when articles abound to prove the contrary.

 

Stay on Topic

Whenever you find (or place) yourself in a situation for which you are attempting to garner public support, it is vital that you keep focus. Jada Pinkett’s message was clear and concise. You got a feeling that there will be some follow up action to her query. (And it was a query, not a directive.) Janet Hubert did not do this. She waffled. I hate to use the word “bitter” where Black women are concerned, but there’s no denying that she still holds an un-quantifiable amount of salt for the Smiths and any of their associates.

The issue at hand is #OscarsSoWhite. Hubert brought up failed alliances from the 90’s and what the Smiths’ production studio is or isn’t doing, conflating her personal disappointments with a broader issue. None of that has anything to do with the Academy’s voting process and/or who gets nominated. That said, I DO agree with her point that the power duo ought to expend more energy in developing other Black actors and behind-the-scenes talent. They certainly have the power to affect change there.

Consider Your League

If there is one thing I learned in 2015, it’s that you can retard your own growth by playing with people who are amateurs. This goes for cooking, driving, acting, policy making, anything.

Let’s be honest: Jada Pinkett Smith and Janet Hubert are not playing n the same league! OF COURSE Hubert isn’t concerned about Oscar snubs and lack of diversity. It has nothing to do with her! What was the last thing YOU saw her in? Certainly nothing on the big screen. And that’s not to say her opinion doesn’t matter…it does. It just shouldn’t matter to the Smiths, or Idris Elba, or David Oyelowo, or Spike Lee, or anyone else who is operating in a different class. She is just not on their level.

In other words, when grown folk are talking, hush.

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Consider How Others Perceive You

In conclusion, it is important that we all understand how our actions affect the way others perceive us. I got a $20 discount off a $60 item at the mall yesterday, just because the merchant perceived me to be a ‘kind person’, the type for which Karma would provide her a reward if she favored. (Those were her exact words.) All I did was smile at the lady and speak to her respectfully.

Janet Hubert alleges that her departure from the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ was preceded by her refusal to kowtow to Will Smith’s ego. There are rumors that she was difficult to work with. Does this video help her cause in getting more work? Does it say the contrary about the allegations levied against her? I daresay it does not. I can’t think of a single Hollywood director who is sitting in his/her chair watching her rant thinking “Wow. This is EXACTLY the kind of person I want starring in Return of MLK, Rise of the Robots!”

How you act in the street can and does affect how often your bank account and a check meet.

 

I feel ambivalent about the release of the two videos. Sure, they served their instructional purpose for the reasons stated above, but Janet Hubert’s video has also served as “white noise”…the type of noise that gets us off focus, off track, and battling each other instead of the real enemy: White Supremacy.

Will you be watching the Oscars? Are you on Team Jada or Janet? Did you know that elephant seals can hold their breath for up to two hours?

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15 thoughts on “Janet Hubert’s Response to Jada Pinkett Was Vital. This is Why.

  1. Maame O.

    I will not be the watching the Oscars. I don’t remember the last time I watched any awards show or television. I have given up television all together. The last straw was when BET had the gut to bring R Kelly to perform at their award show. The media has done nothing but respect and degrade Black women especially. I think the Smiths have the power and privilege to do more. They can groom and bring Black shows and actors to our screw. And not the Tyler Perry type of shows and movie.

    1. Malaka Post author

      Yup. I agree they have the power to do more. I think part of that comes down to assumptions. Because Tyler Perry branded movies make so much money, as compared to I Am Legend for example, there’s an assumption that these are the types of films Black people WANT to see. That’s not true. There is room in the middle ground for so much more. We have thousands of stories to tell, so much more beyond just space age and how to get your man back.

      We just need the right leadership.

  2. ncuni

    I will not be watching since I never do. I also have not seen either video BUT I feel that boycotting the ceremony might not be the best approach (I may think otherwise of I watched JPS’ video I don’t know). I think it could be a great LIVE platform for black actors to voice their thoughts. I think imagery is a powerful messenger – imagine all the black and minority actors arrived together (screw protocol ) and took their places on the red carpet en masse saying YOU know all of us, and you know we’re all top of this game like any of the nominees. So deny THIS. I think that would be very powerful.

    1. Malaka Post author

      I watched Spike Lee on GMA today, and he’s with JPS. He was also very clear that he is not advocating a boycott. He just won’t be in attendance.

      I don’t know about showing up en masse at such an event. You know how skittish the mainstream gets when POC congregate in large numbers. I’d be concerned for safety.
      I guess there are no simple answers to approach this.

  3. Biche | ChickAboutTown.com

    I am on team Janet on this one. She said so many things I’d already been thinking. I found JPS’ video convoluted and had to listen to it twice to understand what she was going on about. As Janet Hubert says, the Pinkett-Smiths can afford to boycott the academy…their careers are already made. I think it is valid for Janet H. to ask: now you want us to stand together when you weren’t ready to do so back then? How presumptuous to imagine you DESERVE an Oscar!

    1. Malaka Post author

      Ah. But did Jada mention that her husband deserved an Oscar? That’s where I’m confused because NO WHERE did she say that?

      As for this one, we are on opposite sides. And why didn’t Janet come for Spike Lee? After all, he’s also skipping abi?

      1. Biche | ChickAboutTown.com

        Hahaha…good point. I guess I made that assumption from media reports.

        He may be skipping, but I read somewhere today that he made it clear that he is not calling for an Oscar boycott simply that HE will not be attending. JPS on the other hand…

  4. Kushite Prince

    This is a very interesting post. I can see both sides. I see what Jada is saying. But Janet made some pretty valid points as well. Made Janet’s delivery could’ve been better but I feel what she’s saying. Most of those white folks don’t care if we boycott or not. She’s right about that. But I do think Janet is bitter about being kicked off the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. There is still some bad blood there. But Jada is aso mad because her husband was not nominated. We have to be real about that. That’s what she’s really upset about. The Oscars have always been mostly white. There’s nothing new about that.lol I just hope the ladies can squash this so we can move on to real issues affecting our people. Let racist Hollyweird do their thing and let’s do us.

    1. Malaka Post author

      No, there’s nothing new about it, and it’s only natural that Jada should be upset that her partner got passed up for recognition. I know I would be pissed if my husband got looked over for all his hard work and after the hours he puts in his job into the dawn hours sometimes. Is there something wrong with that? And then to conclude for example, that white people have “always gotten the Developer of the Year Award”, therefore it doesn’t matter is a slap in the face to every person of color who codes or develops!

      Furthermore, to say that’s the “real reason” she’s upset is unfair. Anyway, neither of us lives inside her head so how can we say WHAT she’s mentally processing?

      I want to draw your attention to something else you said in your conclusion that has been a source of frustration to me: Is the Black artist of relevance or is he/she not? How is recognition of Black art “not a real issue affecting our people”? I think this is dangerous ground to be on, given how much time we dedicate to quoting Baldwin and Angelou. Is it not possible for us to walk ,chew gum and scratch our balls too…or are we saying the ONLY issue affecting Black people is say, police brutality? That’s something we have to be honest with ourselves about!

      1. Paul Rainmaker

        Indeed! It is possible for us to walk ,chew gum and scratch our balls too (That’s my quote of the day lol)

      2. Kushite Prince

        You make some good points. You said we don’t live in Jada’s head so we don’t know what she’s mentally processing. So can’t the same be said about Janet? Are we in her head? can we say fir sure that’s she’s bitter? It doesn’t matter if Janet is popular at moment. The question is..does she have a point? Is what she said factual? It’s not a popularity contest. Many times we all bring our personal feelings to the table when dealing with celebrities. Its hard for us to be objective.
        I admit I have a hard time doing it myself.
        I wont lie to you. I have issues with Will Smith. I remember him saying in a recent interview that racism wasn’t a big deal anymore. He said it was “rare”. Rare?? What black man who is socially conscious would say something like that? It’s obvious that he and Jada have been living the good life for a good while and are a bit out of touch with their people. They need a reality check. And I guess they felt offened that the good white folks didn’t invite them to their annual party. Yes we can walk and chew gum at the same time. On my blog I cover politics,sex,sports,colorism, self hatred,beauty and entertainment. It’s important that we as black people are aware of all subjects that affect our lives. I talk about Hollywood on my blog all the time. But it’s under the context of examing the negative images they love to put on our people. I think it’s important to understand how racist Hollywood operates. But I gave up on the Oscars a long time ago when I realized they would never change for our benefit. It’s owned and operated by white people so they get to pick who they will nominate for their awards. What are we looking for cultural diversity or white acceptance?
        I think many black people want acceptance from whites. They just don’t want to admit it. I used to watch the Oscars when I was a kid. But as a Pan African I think we need to do for self. I agree with you that black artist are important. Young black children should learn about the great history and accomplishments of their ancestors. There are so many great stories to tell. But I’ve noticed that Hollywood is not interested in films that uplift black people and put us in a positive light. But they are willing to throw money at any film showing us as slaves,butlers,maids,drug dealers,whores and pimps. We can do better on our own. We need to create our own studios and production companies so we don’t have to answer to others. Our ask for their money to get a film made. Black people should strive to build their communities from within, forging strong bonds and inspiring those who lack confidence. We may finally get the respect that we deserve one day, but the utmost goal is for us to respect ourselves, to better ourselves, in conjunction with making sure that our voices are still heard.

          1. Kushite Prince

            Thanks sis! But the funny thing about it is Jada was right. We do need to pull our resources together and show that we believe in our own abilities. I feel her on that! I just hope she and others are sincere about it.

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