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Musings

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?