Michaela Coel’s Golden Globes snub was racist.
Maybe the nomination committee members don’t think they’re racist. We white folk don’t like being called racist. We resist it. Find other explanations for the unfortunate truth. Maybe they’re horrified at the accusation. Maybe, in hindsight, they’d do differently. But they are and they did. We live in a world that CONSISTENTLY celebrates and promotes white mediocrity, whilst ignoring and then stealing from black excellence.
Yesterday, I was so disheartened by the snubbing of ‘I May Destroy You’ that I couldn’t help but agree with every angry tweet I read. Having said that, what I couldn’t get on board with was tearing down some of the other work that had been nominated. Yes, I agreed with what people were saying about certain nominated performances, but was saying it really necessary? Surely we should quietly keep those thoughts to ourselves? This morning, I think otherwise. To not speak out is precisely how we got in to this mess and precisely why we will continue to paddle around in it. Do we really want to live in a world which ignores Michaela Coel but lauds shows like ‘Emily Whitewashes Paris’ and ‘The Heterosexual Prom for Token Lesbians’? Seriously, ponder that question for a moment. Golden Globe nominators: you may not like ‘I May Destroy You’; you may be uncomfortable with the protagonist’s lifestyle choices; you may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter (I should hope you do); but if you can’t separate your own uncomfortableness and objectively see the groundbreaking GENIUS splashed all across the screen, what even are you doing in this business?
This morning I kidded myself into thinking that Coel is probably fine. A small naive part of my brain even thought maybe she didn’t want the show to be considered for nomination. After all, she does seem to be pretty anti-establishment. She famously sacked all her agents and negotiated the commission deal (to get the show made) herself. Again, groundbreaking. So, why would she care about awards? She’s probably doing just fine. And then a black friend (yes, I have one; see, I’m not racist) pointed out that whilst she probably wasn’t surprised, it’s still a “huge slap in your face (always) – you aren’t enough for us, you aren’t seen, your work isn’t interesting enough and first and foremost we are going to make sure you don’t benefit from our resources. You can’t just be fine in the face of racism/misogynoir, never.” And there it is. It’s easier as a white person to fool myself into thinking that she’ll be fine rather than accept the inconvenient and uncomfortable truth. Nothing about this is fine.
Still, thought I, she will be fine. Her work will still get commissioned. Again, the black voice in the room had to spell it out. Equity! Yeah. Coel will continue to make work, that we frankly don’t deserve, but she won’t be producing it with the same benefits, the same budgets, the same assistance and infrastructures afforded to her white award-winning counterparts. It’s not just the gift “baskets” that accompany awards, it’s all of that as well. That’s why awards actually ARE important. So, how is any of this fair? Doesn’t she deserve better? Don’t audiences deserve better?
I can already hear the comebacks to this, “Golden Globes aren’t racist. Look, Regina King, Chadwick Boseman. Must we only nominate POC to not be called racist?” No, not at all. But you can’t ignore black excellence whilst lifting up and celebrating white mediocrity. It’s a double standard.“Well, what about white excellence? What about Meryl Streep? Where’s her nomination?” Spare me. Meryl Streep is glorious but she needs another award for acting as much as Britain needs another Tory government. Steep doesn’t need lifting up and celebrating. She’s already at the top of the mountain; Coel is not. It’s not comparable. It’s never comparable. Do we consistently see black mediocrity lifted up and celebrated, while white excellence is ignored?
So, we can pretend that George Floyd woke us all up and turned the world into some golden Utopia but as yesterday clearly demonstrated, the past 6 months pretty much went for nothing and we’re right back where we’re started. And by the way, I don’t know shit and constantly need this spelled out to me by my oh so patient black friends. And I nearly didn’t write this because I’m worried about looking like some white saviour; but the longer we white folk sit around in our fear and discomfort, the longer the Michaela Coels of this world will be snubbed. We shouldn’t be okay with that. We should be calling that out.