Ming Na Wen: Where she went wrong criticizing Chris Rock
Author: Jenna Mackrell
To give you some context, in case you don’t know, Chris Rock’s opening speech as the host of this year’s Academy Awards openly criticized Hollywood for being racist. He specifically pointed out that black actors do not get the same quality roles or the same opportunities as white actors.
Ming Na Wen, who is a Chinese (Macau American) actor on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tweeted the following in response to Chris Rock’s speech:
“But it’s a very BIG flaw. Chris Rock hasn’t once brought up other minorities who have worse odds at the #Oscars.”
(see #notyourmule trending on twitter)
As of this writing, Ming Na’s tweet has been taken down from Twitter. What I’m going to argue is why Ming Na Wen should not have made that argument, and why her argument is flawed.
First, let me use an example. Take a workplace program such as affirmative action. The resistance and reluctance to hire minorities often goes like this: “Well, if we’re going to hire more black people, that means we have to hire more Asians. And we have to hire Latino/Latinas, Indians, Native American Indians, Pacific Islanders, etc. And why even limit it to race? We have to hire more trans people. We have to include gay, lesbian, and bisexual folk, as well as disabled folk and poor people. But when will it end? Being inclusive is a good goal in theory. However, in the real world, it’s too unrealistic to achieve. It’s physically impossible to include every single minority on earth. We, as a business, simply do not have the time or the money for that.”
Here’s my view – You can give a million reasons for why you exclude people of color from your office setting, but at the end of the day, you’re still racist. I honestly don’t care if you have all the common sense or practicality or budgetary concerns in mind or not. And I don’t care about your good intentions. Racist practices are racist practices, regardless of the thoughts behind those practices. That’s the plain and simple truth.
So by saying what Ming Na Wen said in her tweet – namely, that Chris Rock was wrong to advocate only for black actors – well, that is very similar to saying, “Why did you limit it, Chris Rock? If we’re going to give better roles to black people, that means you have to give better roles to Asians. And you you have to give better roles to Latinos/Latinas, Indians, Native American Indians, Pacific Islanders, etc….”
Do you see where this is going?
People who call themselves human rights advocates should support Chris Rock when he speaks for diversity like he did at the Oscars. They should support him regardless of whether Chris Rock matches their own race or advocates for their own race or not.
To give a feminist example: Demi Lovato can tear down Taylor Swift for donating money to Kesha. Or she can say that Swift is not feminist enough or radical enough in her actions. But at the end of the day, it’s the privileged males in the music industry who stayed silent who are even more responsible for the problem than Taylor Swift. Demi Lovato should yell at the males.
Back to Chris Rock and race stuff: At the end of the day, it is the white actors who stayed silent who are even more responsible for the problem than Chris Rock. Ming Na Wen should yell at the white folk.
But such is the privilege of privilege. You get to stay invisible when you’re at the top. Cis males, rich people, and white people very rarely get held responsible for anything.
No, rather, with our screwed up logic, it’s a woman’s fault for getting raped (when it should be the man’s fault, but he’s invisible).
It’s the poor person’s fault for being poor (when it should be the rich person’s fault, but they are invisible).
It’s the black person’s fault for not being inclusive (when it should be the white person’s fault, BUT AGAIN, they are invisible).
Also, worth mentioning: Ming Na is a light-skinned, straight-haired Asian woman who looks very similar to me, and Asian right now is more welcome in country clubs in America than black people. So Ming Na, remember your own privilege.
True, Asians may have a harder time getting film roles in America than black people. This reality applies to the music industry as well. Hikaru Utada, a pop singer from Japan, can’t make a break over here in the U.S. (and believe me she’s tried). Meanwhile, Rihanna and Pitbull, who are Barbadian and Cuban-American musicians, respectively, are quite successful in the U.S.
But as tempting as it may be, don’t pull down Rihanna. Don’t pull down Pitbull. Definitely do not pull them down because of their race.
Criticizing Chris Rock for not being inclusive enough is just plain stupid. And racist. Ming Na Wen should know better.
But for the record, I hold many in Hollywood who are in positions of power and remain silent even more responsible than Ming Na Wen or Chris Rock. They are the stupidest and the most racist.
Did anyone forget what Meryl Streep had to say? It was clumsy and stupid but yet another reminder that Hollywood doesn’t have anyone’s interest in mind but their own.
They are the ones who should know better. Look at what happens when you make a movie like Gods of Egypt and the audience votes with its dollars.