The Oscars played in Angela Bassett’s face again, and she doesn’t have to be gracious about it
OPINION: The actress was snubbed for the second time in 30 years, and all people can talk about is her response to it.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Angela Bassett was nominated for an Oscar for the second time in her 38-year career in Hollywood, and for the second time, she was passed over for someone else.
For someone who has worked as hard as she has to build the body of work that she has, making it to the big dance only to not get that golden statuette at the end of the night had to sting.
The disappointment showed on her face. It showed on her husband’s face, too. It likely showed on the faces of everyone who was rooting for her to win, because we know how this game works, and even though we all wanted it for her just as badly as she wanted it for herself, deep down, we all had the sinking fear that Hollywood was going to do what Hollywood does: uphold whiteness.
Because let’s be clear: As unproblematic as Jamie Lee Curtis is, and as likable as she may be, there is no way she should have won an Oscar for what essentially amounted to a cameo in the night’s biggest film. This was akin to Judi Dench winning the Oscar in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love,” a role for which Dench did maybe eight minutes of work.
This is not meant to tear down either Dench or Curtis, both of whom are beloved in Hollywood.
This is simply to illustrate a point; as much as we want Hollywood to get it right, Hollywood refuses to get it right time and time again.
Because even if you weren’t going to give the award to Bassett, Stephanie Hsu was right there, but let me get off this tangent. A Hollywood nepo baby (because Jamie Lee Curtis is in fact a Hollywood nepo baby) won the night, and Angela was snubbed.
The headlines and online discussions we have seen since that moment have not focused on the fact that Angela got cheated. People are way more concerned with her response to getting cheated.
As I previously mentioned, the disappointment showed on her face immediately — and rightfully so. Her hopes had been built up and dashed once again, yet white legacy media and people talking online seem to think she owed it to everyone to smile, grin and bear it.
Because that’s what y’all expect Black women to do.
It’s yet another reminder of how Black people — and especially Black women — are always expected to temper their responses to negative things happening to them, even when they feel they have seriously been wronged.
Think about it. Whenever a Black person is killed, the first thing they will ask the person’s Black mother is “Do you forgive the killer?”
We aren’t allowed to feel our emotions or show them. We are expected to wear a mask and pretend like everything is OK, and all of this is so white people can feel comfortable. Everything is about their comfort and not ours.
Meanwhile, we have seen video after video of white women losing their minds over the tiniest of “slights.”
White women have attacked Black boys and accused them of stealing cell phones that are eventually discovered to have been misplaced by the white woman in question.
White women have called the police because Black people were barbecuing in the park, and that made them uncomfortable.
White women have called the police because a Black man asked them to leash their dog in Central Park, and they consider that an inconvenience and an affront.
White women have completely lost their noodles in the middle of a busy store and yelled loudly about how they were told by Apple Care…
White women are afforded all the opportunity in the world to feel their feelings and even act on those feelings in public, but a Black woman being disappointed over not winning one of the biggest honors in her chosen field of work is too much for people.
It is an extension of the idea that professionalism is a racist construct used to police the behavior of us and no one else.
Angela is expected to be “professional” and smile and wave and cheer Jamie Lee Curtis on when she knows in her soul that she should have been going home with that award Sunday night.
Angela is a woman — a human being with real feelings and emotions, and she is allowed to have and experience those feelings and emotions however she sees fit. So what if she didn’t smile? So what if she didn’t clap? It’s not like she got up on that stage and grabbed the mic and told everyone she should be the winner. She didn’t slap anyone.
She sat quietly in her seat. Her emotions were on her face as she swallowed what was likely a tennis ball-sized lump in her throat.
And that is OK.
Be angry, Angela. Be upset. You were cheated, and we all saw it.
You are allowed to feel whatever you felt in that moment. You are allowed to feel however you feel about it today.
The idea that we as Black women need to grin and bear it just so white people feel comfortable is ridiculous.
If white women get to have their feelings no matter what, then so do we.
The Oscars played in Angela’s face yet again Sunday night, and it’s OK for Angela and everyone else to be visibly upset by that.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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