So, Janet Hubert is still talking…
More specifically, Hubert has done an interview with the LA Times elaborating more on her disdain for the Smiths as well as talk of a boycott.
The interview is very insightful; and way too long to copy and paste here, So I encourage you to read the whole thing. But for the sake of brevity, I just want to focus on her responses to the criticisms that her original call-out of the Smiths was rooted in bitterness.
“People have said you’re bitter for bringing up “old stuff.” How do you respond?
Every day of my life, I’ve had to deal with “old stuff.” Every time I try to move forward, somebody brings up “Fresh Prince.” Every time I walk into a room or make a phone call, somebody brings up “Fresh Prince.” I brought that story up simply to say, “You didn’t stand up 25 or whatever years ago to get more money for your cast” — and I asked him as a fellow actor, not as the person who owned the show. I had no idea. I brought it up to say that if you don’t stand up all the time, you can’t pick and choose when you decide to stand up.
If you Google me, you’ll see I’ve worked with the [National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s] Black Women’s Roundtable from school to school, community center to community center, church to church. I’ve always been a warrior.
I have dealt with the ramifications of [rumors about being difficult on the “Fresh Prince” set] and I’m tired. You’re asking my fellow actors to step out and put their lives in jeopardy, and hang themselves the way you hung me. No, bro. I’m not going to let you do that. Especially when you put your woman out there to do it.
What then do you have to say regarding the broader issue of diversity in Hollywood, as it pertains to award shows?
Why do people need awards? Don’t you know your value and your worth? I don’t need anybody’s award or acceptance. We have a bigger problem. There needs to be huge changes in the system, but it’s not our system. Let’s make our own system. But I don’t want to hear those two. When you don’t stand up for the people who helped you get your start and now you’re asking people to stand up with you, it’s ironic to me. And it’s suspect.
If I understand correctly, you’re saying diversity is an issue, but black Hollywood has its own problems?
I think the black community has a lot to work on internally with what they deem successful. Did you know NeNe Leakes made it on Broadway before Janet Hubert? Something’s wrong with the whole system of bad behavior being rewarded. I think in the black community, ratchet has became the new black, ghetto has become the new black.”
This is not just about the Oscars. And truthfully, it doesn’t sound like it is just about The Smiths either.
For all intents and purposes, it is clear that Hubert feels a bit slighted here by all of Hollywood. Some may call it bitterness. I could definitely see that.
But if we are being honest, we can also see where she is coming from. And that is important too.
Because it is a narrative that speaks to how we tend to treat and relate to each other. In particular, how we treat those of us who have not been chosen as “exceptional” by the very institutions, which do not respect us all.
Even without White folks being present; (which is a oxymoron because thanks to White supremacy, the White gaze is omnipresent), Black folks will still make decisions about each other based upon what White folks think.
That’s what I gathered from her first video in which she called out Will Smith for not standing with her during contract negotiations. And that is also what I gather from Hubert when I read this portion of the aforementioned interview:
“So you’re not saying diversity in Hollywood isn’t an issue?
We’re all complaining about diversity in Hollywood, but we’ve got to address the colorism within the black community of Hollywood first. I’m called “dark-skinned Aunt Viv.” [Reid] is called “light-skinned Aunt Viv.” The whole ridiculousness of black Hollywood — there is no black Hollywood. It’s every man for himself. We’ve got to address that first before we can start attacking someone else’s awards that were never designed for us.
The Oscars were never designed for us. There are actors who have never gotten an Oscar and have done amazing work. If you are waiting for an award of a little … gold statue and that’s supposed to validate you, then you’re not in this business for the right reasons. We do the work. It’s about the work. It’s about taking the pages of a script and bringing them to life. It ain’t that deep. We get paid a lot of money to do very little work.”
Hubert might be bitter. How else can you explain her saying “it ain’t that deep. We get paid a lot of money to do very little work” after a lifetime of calling out folks for not taking the issues that Black folks go through in Hollywood seriously?
Still, there is no denying that she has suffered greatly for being the difficult one in an industry, which has been less than welcoming to Black folks. And while everyone was keeping their heads down low and doing all of the things that Hollywood told them to do and be, Hubert had something to say (and seeing how she is now, we can imagine that she had something to say about all of it).
And when she stood up, she found herself standing alone – and ostracized for it. And not just by White folks but by a bunch of us too, who felt she and her causes were too much of a risk and a liability to their own careers to be on that “old radical stuff.”
Generally, I agree with the Smiths’ personal pledge to not only boycott the Oscars but to bring resources back to the community. Regardless of what the motivation, the outcome of said action has the potential to bring about a lot of reform, which could help a lot of Black folks in Hollywood make inroads – even Hubert’s bitter behind.
But I also believe that Hubert has a right to feel some type of way about years of being passed over and disregarded in favor of folks who might be less trained but could say “yessir” more.
And while we are calling out White folks in Hollywood for overlooking us, we need to pay attention to the ways in which we have been complacent in our own oppression.