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On Jada Pinkett Smith's Post-Racial American Dreams And The Media...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 20, 2013 11:16 AM
34 Comments
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Jada Pinkett Smith

I only recently started following Jada Pinkett Smith's Facebook fan page, and apparently, I've been missing out, because, unlike some other celeb fan pages, she's actually directly involved in the content that's posted on the site, and even seems to be doing the postings herself at times.

And she's been using the page (with it's 3+ million fans) as an online space to question, inspire, and challenge her readers, often penning odes to a variety of issues, like, most recently, bullying and teen celebs, to, a couple of days ago, the below piece on women's magazine covers and race, which stirred up LOTS of conversation on the web, as several sites picked it up.

And while not necessarily a film-related matter, I think what Jada questions is rooted in a much larger social issue that does affect the representation of our (black) images in the media - film, TV, print, web, etc. Essentially, the point being that, even though her questions are specific to her gender and magazines, the answers to those questions are pretty much the same answers to many of the questions we debate on this site weekly - for example, matters of equality in terms of the diversity in our images, transcending race, as well as whether this country is anywhere close to being the so-called "post-racial" society that some proclaimed it to be after Barack Obama won his first term as President, and that the playing field has indeed been leveled, etc.

From my POV, she's essentially challenging the very reason why black institutions, or we could say black versions of mainstream institutions, exist. For example, this very blog which focuses strictly on black cinema. To rephrase her questions in relation to this blog, one could ask, since we (black people) lament the fact that mainstream (or *white*) film websites don't cover black cinema as comprehensively as well as we want them to, should black cinema sites not offer the same consideration to *white* films, and sites like S&A should also start covering non-black cinema?

Again, this speaks to whether this country has finally reached that post-racial moment when we do see each other beyond skin color. Of course, from where I'm standing, the answer is, no, we're not quite there yet. Far from it, actually!

But here's Jada's post from Monday which has the black blogosphere especially in a bit of a tizzy. I was initially going to ignore it, but it's almost everywhere it seems, and a few of you emailed it to me, so I guess it's something that folks want to talk about, so I'm sharing, along with my own thoughts, in relation to cinema and this blog.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section:

Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?

There is a question I want to ask today. I'm asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities. These possibilities may be realistic or unrealistic. I also want to make it clear that there is no finger pointing here. I pose this questi

on with the hope that it opens a discussion about how we can build a community for women based upon us all taking a deeper interest in one another. An interest where skin color, culture, and social class does not create barriers in sharing the commonality of being... women. With love and respect to all parties involved, my question is this...if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers? Should women extend their power to other women simply because they are women? To my women of color, I am clear we must have something of our own, but is it possible to share in the spirit in which we ask our white sisters to share with us? I don't know the answer and would love to hear your thoughts.

J


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34 Comments

  • mplo | October 23, 2013 4:59 AMReply

    A "post-racial' nation--my butt! It's never going to happen.

  • TAZ | March 23, 2013 11:12 AMReply

    Jada rhetorically wonders: "Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?"

    Then after giving a basis to the thought, Jada asks: "if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers? Should women extend their power to other women simply because they are women?"

    TAZ answers: Jada, as a woman, I too have wondered if we would ever realize the social perfection of living in this world w/o race, class or culture being so dominant. I do think at times that if any segment of this world could do it, the segment that would reach out beyond those borders, it would begin with women, simply based on our genetic makeup. Perhaps this is the reason you are specific about gender. However, I don't think it will happen with black women for a myriad of reasons I will not state in this forum, because many have not delved enough into who/what they are or are not mature enough to understand the power of thought. And in fairness to black women, the same probably could be said about white women.

    To give thought to your question, as a black woman, to be fair to the essence of quid pro quo, my answer would be absolutely, through the spirit and strength of womanhood, if we band together as human sisters - as they stop the foolishness of using blackface on white models and become more inclusionary, so should we. Because if race, class and culture is not a factor, there would not be a need for race and culture based magazines....as all magazines would be run together by all and inclusionary of all, including content, advertisement, opinion, editorial, and media commentary. AND, you are correct, this would not mean we would give up our stuff/world because it is ours and needed.....(although Essence, which e'erbody is losing their minds over, is not, in essence, OURS) but it would mean we would be open to lend our thought on things that are outside of our world.

    I do thank you for these questions because it does give awareness to how open or closed people are in a world we say we want to see changed. Many want a solution but don't want to be part of the solution. It also gives me awareness of prejudices I still hold and insight into my character. I wish everyone could at least be open enough to challenge themselves in such a manner, however, it is the reason why we.......... never mind.

  • Taz | March 24, 2013 12:23 AM

    Absolutely, I can cook. lol. Thanks for the compliment....I'm trying to keep up with you!

  • CareyCarey | March 23, 2013 12:09 PM

    "Jada rhetorically wonders: "Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?"

    RHETORICALLY! Damn TAZ, how did you find the heart/spirit of Jada's words, yet many missed it? Well, actually, you've already answered that question-->"I don't think it will happen with black women for a myriad of reasons [...] many have not delved enough into who/what they are or are not mature enough to understand the power of thought. I wish everyone could at least be open enough to challenge themselves in such a manner, however, it is the reason why we.......... never mind"

    And it gets better: "as a black woman, to be fair to the essence of quid pro quo, my answer would be absolutely, [if they] become more inclusionary, so should we" ~TAZ

    In other words, you're saying show me yours and I'll show you mine... "equal exchange"... "give and take", "tit for tat', "this for that", and "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."

    I agree TAZ, that sounds reasonable and fair to me. And, it looks like you've killed another one. If I had your hand, brain, writing style... I'd throw mine away. Can you cook, too? :-)

  • Nadell | March 22, 2013 12:54 PMReply

    Her children's friends have been visiting her home much lately, I'm sure, and one of Jaden's or Willow's diverse group of friends must've posed that question to her.
    "Hey Mrs. Pinkett-Smith, I see alot of these Essence magazines here on your coffee table. You are on the cover of alot and you and your husband are on this one from 4 + years ago. Is this a magazine for blacks only? Do you think there could ever be a white woman or white couple on the cover of Essence?!?!"

    ESSENCE, JET & EBONY are the solution for the exclusion. To take that away in an attempt to be inclusive would open pandora's box for things she wouldn't be prepared for!

  • Donella | March 21, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    Bollywood and Nollywood and Korean cinema seem to flourish at representing "their own" with no excuses or apologies.

  • CareyCarey | March 21, 2013 8:55 AMReply

    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... and the coffin closes. To vehemently disagree with Jada's "question" (yes, she said, "I'm asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities" ) is NOT thinking outside the box, but is essentially preparing one's own cooling board.

    Jada was simply asking if it's wise, productive or a fool's errand of trying to have one's cake and eat it too, when one screams for inclusion yet practices their own form of exclusiveness? Granted, only a fool would question the need and significance of places like S&A and magazines targeted toward the African-American community, however, a wise man knows that when a door is locked from the inside, several messages ring loud and clear.

  • D.A. | March 21, 2013 1:14 AMReply

    It's troubling reading some of these comments. But I'm not really surprised because as an observation, whenever a person or a group knows nothing or is not fully informed of something or someone they automatically respond/react negatively to it/them. Look people, you can answer this woman's question without hurling these immature and harsh insults at her. I say that because this is not the first post I've read of hers on her fanpage. I've been following Jada on Facebook for a while now and trust, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to topics of race and questioning social norms. It wasn't too long ago that she responded in an open letter to someone who had issues dealing with certain people in their blended family (i.e. dealing with their spouses ex (read: Baby's mama). Another post gave her observation of our men struggling to find themselves when there is this ridiculous expectation of them to be the cliche "Alpha-Male" who can't possible be a homosexual. This issue in particular is in that same accord and I commend her for bringing it to the forefront. I wouldn't say it's stupid or air-headed because I know that all, if not most of you have had that discussion in your heads or in your social circles at least once. Yes, it is far fetched to think this may happen, Essence magazine was created because their was no inclusion of women/men of color in the mainstream at the time of it's establishment.
    But let's be honest, it wasn't too long ago that we were informed through the former (read: pink slipped) editor, Constance C.R. White, that the wonderful people at TIME, Essence's parent company, (and I quote) "are limiting the way black women are portrayed." So seeing a white woman with an adopted black child on the cover wouldn't be too far fetched in the near future, now would it!?!?! Essence already has a habit of recycling the same people for the cover and not hitting as hard with their content.
    My response to her question, since it was a general one targeting publications that specifically cater to a black audience, was that it all depended on the publication. I know it would be a crazy idea to create their own rainbow coalition for a cover story, but our revered magazine is sadly fighting for it's soul right now, and if recent reports are any indication, it's losing it. This isn't Complex, or XXL or Vibe, or The Source where talent trumps skin color in a specific genre (Yes, Yes, most of those artists don't have actual 'talent' so what's my point? Well that's your opinion and who you think is 'good' is totally subjective). This is a brand much in the tradition of Ebony/Jet/Black Enterprise. Speaking of Ebony, they couldn't even do it and they've had post-newlywed Paula Patton on the cover (I needn't remind you who she's married to - Is he even 'white' though!?!?!).
    But let me reiterate, I highly doubt that Jada was ignorant to reality when she asked this question. She co-owns and operates, what looks like, a growing/successful production and entertainment company with her husband and fellow AFRICAN-AMERICAN couple Dwayne & Tisha Campbell-Martin. The T.V. shows/Films that this company have put out have always had African-American leads, a diverse cast or an all-black cast (Yes, Yes, the leads are typically their kids or themselves........I get it, but it is THEIR production company). Aside from the shady deal they can give you through their infamous 'contest' for new television content (for shame..........I know), Jada isn't stupid. She probably is FULLY aware that Essence would not try to integrate their covers, that is if Essence really had a say so. I'm also sure she's read the latest blog post about Constance C.R. White's firing like the rest of us. It's not like the urban blogosphere hasn't covered it with their respective comments sections going into deep discussion on the matter of whether Essence is WORTH the time of filling out or continuing a subscription.

    Let's not be ignorant to reality.

  • MK | March 23, 2013 4:36 AM

    "The T.V. shows/Films that this company have put out have always had African-American leads, a diverse cast or an all-black cast "

    How does this rhyme with her suggesting that "women should be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture"?
    If she believes in what she preaches, then her company should also have Whites in the lead, or a production with an all-White cast.

    Hmmmm.... perhaps she is warming up (read: warning) her fans for an upcoming production that is exactly this.....?

  • Roberto | March 20, 2013 11:38 PMReply

    I like Jada but thats a dumb question the mission of back mags like Essence is to represent "BLACK" it says it right on the cover, if a white woman is on the cover that defeats the purpose of the magazine...... mags like Vogue, Cosmo, INstyle..whatev although mostly white, there mission statement is fashion and womens issues so ideally that SHOULD reflect the diversity of American women,but there dont hence the need for mags like Essence.

  • Bee | March 20, 2013 11:32 PMReply

    Wow. I wish I could say more than has already been said, but I agree with everything on this comment thread so far. Jada obviously is completely out of touch.

  • Miles Ellison | March 20, 2013 11:12 PMReply

    The reason that black versions of mainstream institutions exist is because of racist exclusion. Before any sharing can take place across racial lines, there has to be an honest commitment to inclusion. We're a long way from that. Obama's election has put a lot of negative attitudes about race into stark relief, and has brought old-fashioned racism explosively to the surface.

  • Darryl | March 20, 2013 10:30 PMReply

    All you can do is shake your head at some of these black celebs, I'm sorry I meant the majority of them. The comments Jada Pinket Smith makes is a black celeb making it and then start believing racism doesn't exist because they made it, in other words they saying the masses of black people that deal with racism everyday like driving while black, stop and frisk, mortgage descrimination, loan dedcrimination, and countless more racist practices is just us imagining racism that's not there. These black celebs just care about one thing, themselves and appeasing their white establishment masters. Read between the lines, this is her way of saying I'm not like them, I'm a diffferent black person you can count on, the black friend you can say you got, for you can brush away racism charges or practices. Let's be honest, Jada wouldn't have this view if she wasn't married to Will Smith, her whole mainstream career is based off of Will. If she didn't married Will Smith she would be another black actress struggling to get roles and saying how hollywood is racist, which is true, just look at hollywood histroy past and presnt and you know this can't be disputedof hollywood feeling toward black people. So now she got a little so call position black people need to get over it, GTFOH.
    Independent black filmmakers, actors, actresses, and producers need to stick together to get our stories told. Stop looking for Rich Black Celebs to save the day when it comes to Black Films. They had their chance and what did they do with their fame and money, just look at for themselves and then turn around and make foolish comment like this. If you want to dispute this about these selfish black celebs. I'm going to leave you with this. It's been black actors that have made 20 million a film. If black images were that important they could take a million dollars and finance 3 to 4 black films a year. They would make their money back especially at this cost with their name attached to it, maybe do a small role in one of the films, this would be their chance to tell different stories invovling black people and help change the course of black films that this is no longer a discussion, but do they do that, no but you see their white counterparts do this and star in films with unknown directors all the time. Another issue is the first time a black with money do somehting with films they always do a comedy or hood drama laced with sterotypes, see Bet Films, Tyler Perry, Russell Simmons, any film a rapper produces or black radio host. That tells you they buy into this or they believe this is how the minds of the black masses work and what they have to do to be sucessful.

    Wake up People we can do better. This is the digital age, there are no more excuses why we can't have different stories out there or distrbute our own films through our own channels. Let's be about it and stop talking about and stop paying attention to these black actors, rappers, and athletes that hate the black community unless it's time for them to get paid, then it's all love.

  • K | March 20, 2013 10:18 PMReply

    I think I understand what she's trying to say, but I mean is it always everyone else's job to include the white man/woman so we can be post racial? Like, somehow we're the ones who don't get it. Black people, Asian people, etc wouldn't need separate anything if their environment was an inclusive one to begin with.

  • JADA DONE LOST HER DAMN MIND | March 20, 2013 10:16 PMReply

    Yeah, I pretty much agree with everyone else that has posted on this thread, thus far. I've got to say--I don't know a thing about Jada's life, but in an industry which is rife with discrimination for pretty much all Non-White actors except for people like Will Smith (Will Smith and Denzel) it seems like she has ascended to a position of privilege that has severely hampered her ability to discern reality.

    Sure, Black folks want society to be post-racial. I'm pretty sure that's where all of the Civil Rights movement came from. Nevertheless, I think it's pretty fair to say that there are a great deal of industries, ideologies and legislation that remains today that keeps that from happening and it's flabbergasting to see someone with such a high position (who is from Baltimore, no less) suggest that it's time to just sweep everything under the rug.

    Very poignant point, Jada.

  • Nadia | March 20, 2013 8:30 PMReply

    Things that make you go hmm lol. I'm cracking up at all these comments. My spider sense tells me that she's probably about to launch something that black women may not approve of, and she's testing the waters first.

  • BluTopaz | March 20, 2013 7:40 PMReply

    Jada-

    Let me know when your husband has a Black leading lady, and stops co-signing along with Hollywood's view of why Black women don't put butts in theaters. Then we can discuss your post-racial sisterhood, and how Black women are holding it back cuz there are no White women on the cover of Essence magazine. Which you happen to "grace" the cover of about 6 times a year.

  • BluTopaz | March 20, 2013 7:47 PM

    *butts in seats

  • J. Fred Muggs ("Vootie") | March 20, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    There should come a time in the life of every "celebrity" when they must realize after 20+ years of an excessive, capricious lifestyle of plastic surgery, industry parties and a general constant pampering surrounded by sycophants, they have lost touch of reality: that pulse of humanity that connects all humans with the day-to-day struggles and concerns of other like-minded citizens. Jada has reached that point.

  • afroblue32 | March 20, 2013 10:22 PM

    Amen.

  • sandra | March 20, 2013 2:53 PMReply

    I cannot relate to Jada's lament.

  • ALM | March 20, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    "Again, this speaks to whether this country has finally reached that post-racial moment when we do see each other beyond skin color."

    The answer to this my friend is a huge, huge NO!

    I love absolutely love to see magazines, tv shows, etc. where races equally shared covers and air time, but as long as the controlling group thinks that placing two fair skinned Black people on a cover once a year is equality, things will never change. If these magazines had to be fair, Beyonce and Halle would have to wait in line years to get the cover of a magazine. By the time the print media cycled through all of the Black, Latina, Caucasian, Asian, etc. stars of note with current projects to promote, it would take years.

    This leads to another issue. Those with the control determine who is a "star" and who is not. I for one don't see enough of Regina King, Michael Michelle, Ledisi, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, etc. (note that the women I included are of MULTIPLE skin tones), but there are gate keepers who decide who is talented enough and beautiful enough to be on the cover of magazines.

    I feel as if people of color have tried time and time again to reach out to those in controlling to ask for a seat at the table. It's obvious that some people don't want to share, and I'm not one for begging.

  • ALM | March 21, 2013 3:10 AM

    *those in control

  • getthesenets | March 20, 2013 2:50 PMReply

    When you hear people talk about "not being placed in a box" generally what follows that is 100% lawn fertilizer. That person caries the box with them and take it out , when it benefits them.

    In terms of her comments though, ahahahaahaahahaahhahahahahhahahahah
    I think Essence magazine is owned by a larger media company, so ultimately...the same people who hire editors for the white magazines probably do so for most Black, and other ethnic magazines.

    If I know this as a guy, certain that Mrs. Pinkett Smith knows even more than I do about this

    she is talking out of her ass

  • BURP | March 20, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    A lot of folks move to LA and become weird really quick..my aunt who lives there is trying to get me to read L. Ron Hubbard books(Mr. Scientology) and I am like sista you grew up in the church what happened.. its LA..if its not someone doing yoga on the sidewalk to creating feng shui in a car to spitting isims and jisims .. I am glad I am in ny

  • getthesenets | March 21, 2013 3:21 PM

    @Burp


    I hear you, but about religion...
    at some point, people have questions and issues that dancing, singing and "shouting" can't address...so they look for other spiritual options.

    never mind the legacy of how our people in this hemisphere were "introduced" to "the church"

    people challenge and seek alternates to some of our "customs" as they should....whether it's religion or diet .

    the bad part is when they then try to beat YOU over the head with it...

  • Rocket | March 21, 2013 1:13 PM

    That's one part of L.A. That stuff doesn't play on Crenshaw and Slauson. That stuff doesn't move in the barrios of East L.A. either. People don't move to "LA" and get weird. They move to West Hollywood and get weird.

  • spassky | March 20, 2013 1:09 PMReply

    SCIENTOLOGY

  • Sergio | March 20, 2013 3:17 PM

    L.Ron Hubbard was an early disciple of British conman, fraud and Satantic cult leader Alastair Crowley. Hubbard once ran the U.S. California branch of Crowley's cult until he ran off with the funds and eventually started his own fraud cult scheme

  • Sweeta | March 20, 2013 11:57 AMReply

    Jada's seriously losing it...she'd already lost me with that b.s. on why we need to stop "bullying" teen celebs (it's even laughable as I type), now she thinks women of color should extend...(can't finish--too much laughing). I'm done. It's interesting how out of touch celebrity really makes people.

    P.S. If she were keen enough to the issue, she'd know that White people are the guardians of our media as well. We still need permission from them to cover "our own" (again, laughing) magazines.

  • Georgia | March 20, 2013 6:50 PM

    "there"

  • Georgia | March 20, 2013 6:49 PM

    WKS, you should read the recent press about Constance White's firing as Editor in Chief of Essence and you'll know that there is definitely some micromanaging going on their by the white management: http://mije.org/richardprince/essence-editor-says-she-was-fired

    I agree with everyone--Jada needs to have a seat.

  • wks | March 20, 2013 4:36 PM

    statement correction " while ownership has been bought out by your usual media conglomerates, (white owned and operated) is true, for instance at Essence, still I don't believe they have much to say about the daily decision-making that goes on - like who do we want for the June cover?. These decisions are still being made by the people whose jobs it is to make those decisions.

  • wks | March 20, 2013 4:31 PM

    While I agree with you Sweeta to a certain, I have to disagree with the statement that while principle ownership of many Mags/media outlets geared towards women of color. They do not get into the day-to-day operations and decision-making, ( like, who do we like on the cover for June issue at Essence Magazine), artistic control and content is mainly left up to the people whose jobs it is to make those decisions - like any other major magazine.

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