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I suppose I dislike two things: (1) that the need to be “classically beautiful” is held over the heads of women due to patriarchy and (2) that dark skinned women such as Viola Davis are automatically cast outside of “classic beauty” because of white supremacist standards.
It shouldn’t be my or any woman’s job to be classically beautiful. And yet, classic beauty shouldn’t be denied of any woman.
Attacking a woman’s looks still has the cultural power to deny her worth and value. The New York Times’ wasn’t simply attacking Viola’s physical appearance. It was attacking her right to have a leading role in what is set to be a popular and successful show. It gave the connotation of: “Why her?”
Asking “why her?” in the veiled language of attacking her beauty and resorting to the trite stereotype of the “angry Black woman” is symbolic racist violence. Asking “why her?” marginalizes dark skinned Black women and puts us on the defensive for why we deserve success, for why we deserve the limelight.
Why NOT Viola Davis? And why, in light of her incredible acting ability, is this only her first major role in a TV series? Why wasn’t she cast into an incredible acting career a long time ago?
It’s not because she’s not “classically beautiful.” It’s because authors such as the white woman who wrote this demeaning and racist New York Times article subscribe to internalized misogyny and white supremacy.
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It was through my initiative that Sartre’s preface to The Wretched of the Earth was removed. Let us say that from a western point of view, it is a good preface. Sartre understood the subject matter in The Wretched of the Earth. But in June 1967, when Israel declared war on the Arab countries, there was a great pro-Zionist movement in favor of Israel among western (French) intellectuals. Sartre took part in this movement. He signed petitions favoring Israel. I felt that his pro-Zionist attitudes were incompatible with Fanon’s work. Whatever Sartre’s contribution may have been in the past, the fact that he did not understand the Palestinian problem reversed his past political positions.
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I’m glad that Shonda Rhimes saw me and said "Why not?" That’s what makes her a visionary. That’s what makes her iconic. I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement (less classically beautiful) my entire life. Being a dark-skinned Black woman, you heard it from the womb. And "classically not beautiful" is a fancy term for saying ugly. And denouncing you. And erasing you. Now…it worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now. It’s about teaching a culture how to treat you. Because at the end of the day, you define you.
Viola Davis response to being called “less classically beautiful” in the NY Times article. (via thediaryofnikkiv)