Lee Daniels: You get the side eye.

My dog, Jessie, giving the side eye.
My dog, Jessie, giving the side eye.

Colloquially, when someone receives the “side eye,” there has been a suspect action. Suspect is defined as questionable and the action can be verbal, mental, emotional, and behavioral. In a recent article from Huffington Post’s Black Voices, an overview of Lee Daniels’s appearance on the talk show, The Real, highlights a profound perspective by the black producer and director. The highlight is that Mr. Daniels promotes “I wouldn’t be where I was if I embraced racism. If I embraced it, then it became real. And if it became real, I would be an angry black man.” Fair enough, we all have various beliefs and worldviews that allow us to move forward and succeed in our lives. However, when your worldview is contraindicated to your claims of being a change agent through your cultural contribution, this is suspect. Let me offer a few suspect statements by Mr. Daniels.

Daniels discusses that he incorporated what was happening on “the street..” “…before our president elect was in, I thought we were at civil war…black boys were being shot. I did not understand what was going on.”

This evokes my side eye.

To understand the concept of racism, one has to embrace racism or what I am inferring more from Daniels, one needs to acknowledge its existence. To be a change agent, one has to understand, comprehend, and immerse oneself into the complexities of this social problem. Racism is a REAL social problem that needs a poignant and genuine social justice and human rights lens to yield an effective change. How can one fully grasp something that they do not embrace? The lack of acknowledgement does not erase its insidiousness.

Later in the show, Daniels states that he sees “Empire as Dynasty and Star as Good Times” with the lead character being white. PLUS, the voice of the show is told through a white girl’s perspective. Daniels believes that this will aid in the healing of America.

Another side eye.

The last example, they show a clip [I will paraphrase] from the show with a young man in the neighborhood approaches the manager and members of the group. The young man is soliciting assistance with promoting advocacy. The manager (who knows the young man) asks about the project and the young man describes it as “racial inequality and criminal justice system.” The clip ends with Queen Latifah’s character, the manager, seemingly annoyed with the young man.

My immediate take away - disingenuous. The whole scene felt pandering to the audience. The writers appeared to insert a few “buzz words” that do not align with the producer’s lack of “embracing” the impact of racism – inequality and mass incarceration. The last two terms is the language of someone who understands, acknowledges, and viscerally sees racism. This is suspect. Well placed words weaved into the fabric a script or story of a pandering show does not yield healing, Mr. Daniels. It yields further decay.

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