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White Celebrities and the NAACP Team Up for an 'I Take Responsibility' PSA, Which is Fine, But ...

By Roxana Hadadi | Celebrity | June 11, 2020 |

By Roxana Hadadi | Celebrity | June 11, 2020 |


TakeResponsibilityVideoPaulsonPaulTucciBell.jpg

Remember when Gal Gadot and her Wonder Woman costars teamed up for that “Imagine” video, where everyone really earnestly sang that insufferable John Lennon song that makes me want to rip off my own face so I never have to hear it again? But then very few of those same people spoke up when George Floyd was murdered by the police, or Breonna Taylor was murdered by the police, or Ahmaud Arbery was murdered and the police did nothing for weeks? Yeah! That was a good time in the realm of performative white celebrity allyship. And perhaps you would think the same thing of this video, which began making the rounds online today:

Some more background on this video, per The Hollywood Reporter: It’s a new project in partnership with the NAACP to increase awareness, encourage action, etc. etc. etc.

The website ITakeResponsibility.org will host the campaign, created by Tommy Oliver and Adam Platzner of Confluential Content in partnership with the NAACP.

In a statement released with the PSA, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson says, “In order for us as a nation to get to a better place, we’re going to have to adjust how we see each other and engage in open and honest conversations that might be painful at times. The fight for civil rights, and human rights have always required a diverse coalition of partners and allies. It is powerful when white people can speak openly about the individual and structural racism and privilege that deny others their full rights. We need everyone to join us on the frontline in the fight for justice and equality.”

If you visit the ITakeResponsibility.org website, there are two dropdown menus, one prompting you to select “I take responsibility for…” and the other prompting “and to make it better, today I will…” In a clever design feature, the dropdown menus are all white, so when you hover over them, they reveal options for you to select what you feel guilty for or what you pledge to. Cool, that’s great, get involved. (Related, if you’re looking for other places to donate, you can find them here.)

But, because I am a cynical asshole, I approached this video with some hesitation. Because using your voice is good! Great. Donating money when you’re a millionaire is better! They should do that. And most of all, white celebrities who benefit from the status quo need to interrogate that they benefit from the status quo. And that status quo includes police brutality, yes, and systemic racism, yes. You know where else that entrenched prejudice exists? Hollywood! And the stories that get made, and the films and TV shows that get produced, and the people who become powerful figures — all of that is affected by systematic exclusion, too. It’s not a secret. We all know this.

So, how many of the people in this video have done what they can to elevate Black stories? Have worked with Black directors, showrunners, writers, or filmmakers? I compiled a list of every actor or actress who appeared in this PSA, then checked their IMDb page for the last decade to see what I could find — if anything. You might not be surprised that it’s, well, sort of grim.

Sarah Paulson

The last time Paulson worked with a Black creator: 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen. I couldn’t find anything else between 2010 and 2020. NOTE: Commenter Joel pointed out that Paulson’s work on Ryan Murphy’s various series should count here, and Joel is right. In particular, Paulson worked with directors Anthony Hemingway and the late John Singleton on The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which aired in 2016.

Aaron Paul

The last time Paul worked with a Black creator: 2019’s Truth Be Told on Apple TV+, created by Nichelle D. Tramble. I couldn’t find anything else between 2010 and 2020.

Bethany Joy Lenz

The last time Lenz worked with a Black creator: Two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes, in 2018. I couldn’t find anything else between 2010 and 2020.

Kristen Bell

Nothing that I could find in the past decade!

Justin Theroux

Nothing that I could find in the past decade! Also, I will just note here that Theroux’s impassioned moment mentions “not-so-funny jokes” and “unfair stereotypes” about Black people, and that Theroux wrote Tropic Thunder, in which Robert Downey Jr.’s whole thing is doing blackface. So, you know, there’s that.

Debra Messing

I want to be respectful here, and I apologize if I am ignorant or offend anyone with this. This is a function of my own ignorance in terms of discussing certain overlaps between racial identity and ethnic identity. In looking through Messing’s filmography, I found that she worked with Aboriginal director Wayne Blair on the 2017 Dirty Dancing musical remake. I know that some Aboriginal people consider themselves Black and others do not, and in searching for interviews with Blair, he identifies himself as Aboriginal. But I thought it was worth mentioning that Messing worked with him, and worth honoring Blair’s ethnic identity, and this is again one of those moments where we have to work to better understand others’ experiences. And no, I couldn’t find anything else for Messing between 2010 and 2020.

Mark Duplass

Nothing that I could find in the past decade!

Bryce Dallas Howard

Nothing that I could find in the past decade! (Although, thank you, Bryce, for telling people to watch movies by Black filmmakers rather than just The Help.)

Julianne Moore

Nothing that I could find in the past decade!

Piper Perabo

The last time Perabo worked with a Black creator: She co-starred in the 2019 series Turn Up Charlie, the show about a DJ and nanny co-created by Idris Elba. I couldn’t find anything else between 2010 and 2020.

Stanley Tucci

Nothing that I could find in the past decade! Sorry if this crushes everyone’s thirst.

Ilana Glazer

The last time Glazer worked with Black creators: Did voice acting on the 2013-2015 animated series Lucas Bros Moving Co., created by and starring Keith and Kenneth Lucas. I couldn’t find anything else between 2010 and 2020.

“Call out hate. Step up. And take action,” the PSA implores. I agree! All the actors featured in the video could, and should, do better in terms of working with Black creators. What will any of their next projects be? Or does that “take action” directive not apply here? Hmm. I wonder.


Roxana Hadadi is a Staff Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.


Header Image Source: ITakeResponsibility.org


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