Bear Bellinger explains what it’s like to be a black actor without the star power to push back against racism in the entertainment industry.
So when we yell #OscarsSoWhite, I stand here thinking, “So is the rest of the industry.” The inequality starts from the bottom and works its way to the top until it becomes fully institutionalized. And at that bottom level, where it begins, we don’t even have the insulation of money to help withstand the burden. We have to worry about that next paycheck to eat.
I couldn’t teach that white director that his concept of how black people respond to slurs ran counter to the truth of my life experience for fear of losing out on a job. When a white actor then used a slur with me onstage, I couldn’t walk away or demand his job for fear of losing a necessary paycheck and future income. And when a cop physically assaulted me to teach me how to play a part, I couldn’t exclaim my displeasure, as this was my big break.
I was voiceless.
This is why it’s not enough to have a token black guy, to have “diversity” in only one small aspect of a huge enterprise. This is why representation on all levels is hugely important. And we white folk need to be listening and have people’s backs when shit happens, as it inevitably will. Same goes for any majority interacting with minority folk. Men: have women’s backs. Straight people: back up the queer folk. Cis people: stand with the trans folk. And all of us must demand more minority folk be represented. Demand marginalized people be treated with respect, even when they’re not there to advocate for themselves.
We can change this shit, but we have to pull our weight, and listen, and believe people when they talk about their experiences.