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Thread by @eBoPeep: "The framing of @paularogo's @Essence piece on Cynthia Erivo is…interesting. This response will be a long thread bc it's impt that: we step b […]" #HarrietTubman #Harriet #HarrietDeservesBetter

, 53 tweets, 25 min read
The framing of @paularogo's @Essence piece on Cynthia Erivo is…interesting.

This response will be a long thread bc it's impt that:
◾️we step back to analyze the larger narrative that's being created ◾️Essence is aware that we're aware of deliberate editorial decisions.
TL;DR: From word choice, to sourcing, to biased, inaccurate framing, @paularogo's article, "Cynthia Erivo Pushes Back On Criticism Of Her New Role As Harriet Tubman" amounts to an Erivo fluff piece that tries to further neutralize valid criticism of a very real, very large issue.
(Note: When referring to African-Americans, I'm referring to DOS (descendant of slaves, h/t @BreakingBrown)/DACS (descendants of American chattel slavery)/BADASS (Black American descendants of American slavery & sharecropping, h/t @kimmaytube)
The distinction is about shared lineage, culture, history & ethnicity. The language around this distinction is often ambiguous but shouldn't be a distraction.

It is NOT about rejecting or minimizing anyone else's Blackness or American-ness, or descent from slavery.)
Let's start with the title. It centers Erivo as the subject performing a positive (or at a minimum, reactionary neutral) action - "pushing back" - against a negative - "criticism". Immediately below is a complimentary, *stoic* image of Erivo.
The sub-head/pull-quote once again centers Erivo and introduces the idea that this issue should really come down to the *transcendence* of being perceived *on sight* as a Black woman.

Who can argue with that?

(This is a strawman, BTW. More on that later.)
The lede predicates the article on a comment that Cynthia selected (some might say "cherry-picked") to respond.

This choice is pedestrian, biased in favor of Cynthia & not well-researched.
Plz note use of "defended" vs. a more objective verb like "responded" or "addressed."

Plz also note that defend connotes that there is an attack/aggressive action taking place.

What other things does the word "defend" bring to mind? 🤔 (Hint: righteous victimhood)
(Before we move on…Fact check: The casting of Erivo as Harriet Tubman was announced in Feb 2017, not this week. The news this wk was additional cast members, new director & Focus Features picking it up. This is impt bc the timeline raises a question about the casting process.)
Characterizing Sam Jackson's comments as "*accusing* Black British actors of *taking roles from* their African-American colleagues" is editorializing & roots the issue in exaggerated, personal animosity from African-Americans toward other Blacks.
(Also, "accuse" is another form of aggression.

To whom has the author attributed aggression in this article so far?)
Rather, Sam's comments about cost & perception of training were a critique of Hollywood decision making system responsible for casting.

The writer omitted his comments about how the particular experience & lineage of African-Americans might influence perspective & performance.
In other words, Sam Jackson was calling out *the game* as much as (or even more than) the non-African-American Black *players*.

He was getting at a first principle/foundational question of authenticity.

And, yes, further scarcity of roles for African-American DACS is valid too
Similarly, much criticism around Cynthia's casting is about a larger (macro) pattern that goes beyond Cynthia.

It's much more substantive & relatable than the less sympathetic, cringe-y "they took 'er jobs" charicature. (Pay attn to how & when DACS are charicatured this way.)
If the writer had researched more on the "micro", she would've seen that Cynthia often speaks out on disparate opportunity in US vs. UK for Black Brit women actors, & repeatedly uses "we're all perceived as Black the same" to counter criticism & assert entitlement to US opps.
And if the author had researched further, she'd understand that people are particularly displeased with Cynthia's casting because of this tendency to disregard African-American DACS's unique & specific lineage, culture, ethnicity, experience when convenient…
And yet she also:
◾️critiques inauthentic representation & cultural appropriation
◾️can parse the differences between Africans (incl different gens of Africans) & others
◾️champions the specificity & uniqueness of Africans and celebrates their solidarity

…when convenient
(Zoom in, read her tweets and take note of her tone when engaging with/the topic of African-American DACS.

Condescending or graceful? Dismissive or receptive? Intellectually honest or gaslighting?)
If the writer researched even further (i.e. scrolling Cynthia's Twitter TL), she would've also seen that Cynthia is a friend & supporter of Luvvie (Essence Woke 100 ✊🏾). And that she very actively promoted Luvvie gaslighting AA DACS around their. own. culture. just last month.
(And if she'd researched even further, she might've even found that Cynthia's self-described "sis" Luvvie has a long history of ethnic bigotry toward African-Americans. Which makes Cynthia's association with her even more problematic.

Context: )
And then the author might've considered if framing should ask:
Is it valid for people to push back against an icon of their history, culture, & seminal ethnicity being portrayed by an outsider who condescendingly disregards representation of this history, culture & ethnicity?
And the mark of a good writer/journalist with a less biased editorial mission would be to frame all of this in a concise, fair manner that the audience can digest.

She might've even looked into the data of casting non-Americans as Americans in prestige dramas. For *context*
Lastly, ending the article with the following isn't just context, but a biased appeal to empathy:
- how the movie positions Erivo closer to major accomplishments - an Oscar and EGOT status
- the producers' description of the stirring history that the movie is based on
So when reading pieces like this we must always ask,
✅ Who you? 👀 Who's on the masthead? What are you grounded in? H/t @breakingbrown
✅ What is the narrative? How is it being framed & sourced?
✅ What is being included & why?
✅ ***What is being left out & why?***
African-American DACS are waking up to the ethnic bigotry, cultural disrespect & gaslighting.

Noticing how we're systemically being replaced by other Blacks in prestige media, institutions & public discourse.

Recognizing framing and narratives.

There's a reckoning afoot.
And to expand on point about potential context: She might've even looked into the data or done a quick tally herself of prestige dramas (particularly historic fiction) to see what the breakdown is of non-African American Blacks portraying African-Americans over the last 10 yrs
…And the market parallels of Euro & Aussie actors taking advantage of US opportunity.

She might've even looked into the existing research to contextualize Cynthia's allusion to lack of opportunity for Black Brit women…
(Spoiler alert: Erasure of Black women in favor of mixed/biracial is very real in the UK and even more advanced than what's going on here.)
So if you got your plate of food stolen by someone else, I should let you come eat off mine, no questions? The plate of food that took 359 yrs of fixin' (lineage)? When all I have is my plate?

And smile and nod while you spit the bones in my direction?

Mmmmhmm. Okay.
I can empathize without self-sacrificing on the altar of sometime-y, convenient, generic Blackness.
To repeat what I've said elsewhere: #HarrietTubman's life is an expression of so much that makes African-American descendants of chattel slavery a unique people with a unique lineage, culture & history.

How can you play #Harriet when you deny and disrespect that legacy?
Another "response" from Cynthia to the criticism (via IG).

Once again, framing. 👀

Will unpack later…
And this isn't just about Essence. Their article was simply the most egregious and notable so far.

This is about the larger media narrative. For example…
Another:

✖️reducing people voicing valid concerns to "trolling"
✖️Missing info about Cynthia's pattern of dismissing African-American identity
✖️Abundance of info on Cynthia's achievements & potential
✖️False equivalence & various other fallacies
Another:

The piece sub-head: "The Diaspora is real."

This is a strawman. It also tells you a lot about how the article will be framed.

More of the above. It's a typical Buzzfeed tweet with captions "article", so I'll leave it there.
Another:

The article itself is about Sam Jackson's comments. Various biases and fallacies.

HOWEVER, this is a thoughtful piece worth engaging. The writer isn't a "professional writer" yet she did her homework and offers digestible UK industry insight
Problematic media narratives and talking points further *embolden* Whites to denigrate and disrespect African-Americans.

Please reference history of buffer populations for game plan on using Group A as a proxy to deprive/disadvantage Group B.

Overstepping begets overstepping.
And another…


Rather than the film announcement illuminating the life of Harriet Tubman, the conversation is about Harriet's progeny "attacking" the (disrespectful) person who will benefit from playing her. Oh what a web we weave.

#HarrietDeservesBetter
Not an article but simply a very telling tweet by Twitter-verified journalist, @yomiadegoke.

✖️"Flack" 🤔
✖️Centering Cynthia, her talent & EGOT potential as the sympathetic cause
✖️Fallacious & completely ahistorical comparisons that dismiss the discrete legacy of DACS
Unfortunately, we must boycott to protect the sacredness of Harriet's legacy. Cynthia's disrespectful posture toward African-Americans and the media's bias leave us no choice.

Accountability matters.

Representation matters.

#HarrietDeservesBetter

change.org/p/boycott-reca…
Appreciate this piece addressing some systemic industry issues. Appreciate the author's personal vulnerability & awareness of casting DACS as aggressors.

But once again, the headline: Cynthia is centered as being "punished". No mention of her disrespect

More personal vulnerability & trying to understand different POVs. 👍🏿

However, positions Erivo as victim simply "caught in the crossfire." She's not.

She wasn't forced to accept role.

Nor forced to tweet/RT disrespect for DACS.

Both were choices.

"Erivo’s controversial casting doesn’t in any way prevent future actresses from producing the version that could appease protesters."

Sounds truthy but isn't. Studios' financing & risk confidence, public appetite for similar projects are finite resources.
This Univision-owned outlet brings up the issue of disrespect, but conveniently side-steps Cynthia's own pattern of disrespect.

The writer touched on many social media exchanges. Very doubtful she didn't come across receipts of Cynthia's past tweets

"More than an American hero, Harriet is the quintessential heroine of the descendants of American Slaves."

"'Black' is not a shared lived history."

@blackcowork unpacks authenticity from a DACS perspective. (And there's even more that can be said.) medium.com/@blackcowork/c…
Revisiting this Naija piece:

My initial read missed major oversights by the author.

UK?

Harriet is "an influential individual of British history"?

This is what happens when you prioritize your bias over facts & honoring legacy. #HarrietDeservesBetter
Also reflects what other Nigerians have noted: if you weren't educated in US (& your home country focuses on their own history, as would be expected), it's easy to not learn about US slavery & people like Harriet Tubman.

"*Black* is not a shared lived experience" - @blackcowork
While we're here, if in ATL next month, check out @AIRTUBMAN @berryandcompany's one-woman show reimagining Harriet Tubman as a young girl in the NYC public school system. eventbrite.com/e/double-featu…

Concept & performance are brilliant. (I don't have a vested interest)
@VDubShrug offers nuanced, fair, probing piece that delineates taking issue with Africans in general playing AAs vs. taking issue with Cynthia in particular playing this role.

Read & reflect:


(I only realized on my 2nd read that my tweets are linked)
I was aware of Harriet's disability but I honestly hadn't considered it in the context of the ongoing controversy.

Thanks for opening up yet another avenue of conversation, @VilissaThompson.

And here is what much of the media coverage left out.

If you've read articles that have delved into Cynthia's own disrespectful behavior toward African-Americans, please share.

#HarrietDeservesBetter
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