We’re All In This Together, Until We’re Not


By: Lina Zia, Guest Contributor

What do the controversial Oscar speeches and people clamoring for diversity have in common?  More than you might think at first.

Many Americans are still fighting for equal representation. Some of us are fighting for marriage equality. Some for religious rights, while others for women’s rights to equal pay, to name a few.

And these fights are getting murkier by the day because we no longer exist in silos.  We have become more multi-racial. Some of us are born to parents of different religious backgrounds. Many of us speak multiple languages from birth. And some of us are “people of color,” POC, who are LGBT with deeply rooted religious convictions. The point is that most of us don’t fall into strict categories anymore, but we still identify with something inherent in us.

To a great degree, Americans have become receptive to diversity and are fighting for each other. American companies are taking heed of the call for diversification. Case in point, BuzzFeedNews reported on Monday, February 23, 2015, that Apple Inc. rolled out a beta software for emoji characters with diverse skin tones, which will reportedly be available in the near future.

Granted, we still have a long way to go towards equality for all. But why are we not satisfied with the progress that has been made so far? Maybe it’s because we live in an era of Political Correctness. And there is no way to pacify everyone.

According to the above BuzzFeed report, even though many Twitter followers applauded Apple’s initiative, others, on social media, expressed dissatisfaction for “emoji with yellow skin” to having “no option for natural hair and no redhead option.”

If a message is not deemed PC, it can start socio-economic debate. That is true of Patricia Arquette’s Oscars’ Speech. While she meant well, stating, “it was time for women to unite and fight for equal rights and pay in the US,” she unintentionally stepped on POC and LGBT’s toes by saying, “And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of colour that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

Segmenting her audience is what turned her message of unification into one that became divisive. According to NY Magazine, one of the most outraged responses to her comment was by a viewer, Dave Zirin, who posted online:

“What is so aggravating is that Ms. Arquette’s comments could best be described as ‘anti-intersectional.’ When you speak of equal pay for women and call upon ‘all the gay…’it states pretty clearly that you see your struggles as one of straight, white, native-born women for equal pay, as if there aren’t masses of people who live beneath the weight of multiple labels that would benefit from such reforms.”

Sean Penn’s Oscars remark also landed him in hot water, when he joked, “who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” while giving his friend Alejandro González Iñárritu his award.  According to the NY Magazine article, another irate viewer, Erin Keane, responded online by stating:

“Private jokes, especially when they toe or cross the line of good taste, have no place on the entertainment industry’s public stage. The fans watching at home don’t care how ‘brutal’ Iñárritu and Penn are to each other in the privacy of their own parties – they hear those jokes through their own lenses of experience, and for many, Penn’s joke was minimizing, humiliating, a way to laughingly put a Mexican-born artist in his place by reminding him he would always be an ‘other’ not one of us. If the Oscars are to inspire fans to continue to go to the movies, Penn’s joke reminded them of how out of touch Hollywood is with their concerns.”

Lastly, Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post expresses her views on Patricia Arquette’s speech through this flowchart.

America is going to keep facing these kinds of debate, as Americans get used to our new diversity and start to promote it. Not being PC or “not framing it just right” (as per Alexandra Petri) will cause “Us” vs. “You” conversations. But by having these banters, people are contributing towards a more meaningful, multicultural nation.