July 17, a casting call for the new biopic of NWA, Straight Outta Compton, has been making the rounds on the internet. Some are rightly calling out the inherent racism in the call and yet many are defending the explicitly racist message as “standard Hollywood casting” and “business as usual”. You can read more about the call itself here.
Essentially, the talent agency put out a call seeking women to act as extras in the movie. The call ranked the classes of extras that they are looking for. “A girls” were to be “the hottest of the hottest” and could be any race (but had to have “real hair”). “B girls” were to be “fine” and “light-skinned”, “C Girls” were specified as Black but could only be “medium to light-skinned” and “D Girls” were specified as Black, “dark-skinned”, “poor” and “out of shape”.
As you can see, in one short casting call, this agency has managed to sum up an entire industry’s worth of sexist, racist and classist fuckery. This is indeed standard practice for notoriously racist Hollywood but it is so dangerous because Hollywood merely provides fun-house mirror reflections of our society’s own values.
The complimentary ideologies of white supremacy and sexism run very deep in our society and permeate everything around us. From our entertainment to our courts, to school-yard interactions and hiring practices, this casting call merely echoes two large and looming values that every woman of color in America has been taught her whole life. 1. Women are objects, as such, your worth is determined by how pretty (or “hot” or “fine”) an object you can be and 2. To be pretty is to be white. Your beauty is determined by how close to whiteness you can get.
In such a way, we are taught to hate ourselves and think ourselves deserving of the oppression and exploitation heaped upon us by the capitalist system. We are supposed to spend all of our time, energy and money chasing after these beauty ideals, rather than struggling against the system that has forced these bullshit ideas on us in the first place.
Enough. Enough of their oppressive “business as usual”. It was the street movements of the 70’s that told the world that “Black is Beautiful”. From abolitionists like David Walker, to poets like Langston Hughes, this message has been echoed again and again by the politically conscious amongst us and we must continue to push that message forward. Self-love is essential for our women and girls. Self-love is what tells us that we deserve better. We deserve rights, we deserve good jobs with good pay, we deserve healthcare and access to well-funded schools. Why? Because we are human and because we are beautiful- every single one of us, exactly as we are. We must reject the values of the capitalists who would have us all hating ourselves and buying their products, scrambling for whatever bogus ranking we can get. We owe it to ourselves and our community to reject what they are selling and to fight for a system that respects our humanity, our agency and our inherent beauty, instead. Hollywood is just a reflection, it’s this system that we must fight to change.