Daniele Watts: Hollywood Ho or Hollywood Hero?

All hell is breaking loose over a Hollywood star who was having sex on the 405 while talking to her daddy on the phone and robbing a liquor store dressed as a racial slur against whites. They didn’t specify which one, but I’m guessing


At least that’s what I heard, on TMZ no less, the totally reputable source that broke the news that Lil’ Wayne was dying when he wasn’t and that Miley Cyrus had already died when she hadn’t — a few days before she performed a big concert (TWD: Twerking While Dead).

(It has become painfully obvious to me that the same people who sport “don’t believe the liberal/conservative media” bumper stickers totally believe that TMZ, a gossip site, has journalistic integrity.)

Despite my extensive research, I still don’t know what exactly happened with the D’jango star, but I did learn that she has a name: Daniele Watts.

And I know that when a member of a less-powerful, marginalized group does something, pretty much anything, we immediately jump to the worst possible or least flattering scenario.

In Watts’ case, even after viewing the pictures, the best case scenario I can surmise (not prove — just surmise) is that Watts was making out with her boyfriend in a car, fully dressed, got interrupted by an emotional phone call from her father, got out of the car, and then was forced into a difficult situation with the police. At that point, she chose, first, to protect herself by making sure the officer knew that this could become very public and, second, to use the incident to stand up for all the people of color who are being racially profiled, often to death, by the police.

What most people are jumping to (not proving — just surmising), though, is the worst, least flattering scenario, that an entitled Hollywood whore picked a fight with the police, invoking her celebrity status and playing the race card to get attention.

Now, I am not about to compare Watts to someone like Rosa Parks…

Strike that — I kind of might — a little bit — not a lot — but some — enough to make my point — but not enough for you to make a point of your own–

When I was in school, I was taught that Rosa Parks refused to budge from her bus seat because she was tired. In doing so, she accidentally ushered in the Civil Rights Movement. I was mighty surprised when I grew up and read that Parks had actually been working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all along, and that when she sat down that day, she knew she would likely be in for a fight. She was going to stand up (by sitting down, my 10 year old points out) for the rights of all people of color, using bus segregation as a platform.

But the story is so much more tidy if we believe that Parks was a lazy old lady who accidentally stumbled the country into the Civil Rights Movement. That way we don’t have to admit that she held any power.

We do this all the time. Barring the most currently obvious situations (white man with gun is exerting his freedoms, black man is shot, yada-yada-people-who-don’t-have-to-think-about-it-are-tired-of-hearing-it-yada),  here are a few examples:

* When a white athlete breaks Olympic records, he is the child of a brave, single mother who motivated her learning-challenged son to channel his energy into the hard work of swimming.

(sniff, sniff)

This site goes to great lengths to disprove any association, for example, between Michael Phelps’ body type and his success.

When an athlete of color, like Usain Bolt, breaks all Olympic records, he is hailed as a naturally gifted athlete who was born that way.

The white guy worked hard to overcome all odds. The black guy did nothing but be born.

* When a heterosexual couple adopts a child, they are saintly, selfless people who are blessing that child and bringing glory to God.

When a homosexual couple adopts a child, they are selfish and narcissistic and are dooming a child to therapy for life.

* When a heterosexual couple marries, they are mature enough to share their life with eachother.

When a homosexual couple marries, they are selfish and narcissistic, using marriage as a platform for their gay agenda, which clearly includes annihilating heterosexual marriages everywhere.

* When a heterosexual couple has sex in a movie, they are producing art.

When a homosexual couple has sex in a movie, they are producing porn.

Gay person destroying Twitter.
Gay person destroying Twitter.

* When a heterosexual person eats a cookie, they are hungry.

When a homosexual person eats a cookie… well, you get the idea. Homosexuals are always destroying things.

* When a Christian bombs a building due to his beliefs, he is clearly the exception and not the norm, acting outside of standard Christian beliefs and behavior.

When a Muslim bombs a building because of his beliefs, he is clearly exemplifying all Muslims, acting on their behalf within standard Islamic beliefs and behavior.

* When a father commits suicide, we ruminate on Don Draper and the like, and talk about the pressures of being a man or, more recently, we start talking seriously about mental illness.

When a mother commits suicide, we posthumously shame her, calling her selfish for doing that to her kids.

* When a father writes about breastfeeding in a public forum, we applaud him, as if he is the first person to ever speak out in favor of breastfeeding, and say he’s “doing it right.”

When a mother breastfeeds in public, we call her an exhibitionist.

* When a white man stands on the corner with a sign that says, “Out of work, please help”, we grieve the economy and the way it has affected even those who are willing to work. Or we assume he is a war veteran.

When a Latino man stands on a street corner waiting for a person in a truck looking for day laborers to come by and put him to work for the day, we call him a lazy, filthy immigrant who is leeching off of the rest of society.

* When a white guy is fiddling with a lock on a bike, people help him retrieve his bike.

When a black man fiddles with a lock on a bike, people assume he is stealing someone else’s bike.

* When a white person, usually a man, becomes outraged about injustice, he is a hero/expert.

When a person of color or woman becomes outraged about injustice, she is always so angry.

* When a white celebrity visits a school or anyplace else in Africa, we call her a saint.

When a celebrity of color, like Oprah, starts a school for African girls, we criticize her for being too extravagant and wasting her money and/or just doing it for attention.

* When a thin woman over-eats ravenously, she is hot.

When a large woman eats a reasonable amount of food with socially acceptable manners, she is a glutton.

* When one or two rich, black celebrities criticize discussions about race and decry work against racism, white people jump — no — spring up onto their bandwagons.

When millions of people of color spend generations attempting to educate about and fight against racism, people close their minds and invent phrases like “race card” — which really means “BAM! I refuse to listen!” — and “color blind” — which really means “I can’t see you! I can’t see you!” and everyone listens.

* When a black or Latina woman’s got back, she is nothing’ed, nada’ed, ignored. When she celebrates that back, she is overly-sexual, ruining children everywhere with the subversive power of her buttocks.

When a white woman’s got back, she invented it.


Shall I go on?

These are more than just double-standards; these are marks of bigotry punctuated by an infinite amount of micro-aggressions meant to keep the power away from those who already have to fight for it.

Now, I don’t know every detail of the aforementioned examples. Nor can I guess how history will treat Watts. Honestly, it doesn’t matter within the context of the larger conversation.

What I can guess is that more people will be upset by the “double-standard” and “bigotry” I exerted here in publicly displaying a picture of a racial slur against white people*  than by most of the examples of assumptions made about the people who hold the power versus the people who don’t.

And that alone means we have a long way to go before any of these discussions are over.


* even though said “slur” against whites is about as bad as it gets for us white people and not even close to every other racial slur about every other race there is (much like there is no male equivalent to the “C” word for women)



There is now a part 2 to this post. You can read it here.