I stream everything I watch these days, so I didn’t watch the Academy Awards. I read the live updates posted on The Hollywood Reporter’s website. When I read that Angela Bassett lost the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress last night, I headed over to my favorite town crier app, Twitter, to see what was being said about it. Black Twitter was up in arms, as well they should be, but I also saw some questionable tweets from White people regarding Ms. Bassett’s reaction when her name was not called as the winner of the award. Some of the tweets I saw were saying her reaction to not winning was classless, that she is an entitled Black actress who was upset at not winning an award because she is Black, that she should have smiled and applauded the woman who won.
Here’s what I know: 1.) People are allowed to feel their feelings. We have seen much worse reactions from people who are not Black when they lose something that they feel they should have won (i.e. January 6, 2021.) 2.) Policing the behavior of Black people and stating how they should react in White spaces because it makes White people uncomfortable is racist as hell. People are allowed to feel their feelings. There are worse ways this woman could have reacted, but she did not. She sat in her seat, stone-faced, with disappointment and sadness in her eyes, in a room that was at least 85% White. She didn’t storm the stage, she didn’t yell, she didn’t slap anyone. She sat in her seat and didn’t clap. Angela Bassett is allowed to feel her feelings. I’m sure that being a Black actress in Hollywood is exhausting. Angela has handled herself with the grace and demeanor of a queen. Last night, she lost an award that she has been striving to win for over thirty years. She was favored to win it, and she lost. This woman is allowed to feel her feelings. She’s allowed to be disappointed. She’s allowed to show that disappointment on her face. She’s allowed to be a freaking human.
One thing that White Supremacy has done is take away the ability of Black Americans to show their humanity and have it be considered as such. We are told to smile in the face of disrespect and indignity. We are told to not be angry over blatant disrespect towards us and our work. Black women in particular are told to not express their anger and frustrations in public because we are automatically considered to be angry and bitter. The policing of our humanity must cease. We are just as human as anyone else and we do not flip over cars, burn things in the street, destroy property, or try to take over governments when things don’t go our way. The media may try to shame Angela Bassett for not being a gracious loser, but after being denied a coveted award after thirty plus years, she’s allowed to be disappointed. She’s allowed to feel whatever she is feeling, and most of all, she doesn’t have to smile about it just because you want her to. Let this woman show her humanity in the moment. Let Black people be human. Focus your attention on why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in its ninety-four year history has awarded 3,140 Oscars and only 18% of those awards have gone to people of color. That’s the real issue here, not the reaction of an actress who showed her disappointment last night in the most graceful way she knew how at that moment, in a room full of stuffed shirts rewarding mediocrity.