Monday, February 29, 2016

Little Gold Statues & Lots of Gun Deaths

Oprah reacts to being mistaken for Whoopi
It wasn't really my plan to "boycott" the Oscars last night.

The idea of black Hollywood heavyweights who are privileged enough to be able to attend the American film industry's premiere awards event staying away struck me as counterproductive to the goal of increasing diversity in the industry - and not supportive of host Chris Rock.

After Website Total Beauty posted a photo of Whoopi Goldberg on the red carpet and confused her with Oprah Winfrey, my guess is Oprah is glad she decided to stay home to watch the Oscars with best friend Gayle King.

Oprah's facial reaction posted online is priceless. Total Beauty? Total ****up.

For me personally, after a long day at work on Saturday, I just didn't feel a particular need to spend 4 hours on a Sunday evening watching an industry awards show.

Instead I opted for periodic updates on the New York Times mobile app as the winners were announced while I caught up on some reading - Russ Belville's Huffington Post blog about the rather sketchy math behind Hillary Clinton's sweeping up Democratic "Superdelegates" in the primaries was quite illuminating.

As for the Oscars, there's been so much discussion, so much written about the Academy's failure to nominate the work of a single non-white performer in the past month that I was kind of worn out from it by the time the actual ceremony came around.

The way I see it, it's 2016, either Hollywood is going to get it, or they won't - either they want to be culturally relevant to an increasingly diverse global film audience, or they don't.

Frankly I'm more interested in seeing how the film industry decides to begin to develop concrete ways to incorporate a wider diversity in terms of casting in front of the camera, hiring in positions behind the camera and in the executive suite - and the kinds of stories that make it through the arduous approval-production process to be made into the kinds of mainstream films that benefit from the extensive marketing campaigns, global theatrical distribution and organized awards campaigns that major studios can bankroll. 

As much as I love film, I guess I just wasn't in a celebratory mood on Sunday.

Chicago memorial for 5 people (including an infant) shot & killed
Even with the extra Leap Year day (thanks to Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.), February is a short month, but it's been a long one in terms of gun violence in this country.

The two recent mass shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan by 45-year-old Uber driver Jason Dalton (who shot eight people and killed six), and last Thursday in the small Kansas town of Hesston where Cedric Ford killed three people and injured fourteen before taking his own life, were just two of an astounding 36 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States in 2016.

According to stats tracked by the non-profit, there have been 2,011 gun deaths in the U.S. this year, including 82 children 11-years-old or younger and 438 teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17 killed - 520 kids in two months.

Out of an estimated 7,777 gun-related incidents through January and February, there were approximately 233 defensive uses of a gun.

There have also been an estimated 766 officer-involved shootings in 2016.

Have you seen the comprehensive LA Times report covering each of the victims killed by police in Los Angeles since 2000?

Those, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who've been quick to demonize and dismiss the Black Lives Matters protest movement against excessive use of force by police should take some time and go through the LA Times article; not all of those homicide victims of LA cops were angels, some were innocent.

Many, you have to wonder why they were shot at all - a question that needs to be asked equally of gang members, perpetrators of mass shootings as well as cops prone to use of excessive force.

Ex NYPD officer Peter Liang
I can't honestly recall ever having seen such widespread protests by members of the Chinese-American community as I have in the past few weeks as thousands of people in various cities across the U.S. have  expressed outrage over the recent conviction of former NYPD police officer Peter Liang for manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project building in 2015.

On one hand I think members of the Chinese-American community have a right to be upset over the fact that a scared rookie cop born in Hong Kong gets manslaughter for mistakenly firing his weapon in a dark stairwell and killing Gurley; though he must face responsibility for his actions.

While NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on videotape intentionally using an illegal choke hold on Eric Garner as the man pleaded for his life - not only did Pantaleo face no charges  thanks to a Staten Island grand jury, he's still on paid duty as we speak.

Liang was fired from the NYPD.

And as I've blogged about before, Pantaleo has a history of excessive force and racial bias while on duty - interesting that a rookie Asian-America cop catches the manslaughter charge while the Italian-American cop walks. And two more unarmed Africa-American men are dead.

Granted, it didn't help Liang that he stepped around Gurley's body after shooting him, refused to offer medical aid, then used his phone to call his police union rep rather than call an ambulance.

As Chris Rock observed during the Oscar ceremony, there are some things that happen (or have happened) in this world that make the Academy best acting nomination snubs seem trivial.

But I think the Oscar protests that were taking place down the street from the ceremony last night, and the recent protests by Chinese-Americans over Peter Liang being found guilty of manslaughter for shooting an innocent man walking down the steps with his girlfriend are both linked with the larger Black Lives Matter protests.

Some are about professional snubs, some are about life and death, but they're all related to the wrinkles and tears in the cultural fabric in this nation.

And they're certainly more important than a little gold statue.

No comments: