It should go without saying that a mostly white field of nominees at the Oscars might have nothing to do with race. As in literally no one should be saying it. Charlotte Rampling’s comment that the uproar over a lack of black nominees is racist against whites might simply be naive. She’s naive to point out that it’s possible there just happened, this year, to not be very many black actors and actresses whose performances stood out to that level. It should go without saying that it’s possible, as in literally no one should be saying it.
Equality is the ideal but again, that should go without saying, as in literally no one should be saying it. Hold onto that ideal as a concept, but saying it sounds naive. Then people who defend comments like those from the standpoint of a concept with merit also sound naive. The reason for this is that there is a natural instinct for overcompensation, which doesn’t have to lead to overcompensation, but when the instinct for overcompensation is immediately curbed by comments like Charlotte Rampling’s and many others, that impedes progress toward the ideal of equality.
Two books left me with this impression. Meridian by Alice Walker and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. I’ll say very little about them and leave two great novels unspoiled, but both describe a rearrangement of social organization toward equality, but disturbing overcompensations occur along the way. These were acts of racism against whites, and they were abhorrent. Protests about potential inequality are not acts of racism. Boycotting the Oscars for being too white is not an act of racism against whites. If the field of nominees for the Oscars are so predominately black, sometime in the future, and deserving white actors left out and replaced by less deserving black actors that would be racism against whites. Until that happens, until actual episodes of overcompensation occur, it should go without saying that expressions of the natural instinct toward overcompensation, in the form of complaints about a lack of diversity, are acts of “reverse racism” because they aren’t.
I wrote all the above a month ago, after Charlotte Rampling’s comments were posted online. She later apologized for them. I suppose it’s too rant-ish, it reads like it now, to me. My new thought is that a great many of us are all for equality. We’re divided in our approach. The one approach is that equality is the ideal so let’s stop making race matter so much. The other approach is that equality is the ideal so let’s remain vigilant about addressing instances where it’s not reached. I see either one getting us to that ideal, but I also see arguing between the two paths stalling getting us there. It reminds me of something I recently learned about women’s suffrage. The movement was divided into two camps, one wanted to focus on getting black men the vote first and then women, the other wanted to get both at the same time. Historians, or at least the historian from this book, think they might have achieved both goals sooner if they had come together.