So I found this article awhile ago and I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it ever since we read the articles about mixed race. I think it was through Facebook, but I stumbled upon this article in which actress Zoe Saldana commented that “[T]o me there is no such thing as people of color cause in reality people aren’t white.” Saladana goes on to talk about how she is so uncomfortable constantly having to answer questions such as “what are you?”. She also compares racism to sexism and how sexism is something she could actually spend time talking about.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my reaction to this. At first I was appalled and totally angered by what she said. But then I read the article a few more times. I got passed my initial reaction and while I think Saldana was completely eloquent in what she said I think she might have some point here (or maybe I’m transposing a point I have over hers, but I think the frame work is there.)
I don’t agree that ‘people of color’ don’t exist, and to say that would be rudely invalidating millions of people. However, Saldana has plenty of reason to be sick of people asking her about what her heritage is. People rarely, if ever, badger a white actress about where her family ‘comes from’ why is it so important to those who work with/meet Zoe Saldana? Saldana references growing up in a household where she “was just Zoe”: her mother, like millions of other mothers taught her she could be whatever she wanted to be. Her mother did not emphasize the color of her skin and how that could affect her life. Neither did my own mother. I’ve been lucky enough to to never have to answer the question “where are you from… no where are you really from?” People do not question my race and I do not have to answer for it. Why is it okay to condemn Saldana for just being fed up with other people’s nosiness. Why should she have to answer for her race? I don’t live my life confronted with where my ancestors came from– why should it be so wrong that she chooses not to make her race a driving factor in her life? It’s not okay for society to judge her choice . The NYT article we read a couple of weeks ago claimed how much “racially ambiguous” people were becoming more and more valued and sought after in the beauty industry. I can’t help but wonder, as we talked about in class afterwards, whether they are being ‘valued’ because of their honest beauty or because they fill a void in some magazine or name brand’s existence: these companies can proudly boast about their acceptance of ‘others’ because if they have a handful of non-white models out of a few hundred. And better yet, they don’t even have to be promoting a particular race or culture, just the elusive ‘people of color’. Saldana shouldn’t have to be representative of her racial background. She should be valued because of her talent or beauty as an actress not simply as an ‘actress of color’.