Hollywood's Collateral Damage
With all the hoopla about ABC and Roseanne Barr we are overlooking the one person who just might incur long-term damage from yet another of Barr’s openly racist actions. Her name is Jayden Rey. Jayden played Roseanne’s biracial granddaughter. In real life Jayden is just 8 years old and showed up to work every day with a person who associates blacks with apes—a person who, according to her own words and actions, considers her subhuman. The same person who in the introduction to the show licks Jayden’s hotdog, hands it back to her and rears back with that raucous trailer park laugh that has become her trademark. Indeed it is the plight of most working African-Americans in this fractured country to work along side racists every day. But the difference here is that Jayden is a child.
Our children are precious and above all of the specifics of the fallout and the firing my thoughts went straight to the beautiful little black girl in the midst of all that whiteness. I was once that little black girl. Thrust into a world of whiteness. A token black in a newly integrated school in the 70s, my presence bespoke exclusion. All because my mother wanted me to have “the best education possible.” Thankfully, the benefits of my awakening during that experience far outweighed that of the “best education” I received. The accolades from family and the envy of friends in light of my full scholarship to the prestigious private school hadn’t mattered. Like Jayden I was young, black and impressionable. My mind told me the truth about my worth and value, but being surrounded by the evil that is racism I had trouble reconciling that truth in the way I felt about myself. I worry about our children. It took far too long for me to navigate my way out of that minutia.
There’s a lot of talk about “being woke” and racially progressive. We are really woke only if we understand the culture of racism has not changed much since I walked the halls of that high school in the 70s. At times it seems worse. We have someone who is tasked with being a leader of the free world whose fury was over the cancellation of the “Roseanne” show but not Roseanne the person’s racist remarks.
I have to wonder how Jayden is processing the cancellation of “Roseanne.” I wonder how she is handling her own unexpected unemployment. But more importantly I wonder how and what she is thinking about the reason behind these sudden developments. I can only hope her parents—her village rescued her from becoming collaterally damaged.
I hope they grabbed their baby up with the same swiftness that ABC slammed the gavel down on “Roseanne.” That they sat Jayden down and had “A Talk” with her. I hope they told her what I wish someone had told me. I hope they convince her that racists and racism might make you “feel” less than, but what you might feel in that moment is not truth—does not define you. I hope they told her to be careful, even vigilant not to allow “their” problems to make her think that “she” is a problem. I hope they engrave validation into Jayden’s mind.
I hope they expose her to James Baldwin’s admonishment to: “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life in this racist culture [my italics] have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what racist [my italics] white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.”
Our children are yet in an intense state of fragility. We need to take every measure to protect their developing psyches and fortify them against the injurious influence of the Roseanne Barrs of this world at all cost. I wish Jayden and all of our beautifully amazing children well.