Every Argument Supporting Zoe Saldana Playing Nina Simone is Stupid.

Onyx Contributor:  Johnny Silvercloud (@JohnnySilverclo)

When black women state that there’s a serious issue with black men, these are the things they are talking about.

Let’s go through a couple of these nonsensical arguments, shall we?

Colorblind Logic Promotes Colorism (and Racism)

Zoe Saldana has had a problematic relationship regarding understanding how racism and colorism works.  Being that she states she was raised to be “colorblind” (read: ignore racial issues like white people) it’s evident that she is Stacey-Dash-Clueless when it comes to what darker skinned black women deal with.  Maybe she thought this is no different than playing a blue-skinned sapient tribal alien off of Avatar, or the green-skinned Gamora off of Guardians of the Galaxy.  I’ve heard a few black men make this argument.  If that’s her logic, and yours, then we are in more trouble than I thought.

Black people, are NOT aliens or fictional beings.  Black people — darker black people — exist.  There are actual people that look the part.  I have yet to see a living being who literally looks like Neytiri or Gamora.  To compare black people to fictional technicolor beings, you have to be a special type of stupid.

Nina Simone is a real life, historical domain figure.

But but but… she is a big name!

Um, playing a historical domain figure, a big name isn’t needed; Nina Simone IS the big name.  In fact, it’s better to even cast a lesser known actress, due to the fact that it’s better for the historical figure’s presence to not be muted by the literal actor’s fame.  This is a huge problem with pre-existing characters.

An example of this problem would be casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil (TMNT movies).  People don’t see April O’Neil on screen, they see Megan Fox, and it doesn’t matter how much depth she has (which is actually lacking).  Had the Ninja Turtles movies had a lesser known woman play April O’Neil, (like the 1990’s versions) people would see April O’Neil instead of a vapid Megan Fox.  An example of respecting this fact would be the casting of Chadwick Boseman as James Brown.  In him being not that famous he is far more capable of becoming the pre-existing character or historical domain figure on screen.

In addition, a “big name” doesn’t mean jack if the writing is bad, or in this case, the effects (make-up, blackface) is bad.  As far as writing goes, Ben Affleck as Daredevil sucked, but it looks like he’s going to be a good Batman.  Why?  Because the writing matters more than the names.  As far as effects goes, the blackface makeup looks like…. shit.  Her “afro” looks like she took and oversized microphone sponge and placed it on her head.  Her blackfaced skintone looks just as fake as a counterfeit two dollar bill.  And the expression on her face is as empty as a banana peel, and is just as treacherous.  If the studio was so fixed on casting Saldana, they might as well did a total CGI movie, or make a cartoon, and have her voice act.  Anything would have been better than blackface.

In an era where people of color all over the world are making whitewashed movie castings suffer for their racist decisions, this movie will suffer.  The casting here makes me wonder: is this one of those movies that are made for black people?  Or is it one of those black hero movies made for white people?  You decide.

But but but… She’s still Black anyway!

There’s a sliding scale of sociological privilege granted to specific black people, based on how light they are.  Colorism is a reality.  What’s worse is the fact that colorism affects women more than men.  Being dark is associated with masculinity, so with black men who are dark this kinda works for them.  This is reversed with black women.  In fact, this is reversed all over the world; from the Negritos in the Philippines, the “Untouchables” in India, to the black women in America and all over African Diaspora.  To cast a person who is oblivious to the colorism Nina Simone faced, to BECOME Nina Simone on screen, is a slap in the face.  Hollywood has racial codespeak for nonwhite peoples, and it goes like this: exotic (light brown), and urban (dark brown).  Zoe Saldana is an “exotic beauty” by Hollywood’s standards playing an “urban beauty”.

One counter-argument is how Denzel played Malcolm X.  This logic is also flawed; in society, men do and women are.  A Man’s identity is less affixed to his looks than a woman’s.  Sure, Malcolm X was a light-skinned fellow, but him being light skinned matter less in how society worked back then, and even now.  Nina Simone on the other hand, was an entertainer.  Like the majority of female singers in America, she must be sexy, because sex sells.  Being perceived as sexy is deeply hinged on what she looks like, so yes, her being mighty dark is a big fucking deal.  We know what society thinks of us.  Let’s not bullshit here.

So no, Zoe Saldana doesn’t get a free pass because she’s technically, literally black.  She barely recognizes the fact that she is, and yes, even black people can commit microaggressions against blacks.  Hell, I’d even argue that another black person is white supremacy’s weapon of choice against black people.

Stating there’s NO other women out there is a lie

Is it a moot point that there’s numerous black women who embody the colorism struggle, who could have played Nina Simone?  Here I just named three:  Adepero Oduye, Teyonah Parris, and India Arie.  And there’s more than that.  The painful part in all of this is how Saldana states that she felt that she “wasn’t right” for the role.  Her gut instinct  was pretty freaking precise and it brings to question why she took it anyway.

“Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it.  I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.” ~Zoe Saldana

Two wrongs don’t make a right.  True, Elizabeth Taylor shouldn’t have been cast as Cleopatra — but in using this example as your logic, you’ve unwittingly (yet effectively) taken us back to 1963, where darker skinned folks had no control over their own fate or image in America.  This type of stuff proves that famous people can be stupid people too.  One cannot claim they are doing it “for the people” when the people don’t even want you to be doing it in the first place.

The thing that really frustrates me the most isn’t really the casting at all.  What really blows my mind is how there’s so many black men who really aren’t listening to our own black women.  Our mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, friends, wives, daughters.  A lot of us aren’t listening.  It seems like black men are far more prone to make excuses for the erasure of darker skinned women than anyone else.  I know that’s not true, but damn, if a woman is trying to explain what the problem is, maybe we should listen.  Stop empowering white supremacy, whether it’s racism or it’s smaller cousin, colorism.

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