During a recent appearance on The View, Leslie Jones got emotional as she honored Whoopi Goldberg for the impact the legendary comedian had on her life. While many of us will continue to boo, hiss, and roll our eyes at Goldberg’s bewildering opinions on race and racism expressed on the show, in that moment, Jones’ remarks reminded everyone of how impactful a figure the legendary comedian is and why. As Jones very earnestly told Goldberg, “I love you for what you've done for black women, I love you for what you've done for black comedians, and I love you."
As moving as it was to hear Jones note how she can now replicate Goldberg’s influence via little black girls watching her in the reboot of Ghostbusters, events that have happened before and after the premiere have proven just how poorly treated female entertainers who look like Leslie Jones and Whoopi Goldberg still are. Take for instance, Jones’ revelation that no designer wanted to dress her for the film’s premiere. Fortunately, designer Christian Siriano, who makes a habit of dressing famous women of all shapes and sizes, stepped in once Jones made her complaints public. And when he was met with a river of kudos, Siriano took to Twitter to make something clear: “It shouldn't be exceptional to work with brilliant people just because they're not sample size. Congrats aren't in order, a change is.”
Indeed. While this is one example of all's well that ends well, the reality remains that Jones, “not sample size,” tall, and dark-skinned, continues to contend with varying forms of prejudice. Fame and fortune can change many things about one’s life, but if you are black, even those novelties have limitations. Money and name recognition has not shielded Jones from barriers rooted in racism because white supremacy still marginalizes anyone who is not white and who does not live up to white standards of beauty. And now more than ever can those reminders be serviced to you instantaneously and consistently by way of social media.
On Monday, Jones used her Twitter profile to highlight the racism she has been bombarded with due to her role in Ghostbusters. Jones was berated with epithets, stereotypes, and every other fixture of American racism that is typically associated with the black experience. Whereas Jones’ remarks to Whoopi Goldberg warmed my heart last week, her tweet about her feelings in light of the barrage of online racist attacks broke it.
“I feel like I'm in a personal hell. I didn't do anything to deserve this. It's just too much. It shouldn't be like this. So hurt right now,” Jones wrote.
I noticed that the first response under this tweet was from Siriano, who referred to Jones as a gem. She very much is that, and even if you do differ from that opinion, at the very least, she is deserving of basic human decency. Others joined Siriano in pouring love under Jones’ acknowledgment of pain, but make no mistake: the pain is evident.
That’s why with respect to some of the writeups about Jones’ ordeal on Twitter, I found the depiction of her tweets peculiar. As some have also pointed out, Jones did not “bust” her detractors and she didn’t exactly “put them in their place” either. The intent behind these categorizations are well-meaning. Nonetheless, this is not about Jones speaking from a place of strength, or frankly, playing into the “strong black woman” narrative.
Jones was not a triumphant Mary J. Blige song. Jones was literally pleading with Twitter to do something about the racist harassment she was being saddled with. She was also sharing real sadness and frustration with being beset by hatred rooted in nothing other than the color of her skin. Days after I watched Jones give Whoopi Goldberg a thank you for showing her that a girl like her could be on TV, I saw Power actress Naturi Naughton speak about similar struggles of being a dark skinned woman on her episode of Centric’s Being.
Some designers saw a tall, dark-skinned black woman with a wider frame and didn’t bother to dress her. Likewise, some saw that same person and unconsciously depicted her in trope-like fashion. Though they are not the same sin, it does show how collectively, we owe some parts of our community more than they are usually given.
Hollywood, and by extension, people overall, are still hostile towards dark-skinned black women. Jones’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on Twitter was merely a real time example of that. Sadly, there is no easy fix for this. None of us can wave a magic wand over the peons online, in showrooms, or in studios and fix their ignorance.
So, I have no real solution. All I know is Leslie Jones does not deserve what has happened in recent months at what should be a time of celebration. It is my hope that the girls who look like Leslie Jones are being inspired by her role in a big budget film like Ghostbusters. Hopefully, they know see that they, too, can be that bright a star. And hopefully, by the time some of them reach that point, some of these wrongs against Jones will have been made right.