BLACK HISTORY MONTH Post In March: Why Samuel L. Jackson was Right (and Wrong)

I’ve experienced the moment before—when a non-black person makes a culturally insensitive or racist remark about a black person.  Like when a white woman asked me why author Malcolm Gladwell won’t “do something” to his hair, or the many times people have told me that I’m “different” from other black people.  Sometimes I haven’t said anything, not wanting to make a scene, but sometimes (in my less finer moments) I’ve said something sarcastic like “Why does he wear his hair natural, the way a lot of black people do?” 

A couple of weeks ago, Samuel L. Jackson had a similar moment with a Los Angeles entertainment reporter.  When the reporter mistook Jackson for Laurence Fishburne, another famous African American actor, Jackson first was confused, then annoyed, then punishing.   The interview went viral immediately, headlines reading, “Samuel L. Jackson destroys reporter.”

If you haven’t seen it, and don’t mind viewing a public shaming, take a look


It’s humiliating, right?  And so unnecessary.  Yes, Jackson was right—what kind of entertainment reporter confuses Samuel L. Jackson with another black actor, let alone any other actor?  He’s unique, in how he looks, speaks, and the roles he plays.  The reporter’s remark was embarrassing and disgraceful to his profession,  given Jackson’s notoriety and the fact that his movies have grossed more worldwide than any other actor in Hollywood, be they black, white, Asian, Latin, or otherwise. 

So yes, Jackson was right to call him out (on his lack of knowledge and cultural misstep), joking that all black actors don’t look alike.  Yes, it was okay for Jackson to press into the reporter’s mistake by bringing to light the fact that black people in this country are often lumped together, confused for one another, and generally not seen, inside Hollywood and outside.

But Jackson went too far.  He pushed ‘til all that the viewing audience saw was the reporter’s mangled, bloodied ego on the screen.  And because of it, Jackson ended up playing the villain, and no one even remembered the purpose of the interview—to promote Jackson’s new movie, RoboCop.

Why did Samuel L. Jackson handle the moment this way?  Was he so fed up with racism and cultural mishaps that this arguably “little” incident just set him off?  Or was he just insulted that he could be confused with anyone, given his mega-movie-star status?  Was it a bit of both?  Whatever the reason, in the midst of doing what was appropriate and “right,” he ended up being so wrong.

There is No Small Gig

There is no small gig.  That’s what I have to keep telling myself.  It doesn’t matter what the pay is, the significance of the role, or if it’s going to get major air time.  What matters is that I was chosen. Out of the thousands or hundreds of submissions, I. was. chosen.  That’s HUGE, especially in a city where hundreds and sometimes thousands of people vie to be in the background! 



To be honest, believing this mantra is hard for me.  It’s hard because I’m used to being the chosen one: the woman chosen to receive the scholarship, the one chosen to lead a song on the album, the one chosen to represent her state.  I spent my entire life being #1, in the upper echelon, or at least in the top 10%!  Looking back, I see the inherent problems of this kind of existence.


Always being on top didn’t allow me to learn how to deal with NOT being chosen.  It didn’t teach me how to want something badly, not get it, yet rebound unscathed.  It didn’t teach me how to develop a perennial work ethic that surpasses immediate and indefinite results.  And it didn’t cultivate the type of gratefulness that I need to thrive in this present space. 


So now, in 2013, I invite God into this space, this new way of being, and I feel Him working.  He’s cultivating an internal gratefulness that is connected neither to how many gigs I book, nor to the size and scope of those gigs.  I find that I’m becoming grateful just for opportunities, and grateful for new relationships (with producers, casting directors, other actors, make-up artists).  Every audition is a gift, and everyone I meet on this journey is a jewel, because there is no small gig. 



I Can't Workout Because...

I skipped the gym all week because I wasn't feeling well.  Yesterday morning, however, I pushed my body through a forty-five minute workout, (although I had to take a few short rests).  I was feeling pretty good about myself until...

I saw a gray-haired woman with a cane hobble into the gym, her feet adorned with sneakers.  Her jogging suit and shoes suggested that she was there to put in some work.  I. was. humbled.

Seeing her reminded me of what I had known all week long: sickness was my excuse for not working out.  I looked at her and remembered a motto that is just as true in life as it is in the gym:

"No Shortcuts. No Excuses."

The Beat Goes On

The verdict is in!  My blog won’t end!  Although I’m super busy working on all of my freelance projects, I don’t won’t to give up this blog because I really enjoy writing it.  I enjoy having a space that’s completely mine to share my point of view.   But more than that, I really enjoy hearing feedback from all of you.  I enjoy hearing you so say that my blog challenged you, or that it caused you to question something.  And to be honest, I enjoy hearing you say that it is well written. (It’s reassuring to know that your grandma isn’t the only one who thinks that you got talent…)

So this blog will continue, but the posts will most likely be short and sporadic. 

A big “thank you” to each of you for your support and love!