Oprah Winfrey And Ava Duvernay Reject “Diversity”
Ava, you’ve expressed strong distaste for the term “diversity,” but Oprah has made use of it. How do you both characterize the concept now in terms of the overall conversation in the industry?
DUVERNAY We aren’t sitting around talking about diversity, just like we aren’t sitting around talking about being black or being women. We’re just being that.
WINFREY I will say that I stand corrected. I used to use the word “diversity” all the time. “We want more diverse stories, more diverse characters …” Now I really eliminated it from my vocabulary because I’ve learned from her that the word that most articulates what we’re looking for is what we want to be: included. It’s to have a seat at the table where the decisions are being made.
DUVERNAY That was your take on it.
WINFREY When Sidney Poitier came to my school [in South Africa], he gave a gift of 550 movies to the girls. He thought if you watch these 550 movies, they’ll be your education for life. He wrote to the girls that his dream for them was to be able to sit at the table of the future where the world’s decisions would be made. I realize now that what he was saying is to be included, to be valued as a person who has something to contribute.
And part of that inclusion is making Black stories a part of a larger narrative, rather than making “Black movies.” Because you can’t rely on a White writer to capture or understand
And you think we’ve not seen those scenes because the writers often are white?
DUVERNAY Yeah, they render it through their lens, so you will see that scene, and it will be with white people. All lives can’t matter to folks who are not us if you don’t know us, if you don’t understand [us]. I don’t make anything as education for anyone; I make it as a love letter to the characters: These are black people; this is a black family. It’s a window into that. The same way when I go see A Separation, an Iranian film about an Iranian family, or when I go to see a Korean film, it is a window into that world, and I see them, and I start to understand and value them. They begin to matter to me.
WINFREY In the early years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was doing an episode about single parenting. I had a black father on, and we had gone to his house and done a taped piece about him putting his two little girls to bed and reading to them. This was around 1989 to 1990, before email, and the white audience wrote letters saying, “I didn’t know black men did that.” That struck a nerve. Then I realized that the best way to show that black people are just like everybody else, or that gay people are just like everybody else, is not to do a show about gay people or black fathers raising their children [but] just to include them in a story about raising children. That’s how you normalize it and make it OK for everybody else.
Interesting. Do you agree???
The Hollywood Reporter