ColumnistsD Kevin McNeirEditor's Column

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Gabrielle Union’s Removal from ‘America’s Got Talent’ — Racism or Unrequited Entitlement?

The first time I heard about the controversy surrounding Gabrielle Union’s recently-announced departure, or more accurately “removal” from “America’s Got Talent,” I was enjoying my daily dose of Wendy Williams. In her own special way, my gal-pal Wendy weighed in on Gabrielle’s curt remarks as shared on Twitter as well as what network executives are saying regarding their decision and the investigation now underway by the nation’s largest performers union.

Unsubstantiated reports for her demise cite reasons that include Union’s being fired after she spoke up about “problematic” situations including racially insensitive jokes, complaints about her hairstyles for being “too Black” and the show’s rarely-invoked decision to replace judges — in this case Gabrielle Union — after just one season to maintain desirable ratings and audience popularity.

Several other female celebrities have voiced support for their colleague, some saying that they too have experienced “disgusting behavior” from the network, NBC, for decades. Further, they’ve shared that women do become “difficult” when their insistence on a respectful and professional working environment is ignored.

If these women’s comments in support of Union are accurate, then it’s clear that “AGT’s” network, NBCUniversal, still has a lot of work to do to change its culture so discrimination, harassment and retaliation are no longer tolerated at the company — an assessment published in a report released earlier in the week by Variety.

However, as Wendy seemed to imply or at least allow as another possible explanation, it could be that the wife of former NBA star Dwyane Wade may be in the throes of making ill-advised statements after being denied the fruits of her assumed entitlement. After all, she is a high-profile celebrity, married to another equally A-list athlete.

Could it be that she expected or demanded too much given the crowd with which she and her hubby routinely rub shoulders as they traverse the American countryside and the world and the way they tend to be catered to — even elevated to often “unreasonable” levels?

Certainly, it wouldn’t be the first time that entertainers of her, or rather their ilk, have assumed that they deserve special treatment and accommodations commensurate to and more reflective of the way they view themselves when compared to the vast majority of Black Americans — common, ordinary, everyday folk.

However, in this age where with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, we’ve seen an unprecedented escalation in the expectations, daily demands and assumed guarantees tantamount to an era when Jim Crow was the law of the land — America’s very own version of white privilege — maybe the complaints lodged by Gabrielle have merit. After all, she’s not Meryl Streep, Madonna or Mariah Carey even if she has convinced herself that she should be given the same rights and treatment that the aforementioned white females, like any of their sisters, have enjoyed for centuries — comfortably ensconced on their pedestals of superiority.

But with no one who knows the truth speaking out, I suppose I will patiently wait for the ongoing investigation by union leaders from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to reach its conclusion. Meanwhile, given my decades in the trenches as a reporter for The Black Press in America and how we’ve been ignored, even among many of our own, including Dwyane Wade and his former Miami Heat superstar teammate LeBron James, I cannot feign sympathy.

Truth be told, I have almost expected to be denied the kind of access to Blacks who have risen from the obscurity and living check to check to homes in pristine, gated communities, opening the gates for non-Black, mainstream publications and other media outlets. I’m not angry or resentful. I’m just, as the children say, “keeping it real.”

Of course, I believe that women should be treated as equals in every arena or workplace in the U.S. and throughout the world. Of course, I believe that one’s race should not determine whether one’s treated as if the color of their skin was invisible to the naked eye. But such is not the case, even after the election of our first Black president.

So, I cannot, at least not yet, jump on Gabrielle’s bandwagon as she hints that she may have been given the cold shoulder, the “pink slip,” simply because she’s just another Black person complaining and calling upon the public’s support about being mistreated because they are a Black person.

It’s easy for those in the upper echelons of society to delude themselves into believing that they’ve “arrived” and are no longer subject to the harsh realities associated with being a person of color in a country that even 400 years after the arrival of Africans, insists on upholding traditions and laws that keep Blacks in the perpetual status of second-class citizenry.

But I have not forgotten. It’s waved in my face almost every day.

Hey Gabrielle, just a word of caution and advice: Welcome to America.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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