ITakeResponsibility Centers White Celebrities

A frantic smokescreen that actively drives the conversation away from BLM

Today, I want to take some time to review this hot mess.

This is a front-facing video PSA of white celebrities promising to “take responsibility” for racism or past racist actions (it’s vague) and urging other white people to create similar videos to call out themselves and promise to change.

It’s in black-and-white which I guess is supposed to convey both the gravity of racism and the literal “colors” of racism (yikes). The whole thing is very…Meisner Acting Studio Headshots 1999. Remember when dry cleaners used to put up headshots?

Though I’m sure we’ll find out how this sort-of apology video was produced specifically, the video is a partnership with the NAACP and a production company called Confluential Content for an initiative that hopes other white people will take similar pledges via their social media.

Just when the memory of Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video (which asked us to imagine a corona-free world where we live in celebrity mansions) was fading from memory, the celebs have once again, gone and made a global issue about themselves. Do they need to get their eyes checked? Because reading the room seems to be a huge problem in fame circles.

The ensemble cast of this cringeworthy vid are:

  • Sarah Paulson (wearing thick racism-seeing glasses)

  • Aaron Paul (with prayer hands and an intensity that is terrifying)

  • Kesha (at least she looks cool?)

  • Piper Perabo (Remember Coyote Ugly? lol) She says “I will make my presence known,” which I think is a veiled message to her agent.

  • Kristen Bell (who last week said she wanted to “write on her gravestone” that she raised anti-racist daughters)

  • Justin Theroux (giving us disappointed dad with an anger problem in front of brick wall)

  • Debra Messing (see below)

  • Mark Duplass (giving “I’m so sick of racism I didn’t have time to shave”)

  • Bryce Dallas Howard (who definitely got her bangs cut in this)

  • Julianne Moore (who, in my opinion gets the closest to making an activist statement)

  • Bethany Joy Lenz (I literally watched all of the original One Tree Hill and did not recognize this person as being from it.)

  • Aly Raisman (the gymnast who appears for a literal split second?)

  • Stanley Tucci (who was not off-book for this, he sneaks some glances at a script off camera)

  • Ilana Glazer (who, as a fan, I hope was just roped into this)

What the video doesn’t say, speaks volumes about the state of racism in Hollywood. None of the 14 celebrities say “Black Lives Matter.” The word “hate” is used as a euphemism for racism. Nobody mentions George Floyd or Breonna Taylor by name, but references horrific moments before their deaths. At no point is a promise for a sizeable donation made. The words “defund the police” aren’t part of the script. No Black candidates, activist groups, or individual leaders are endorsed verbally. For a video about racial injustice, a political and socioeconomic issue, this video is as anti-political as the “Imagine” video.

The celebrities do acknowledge a variety of things, although it’s clear these are not pegged specifically to their careers or personal histories - they’re reading a script. I have to say I felt like Gal Gadot at least made an effort to pin specific lines of the John Lennon song to the people singing them - with comedians singing “funnier” lines, I guess?

I shouted out loud “What is happening?” when The Help star Bryce Dallas Howard fessed up to “Every time I explained away police brutality,” before making a shrugging “sorreee” face.

Justin Theroux admits to making “not so funny” jokes, which is a weird way to either absolve yourself of racist jokes or be insensitive by not calling them racist jokes. Theroux wrote the screenplay for Tropic Thunder which uses black face to criticize celebrities for being racist. Maybe he’s referencing that?

Kristen Bell, who vaguely apologizes for not “calling out” racism is now being called out for voicing a biracial character in the animated show Central Park this year. Debra Messing recognizes “every blatant injustice no matter how big or small.” Just last month, Messing tweeted conspiracy theory articles slamming Joe Biden accuser Tara Reade as a “thief” and attacking her personal background. I guess the injustice of alleged sexual abuse is too small for Debra. Yes, Aaron Paul’s dramatic, on the brink of tears intensity may be his audition for an Eminem biopic, but it’s the only funny part about the whole thing.

What is so misguided about video is the prioritizing of optics over substance. These celebrities took last week to “educate” themselves. They must have read articles about how you should not center yourself, a white person, in a Black movement about racism at the hands of white people and white power structures. But, apparently, none of it got through. They could have simply donated a piecemeal amount of their massive wealth - even Piper Perabo’s net worth is estimated between $6-$10 million. But they didn’t - they watched the videos of violence and brutality and decided this was the best use of their time.

On the ITakeResponsibility website, users are invited to “take a pledge” to stop doing a variety of things, like making racist jokes or saying “I don’t see color,” and instead vow to take actions such as donating or mobilizing voting efforts. On the “demand for police accountability” selection, users are redirected to a page that advises support of #8CantWait. The police-apologetic #8CantWait has been disavowed by Black Lives Matter leaders due to the fact that 80% of police departments already had those 8 policies in place. It’s also affiliated with Campaign Zero run by activist Deray McKesson, famous for also being effectively kicked out of the BLM movement due to the org’s massive support for Charter Schools over public education. Oddly, on the “support organizations” page, I had to scroll past 7 other non-profits before I got to Black Lives Matter.

What’s sad to me is the video seems to be a frantic smokescreen to drive the conversation away from legitimate activism: protesting, calling reps, donating directly to funds and orgs, and self-education on racism, in favor for a variety of causes that funnel money directly into the Democratic Party. On Monday, after weeks of calls to defund local and federal police forces by Black Lives Matter and allied groups, The Hill reported that Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, as well as candidate for President, Joe Biden had publicly stated they do not want to defund the police nor support efforts to do so.

The power structures that created systemic racism include Hollywood. By asking white people to post similar videos, ITakeResponsibility erases the voices of Black activists and leaders on how racist systems can be dismantled. The video pacifies the public with the idea that apologizing for saying “I don’t see color” is tantamount them using their platforms for actual change.

These celebrities could have used their money or power to throw their weight behind pressuring Democrats to abolish qualified immunity, end laws that encourage mass incarceration, the call to end the police presence in our schools or support any program that puts the fiscal care of people over the militarization of police. But, they didn’t. They did the equivalent of doing nothing by trying to do “something.”

I am not surprised that in a time when Defund The Police, a legitimate, tangible, and monetary ask, is the rallying cry for BLM, powerful people want to co-opt the movement and pervert it.

The police, and the politicians who protect them would prefer you and the famous to make and share the ITakeResponsibility video, so they can keep building arsenals of tear gas and rubber bullets to shoot you for marching. It’s easier than defunding the police.