Quit comparing anti-racism to literal torture

One of the CIA’s favorite methods of extracting often-faulty intel from alleged terrorists during the early years of the War on Terror was waterboarding. The act requires the victim to be laid down at an incline, heart above head, which is covered with a towel. Water is then poured over their face, flooding the victim’s nose and mouth, instantly creating the sensation of drowning.

No matter what President Bush’s Department of Justice would have you believe, this is very much a method of torture, a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Which is to say I was more than a little surprised to open up the Perspectives page of last week’s Experience to see actress Jada Pinkett Smith waterboarding an old white fellow named Oscar in the editorial cartoon by Mr. Fajardo. Her husband Will stands to the side, seemingly shrugging as he tells Oscar, “Should’ve nominated me.”

The water jug is helpfully labeled “DIVERSITY.”

As with anything that challenges white supremacy, there was an immediate counter-reaction to this year’s nomination of all white performers in the Oscars acting categories for the second consecutive year.

For some odd reason, some white people have been convinced that we have a talent monopoly on acting, and that hiring actors of color in substantial roles means requiring racial quotas, keeping hard-working, talented white actors like Sam Worthington or Aaron Taylor-Johnson out of work.

“Why don’t you complain about the NBA?” they ask, pointing to a sports league whose players are hired due to their statistically quantifiable superiority.

Other critics trip over themselves on their way to point out that black Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, about the same proportion as black Oscar nominees over the last 20 years. John Wayne shared a similar sentiment in a 1971 interview with Playboy: “I’ve directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in ‘The Alamo,’ and I had a correct number of blacks in ‘The Green Berets.’ If it’s supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor.”

(According to my count, just one of the movie’s twelve Green Berets is black, though black Americans made up 15% of combat casualties in Vietnam. I suppose the Viet Cong were on a bit of a diversity kick, as well).

Of course, this ignores the dire nomination rate before that arbitrary timeframe, the fact that they themselves seem to be endorsing racial quotas, and the very existence of Latinos, Asians, and Native people, whose nomination rates are even more embarrassing for a country that likes to call itself a melting pot.

Hollywood — and by extension, the Oscars — has a diversity problem. If you feel that seeing non-white faces on the silver screen is akin to a form of torture often practiced on non-white faces, you may be part of that problem.