Some folks just can’t leave well enough alone or let comatose dogs stay comatose. Some folks must work really hard to remain so willfully ignorant. They must go out of their way to miss all the points in such a painfully obstinate manner. Worst of all, some folks must believe the lies so deeply that they’re just begging to be told point blank:
Zoe Saldana, you a f—ing lie.
If there ever were a case of completely, utterly, totally missing all the points, Zoe is the case. If someone Googles “missing the point” it should just take them straight to Zoe’s IMDB page.
Her word craft in Allure was such a display of masterfully, intentionally performed deflection that there’s almost nothing anyone can say to get through to her. Almost.
The way to (hopefully) get through to her is by not sitting idly by and letting her deflection slide. The way to (hopefully) get through to her is to call her out on her convoluted bullshit.
“There’s no one way to be black,” she says quietly and slowly, clearly choosing her words carefully. “I’m black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”
Correct. There is no one way to be Black. It’s unfortunate that so many people attacked Zoe’s Blackness; however, there were just as many people pointing out that this isn’t about Zoe’s Blackness, it’s about Nina Simone’s Blackness. It’s always been about Nina’s Blackness. This is about Nina Simone.
Nina was unrelenting in her Blackness at a time when it was dangerous to be so. She was so radically Black that it was detrimental to her career and her marriage. Nina was MISSISSIPPI GODDAM Black; TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK Black; STRANGE FRUIT Black; FOUR WOMEN Black.
Nina wasn’t just Black though. Even in her own words she reveals a reality where she was a certain type of Black. A Blacker shade of Black:
So while Zoe is Black in the way she knows how to be, Nina was Black in the only way she was allowed to be. Trust Nina’s own testimony: It wasn’t a fun way. It wasn’t a kind way. It wasn’t an easy way.
It’s Nina’s Blackness that matters. Because this is about NINA SIMONE.
Nina’s Blackness matters. It mattered to her because it mattered to the world that oppressed her. It directly and adversely affected her life. She wrote about it; she spoke about it; she sang about it.
By not acknowledging Nina’s Blackness, everyone involved in Cynthia Mort’s film — not the vocal critics of the film — are the ones that tried to make this about Zoe’s Blackness. They tried to do so through every single choice they made that led to Zoe being cast to play Nina. Their ineptitude and insensitivity tried to make this about Zoe’s Blackness and then they deflected and blamed their faults on the critics.
Of course Zoe is free to define her own Blackness however she sees fit. She’s not free to make Nina’s Blackness about her, thereby marginalizing and minimizing Nina in the same way Nina was marginalized and minimized her entire life. And perhaps because — as she herself has stated in the past — Zoe chooses to be colorblind and to run away from discussions of race and ethnicity, Zoe is unable to distinguish the difference between some people claiming that she’s not “Black enough” from others of us that are saying: NINA’S BLACKNESS MATTERS.
There is such a world of difference between those two perspectives that it might make one wonder why someone incapable of differentiating the two would be involved in making a Nina Simone biopic.
Make it a mantra if you must: NINA’S BLACKNESS MATTERS.