Asian actor/activist Olivia Munn tells an inconvenient truth about who can cover whose stories. She was so eloquent in the manner that she made it readily obvious. It is more than invisibility.
Olivia Munn exposes an inconvenient truth
As I listened to Olivia Munn, two feelings came over me. First, as someone who covers and fights for all causes, I did not centralize sufficiently on what the Asian American community has been going through. The second feeling was how familiar her experience is to people of color’s forced invisibility in so many areas. It is so common it goes unnoticed.
The following experience in her profession was probative.
“I mean, for the longest time, it’s been that you know white people can tell everyone’s stories,” Olivia Munn said. “They can tell black stories, Asian stories, Latinx stories. And we in the minority community can support them in telling those stories. Just the fact that all of our stories have been whitewashed for so long, and that’s been acceptable. It’s an interesting thing whenever I’ve seen, like, an article on Deadline that comes out about some new movie with a really cool director, and it just happens to be a period piece. There have been times in the past where I have reached out and said to my reps like ‘Hey, can I meet on this movie? I think it sounds like a really great concept.’ And I’ll hear back that it’s a period piece. There’s no other explanation because I should know, and I do know what they mean by that. Which is my Asian face does not fit into a period piece. That I cannot tell those stories, that’s a really infuriating thing because everyone else is allowed to tell our stories.”
What she says next is telling. It illustrates the injury racism, the invisible POC, and exclusion.
“It’s not just from in front of the camera,” Munn continued. “It’s behind the camera. You know you look at the Tiger Woods documentary on HBO. It’s directed by two white men. And when you look at it, it starts with his DUI. And yes, Tiger had a lot of traumatic moments in his life. But, he also was a black Asian American man who reached heights that none of us could have ever dreamed. And yet, when you watch this documentary, it is so negative. And I think it’s because it was told, through the eyes of two men who do not know what it’s like to live life in a black man’s skin or see the world through the eyes of an Asian man’s eyes like it is just the systemic whitewashing that has happened.”
On my first job as an engineer, I remember being called into a particular executive’s office and told, “You have 6 months to prove yourself,” he said. “If you do not work out, I want to hear nothing about Affirmative Action.” I completed the six-month project in 2 months. My software company made a deal with a company in Utah. The license exchange was to be signed at the huge COMDEX Expo Trade Show. When they realized who they were signing the contract with, suddenly, they said they decided to go in another direction. At a top-rated Progressive conference, having to force oneself into relevancy after apparent invisibility is actually worse than being called by some epithet.
Every person of color can explain the hurtful nature of racism and invisibility. They have learned to live with it. The feeling of being hunted by those who too often too many are sympathetic to is devastatingly stressful.
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