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Arts and Entertainment

Meryl Streep Said A Thing That Made Everyone Really Mad

Meryl Streep called out Walt Disney for being a sexist and racist at the National Board of Review awards gala (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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It's hard for people outside of Hollywood to understand what it's like inside Hollywood. Come Thursday morning, Meryl Streep's publicists were probably rolling their eyes at international media going bananas over a comment the actress made Thursday at the Berlin Film Festival.

Streep uttered the phrase "we're all Africans really" while fielding questions about diversity at the festival, according to Variety. Streep chairs an all-white jury paneling the Berlin Festival.

Taken together, those two facts have been widely interpreted by such notable establishments like the New York Daily News, USA Today, Vox, The New Republic, and so on, to be an unequivocal declaration of the actress' ignorance and insensitivity to people-of-color—and most certainly further evidence of Hollywood's blindness to its own diversity problem.

This year, not a single non-white actor or actress was nominated for an acting Academy Award, sparking genuine outrage that the Academy could be so overtly colorblind in the time of #BlackLivesMatter.

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Of course, there’s more to the story. Streep’s comment was, unsurprisingly, wildly decontextualized. Per Variety and the AP, Streep’s comment came at the end of a statement where she promoted an agenda of equality and inclusion.

“(Equality) of genders, races, ethnicities, religion,” she said. “This jury is also evidence that women are included and can even dominate—that is unusual in bodies that make decisions… There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we're all from Africa originally. You know, we're all, Berliners—we're all Africans really."

Hollywood’s (lack of) diversity issue is no secret to those of us who live and work in its shadow. Report afterinvestigated report criticizes the film and television industries for their propensity to hire and feature very pale and very male folks both in front and behind the camera.

Streep made this point by by pointing out how the Berlin film festival, by having a female-majority jury, placed the festival miles-ahead of anything else in Hollywood. Obviously the absence of racial diversity is a gigantic hole, but at least the usually missing gender balance is present.

Oscar voters are 94-percent white, and 77-percent male. By contrast, Blacks make up 2-percent, and Latinos less than 2-percent.

Streep has historically criticized Hollywood for its racism and sexism. But none of this is noted in the barrage of quick-hit “Meryl said what?” posts circulating the web today.

Instead, we see surface level analyses, giving white reporters a chance to pat themselves on the back, and tell themselves they have done justice to covering the “diversity issues” of the day.