January 10 2017
Patrice L. Onwuka
The other big controversy from Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards was an error or -as some cynics contend- a microaggression made by Today show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager.
While interviewing musician Pharrell Williams, the producer and music consultant for the film Hidden Fences, Jenna Bush Hager (a daughter of former President George W. Bush) made a mistake and said he was nominated for the best original score for Hidden Fences. Her debut on the red carpet was eventful for that flub.
To be clear, Hidden Figures is a film about three pioneering black women at NASA who worked to send the first American into space. Hidden Fences is a film featuring Denzel Washington about a black family living during the Civil Rights era. Both movies were nominated for awards. That Bush Hager mixed the two up is disappointing, but not a monumental snub with racial undertones.
On air yesterday, Bush made a sincere mea-culpa:
“I’ve seen both movies, I thought they were both brilliant. I’ve interviewed casts from both of the movies. And if I offended people, I am deeply sorry,” Hager said on Monday. “It was a mistake. … I am not perfect. I’m authentic, but a human. And what I didn’t want to do was make anybody feel lesser than who they are.”
But that was not enough for those looking to make a public example of Bush. In a lengthy piece for the left-leaning millennial women’s blog Refinery 29, writer Sesali Bowen explains why Jenna microaggressed against the black actors:
Make no mistake about it, there is really nothing funny about the fact that two very different Black films are so easily reduced to unidentifiable versions of the same thing. This kind of microaggression is an erasure. It reveals the real reason diversity seems to be so painstaking for Hollywood — unrelenting white privilege.
Bowen launches into a list of ways that white privilege embarrassed blacks from the misspelling of musician John Legend’s name to Ryan Seacrest asking a black actress how she memorized all of her lines. The totality of these mistakes we learn are a noxious onslaught of microaggressions to undermine the work of black actors and actresses everywhere:
Alone, these moments could be easily overlooked as objective slip-ups. But collectively, and given the overall tendency of award shows like the Golden Globes to shade people of color, they stung.
… Questioning inequality in Hollywood is a threat to the very foundation of their success. That’s how privilege works.
But what if what we saw were a mixture of mistakes and some incompetence, not racism?
Let's be thankful sane cast members from Hidden Figures came to Jenna Bush Hager’s rescue and extended grace. Instead of pilling on the rancor, they accepted her apology for what she did: make a mistake. In tweets:
@Pharrell: Don't worry @JennaBushHager!Everyone makes mistakes. Hidden Fences does sound like an intriguing movie though. Just saying...
@JanelleMonae: Thank u @JennaBushHager! Your ownership, public acknowledgement, & genuine apology makes me you more! Sending love right back your way. Xo https://twitter.com/jennabushhager/status/818516414910713856 …
This leaves the naysayers looking like Chicken Little-ish conspiracy theorists.
Everyone makes mistakes, but the right response to admit them and move on. That the cast accepted her apology demonstrates adults being adults. I’d like to know how many mistakes, misspellings and even stupid questions get asked during red carpets and at award shows that never get any attention much more an apology.
In addition, Hidden Figures was mistakenly called Hidden Fences when Batman’s Michael Keaton announced Octavia Spencer as a nominee for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. He apologized and not nearly the hoopla was made over it. Perhaps the real underlying issue is that Jenna is a Bush and the left will use any chance to paint conservatives as ready to trod on the success of blacks everywhere.
Whatever the case, let’s stop looking for sinister motives in every mistake and insults in every blunder. Sometimes, pure human error or incompetence is more than enough to explain it.