Opinion: Black Women’s Role In Weinstein’s Predatory Thought Process? Exclusion, Mostly

Opinion: Black Women’s Role In Weinstein’s Predatory Thought Process? Exclusion, Mostly

Lupita Nyong’o spoke out this week about her experiences with Harvey Weinstein in a New York Times op-ed, saying she wants to play a part in ending “the conspiracy of silence” that allowed his abusive behavior to continue so long.

Before Nyongo made her revelations, Sesali Bowen wrote in Refinery29 that most of the people who have spoken out in an official capacity, regardless of whose side they’re on, have been white.

“With the exceptions of the Obamas, who are celebrities in their own right, no people of color have released formal statements condemning the film mogul. Black celebs like Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield have thrown shots on Twitter, but other than that, the conversation has been dominated by whiteness,” Bowen said.


Nyong’o said she had no idea at the time that Weinstein’s behavior was something other women were dealing with as well. Now she said she wants to play a part in ending “the conspiracy of silence,” Variety reported:

“The fact that (Weinstein) was one of the first people (Nyongo’o) met in the industry also prevented her from coming forward sooner, and the fact that no one else seemed to be challenging him. ‘I wish I had known that there were women in the business I could have talked to. I wish I had known that there were ears to hear me. That justice could be served. There is clearly power in numbers. I thank the women who have spoken up and given me the strength to revisit this unfortunate moment in my past.’

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Nyong’o issued a call to action: ‘Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing. I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.'”


Race is the elephant in the room in discussions about Weinstein, writes Buzzfeed’s Senior Culture Writer, Bim Adewunmi. “There are black women in Hollywood, and not talking about it does us all a disservice.”

Filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones recently told BuzzFeed News that Weinstein allegedly recast the 1997 film, “B. Monkey,” because Sophie Okonedo — Caton-Jones’ choice for the lead role — didn’t arouse Weinstein.

Black women do not often come up for the kind of prestigious high-profile and award-winning roles that a producer with Weinstein’s power could offer, and “their near-absence in starring roles suggests a deep disinterest,” Adewunmi said:

“In an industry as white as Hollywood, the racially problematic “attraction question” is part of what reduces the shelf life of black actresses as a matter of course, causing many of them to get half as far in twice the time it takes their white counterparts.”

Hollywood’s racism has already limited the chances for Black women to succeed, Bowen said. “Keeping their heads down and mouths shut about the experiences of those who have made it feels like a requirement.”

Also silent is Jay-Z, whose relationship with Weinstein resulted in a two-year deal with the Weinstein Company in 2016 to produce projects for film and TV. One product of that deal is the six-part docuseries, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” which aired on Spike TV earlier this year.
Weinstein said at the time, “Having known Jay on a personal level for many years we are thrilled by the opportunity to expand our relationship. Jay’s ability to influence entertainment and pop culture has gone well beyond music for many years. He approaches every aspect of his career with both determination and effortlessness, making him one of the leading power players in entertainment history.”
Sexual harassment and assault are first and foremost about power, Adewunmi wrote. “Power needs to skew — sharply or even slightly — in one direction: the direction of the perpetrator.”
Black women didn’t make it “into Weinstein’s predatory thought process except, probably, to be expressly excluded,” Adewunmi said.
Fewer than 10 films starring black women or other women of color were codistributed by Miramax and The Weinstein Company over the last 20 years — part of an industrywide trend, according to Adewunmi. Among the most recognizable of those films are:
  • “Jackie Brown” (1997)
  • “Frida” (2002),
  • “Bride and Prejudice” (2004)
  • “Southside With You” (2016)