I recently wrote a post about Mo’Nique and all the recent controversy surrounding her being “blackballed” from Hollywood. The rumors have continued to fly and Mo’Nique and her husband/manager Sidney did an interview on V103 to address the issue. Once again Mo’Nique’s profound introspection, ethical commitment and positivity overwhelemed me.
In short it has been stated that Mo’Nique has been “blackballed” from Hollywood for being “difficult” to work with. As I state time and again semantics are everything. All too often this ambiguous term of “difficulty” is thrown around to cast shadows of doubt upon a person’s professional character. I, myself, have been victim of the word. In that instance that one word negated all of the positive professional interactions I had with everyone involved and it negated my work performance record as well as any substantial evidence that proved the contrary. When that kind of professional assassination attempt is made upon a person what follows are a series of out of context sound bites and moments that are separated from the whole truth in order to spin a person’s reputation. It’s tragic to conceive and horrific to endure. However, what it has taught me is that it is part of “the game” as Lee Daniels so often comments about. A person is branded as an outsider to “the game” and their doom is sealed. This is what is occurring with Mo’Nique. As I stated before, she is not being “blackballed” by Hollywood as much as she is being “blackballed” by the individual instigating and perpetuating the false narrative: Lee Daniels.
The truth is that Mo’Nique refused to play the game is it is written. Unlike so many others, Daniels included, she has chosen to succeed on her own terms. To an extent she has played the game – we all do to some degree. What makes the difference is where we draw the line. For Mo’Nique she drew her line with terms and conditions for negotiations and Daniels and maybe those ascribing to the mainstream thinking of Hollywood were appalled. How dare she?! However, the sensational stories being spun around the subject do not support the truth. The bare bones truth is that she – like anyone – has the right to decide what she wants and at what price she is willing to pay to get it. Her price was not the same as Daniels and he, being newly Hollywood inducted, felt slighted. But she was not wrong. She simply made a different choice.
The problem is that the blackball and the assassination upon her is coming from one of her own – one of our own. She has known Daniels for quite some time and is an intelligent Black man coming into his own. But he instead of liberating others to achieve what their own success in their own right, he would rather condemn them or not walking in his footsteps. This is a huge and, unfortunately common, occurrence in the Black professional community. We are all too often scarred by our own journey to the extent that we cannot stand to see someone else attain what we have without enduring what we endured. The ugliest possible result is what is happening to Mo’Nique: that one of our own who may even have once supported us will bring the whip across our back for dreaming of liberty without having endured the lashings.
The real issue here is that we have to come to a place where we begin to define success for ourselves. And when I say for ourselves I do not just mean as Black people. I also mean as individuals (because all Black people are not alike and do not want all the same things). We have to be willing to challenge the status quo in the interest of what really satisfies our souls. If that happens to be nothing like anyone else, then status quo be damned.
In the beginning of the interview a question was asked of Mo’Nique’s husband/manager as to whether he thought Lee Daniels was dishonorable. It was the perfect set up for Sidney to tear into and tear down Daniels. I loved that he did not take that path. Instead he objectively stated that all people have their moments of being both honorable and dishonorable and he refused to resign Daniels to the label of dishonorable simply because he didn’t feel that in this particular instance Daniels was handling the situation as honorable as he had known Daniels to handle other situations. It was the perfect answer. What it expressed was that we can disagree. We can chastise. We can criticize someone without destroying, defaming or degraded their entire character. That is what we need more of in our community. We often pit it as some extreme, absolute choice to either support or denounce; to criticize or support; to nurture life or destroy it. It never has to be that extreme nor does it have to be that polarized.
That said, I do continue to support Daniels’ efforts: his television and movie productions. Simultaneously I am repulsed by his actions in this particular case and it leaves a terrible aftertaste on the consumption of who he has shown himself to be as a person. But I support him because of what it means to the larger community. For him to make strides and continue to open doors means that the next generation of Black directors/producers/writers may have move beyond the glass ceiling. Risking the destruction or devaluing of that, for me, is not worth it just to make the statement of disagreement concerning his actions in one (or a few) particular moments.
My status as a fan and admirer of Mo’Nique has been more than solidified in her handling of this entire issue and in the things that she has expressed in the dialogues surrounding it. Mo’Nique has shown herself to be a woman of the highest ethical standard and bravery. She is setting a path for Black women, mothers, actors/actresses and human beings that is more than commendable. Her class, grace, outspokenness and honesty are something to aspire to. I salute that sister for not giving it all up to play the game and for taking a chance at changing the game. As Black people we need to commit more to changing the rules than obeying them at all costs. What we know for sure is that nothing will ever change as long as we acquiesce – silence counts – to the unjust rules and if we bow down everytime we are assaulted by them. There comes a time when a person must decide that, for better or worse, I will rise to the top but I’m going to carry my integrity with me.
I’m not just sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man