Dig Baton Rouge

Whitewashed

By Nick BeJeaux

I normally do not celebrate the failures of others, but this week I’m making an exception.
You my have heard of the movie Stonewall, and if you aren’t straight then you’ve definitely heard of it. The long and short of the drama surrounding this film, which released last weekend, is that is depicts an unforgivably blatant whitewashing of a significant event in American history: the Stonewall Riots. I’ll leave it to you to discover the history of this event, but one thing needs to be made clear: over time, and even in 1969 after the riots happened, the role of women, trans individuals and people of color has been nearly forgotten – even erased. This abomination of a film is clear evidence of this.
The scene that earns my ire – and the ire of the Internet, apparently – is when Danny Winters, played by Jeremy Irvine, starts the riot by throwing a brick at police. Well, what actually happened was actually more interesting, which begs the question, why was it changed in the first place? Danny Winters did not start the riots by throwing a brick; Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman of color, started the riots by throwing her heels. It is nothing less than racist and transphobic to reduce and even erase her contributions to history. If that doesn’t bug you (that’s putting it in printable terms) then consider the fact that the producers and writers actually thought that they could fool you into thinking that this is how history went down.
Now all the while you’ve been reading this, there may be one question that you are no doubt asking yourself. What does this white, straight, cis-gendered male care? There are a couple of reasons. First, I’m not so blinded by my privilege that I can’t recognize injustice and blatant lies and call it out. Second, I’m very offended that Hollywood thinks that I and just about everyone else are oblivious to history. Anyone with access to Wikipedia can see that the actions and roles trans women of color were vital in this pivotal event that gave birth to the gay liberation movement. Removing them is disgraceful, and harmful to the historical memory of the American people. But there is some good news.
Opening weekend, the $17 million film barely cleared $100,000 in sales, showing that the controversy that erupted was enough to sway people away from supporting this film. Of course, this could also point to the fact it’s a bad film – it scored a nine percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer.
But it’s important, very important, that we do more than boycott exclusionary films. We must confront, and continue to confront, discrimination and violence against people of color, LGBT people, and any combination of the two.
It is 2015 for crying out loud; how many times do we have to keep gong over that it is not acceptable to treat someone like a disease because they are something other than “normal?” For those of us who have the privilege of living openly as we are without consequence, it falls to us to dismantle the system that denies dignity and respect to those that do not fit the norm.
It’s about time that we started removing the obstacles we have left in the ways of women, LGBT people, and people of color. If you see injustice, hatred, or ignorance erupt before you, do not turn away from it. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to eliminate prejudice as best we can. The buck needs to stop here.

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