The Berlin International Film Festival became embroiled Thursday in the debate about diversity in the movie industry, with jury president Meryl Streep dismissing questions about the all-white panel by telling reporters that “we’re all Africans, really.”
Streep, who heads a festival film jury for the first time, said she was committed to equality and inclusion “of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions.” The seven-member jury also includes German actor Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, British actor Clive Owen, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska.
“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally,” she said.
“You know, we’re all,” she added, pausing, “Berliners, we’re all Africans, really.”
You’re a white lady, Meryl Streep. I’m also a white lady. It is because of our shared whiteness that I feel compelled to notify you that your characterization of white people on Thursday—that “we’re all Africans, really”—is false.
It’s true that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved on the continent some hundreds of thousands of years ago. But when our early common ancestors started to migrate out of Africa (hey, remember when you starred in that that romantic, racist, colonialist fantasy in the ’80s?) between 125,000 and 60,000 years ago, they were barely even humans. In fact, almost as soon as Homo sapiens evolved from Homo erectus, they began to decamp the continent, becoming, in your parlance, Asians and Europeans.Since their original land mass was not yet called Africa—the word has origins in ancient Rome—it’s a safe bet that these early ancestors did not identify one another as Africans. Neither should you.
Even if that weren’t so, claiming African ancestry when you have none, at least not in the past few millennia, is insulting to people whose actual family history roots them in that continent and the diverse cultures, triumphs, and struggles it’s seen. I’m sure you know that Africa is not a country, and the countries within its bounds cover a wide spectrum of political systems, religious traditions, social customs, and major industries. So, what kind of Africans are we? Tunisian? Somalian? Malawian? Basotho? How ridiculous does “we’re all Malawians, really” sound to you?
If your humanism denies the value of diverse perspectives and dismisses the modern-day realities of racism, I can’t take your humanism seriously. Yes, I’m aware that nearly all of my faves are somehow problematic. But not all of them take their philosophies on whiteness from a Richard Dawkins T-shirt.
And the “Out of Africa” theory that all modern humans are descended from a single small group that migrated from the eastern part of that continent used to be so widely accepted among scientists that people who believed otherwise were derided as crazy creationists.
But now, apparently, people of African, Asian, and European ancestry aren’t brothers and sisters under the skin after all, but practically different species. That kind of thinking used to be called racist. Now, it seems that it’s racist to think otherwise.
h/t: Steve Sailer
Posted by Charlotte Allen