A few episodes ago on my podcast (that I won’t name because I’m better than shameless plugs in my own articles) my co-host and I discussed what I referred to as “secret Black meetings.” A listener had written a letter, wondering if the Black people at her office might have been discussing her concerning a, “culturally oblivious” incident at the workplace. I don’t have to know her coworker, really. Or even the details of the event to know that the answer is yes. In my experience, most black coworkers, even ones that don’t really like each other, seem to have at least a base-level correspondence when some non-black stuff goes down.
This moment of clarity came to me as I was reading up on Ray Fisher’s current (for lack of a better term) “feud” with Joss Whedon. The 33-year-old actor, who played Cyborg in the Justice League film, has leveled accusations of toxicity against Whedon. Claiming he was “abusive” during his time overseeing the reshoots of Justice League. Though he has been vocal about his tenacity in lodging official complaints with Warner Bros’ human resources department, he has thus far been mum on specific incidents. Earlier this month, Justice League costar Jason Momoa published a passionate Instagram post in support of Fisher’s fervent mission for accountability. Kiersey Clemons, also featured in the film, has expressed her solidarity on social media as well. The head-scratcher here is that they seem to be the ONLY ones who have said anything. And they’re two of the few BIPOC in the film’s cast.
To be fair, silence doesn’t always equate to conspiracy and we’re talking about incidents that took place during reshoots. So, it’s hard to say who was present when to have witnessed what. The sad truth remains: that BIPOC, particularly Black people, are rarely afforded the luxury of believing in coincidence. Other cast members must have heard about what’s going on by now. In the public forum, allyship makes all the difference. For example, no matter what you think of the social media misfires that led to his firing, James Gunn was rehired to helm the third Guardians of the Galaxy film (still in development), in part, because he had the support of his fellow cast members. In the case of Justice League, Fisher’s silent coworkers are big enough names in the business that their words would carry some weight. Their lack thereof speaks volumes.
Granted, it’s plausible that none of whatever took place happened on their watch. It’s even more plausible that because they’re mainly white people with a degree of privilege that blinds them to certain things, they might not have noticed certain microaggressions (if that’s the nature of said abuse) or problematic actions. It’s just as plausible that Whedon knew who he could get away with mistreating because let’s be honest: Ben Affleck and Amy Adams are almost certainly higher on the Social Privilege Food Chain than Ray Fisher for sad but obvious reasons. Even if any of these were the case, the right words on social media or in any press junket or interview could hold a lot of weight.
Just imagine how much differently we’d be looking at the accusations of racism on the set of America’s Got Talent if Terry Crews had spoken up for Gabrielle Union instead of publicly washing his hands of the situation to ensure his paycheck. Add to that, Justice League is built on the kind of star power that doesn’t have paycheck worries like those. A-list talent like Jeremy Irons and J.K. Simmons aren’t hurting for work, after all. We’re talking about a movie that was pretty aggressively ’meh ’to begin with and it hasn’t left anyone in the unemployment line, right?
Cover Image: Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC and Ratpac Entertainment, LLC