I am a fan of Shonda Rhimes. I have loved her since the 1999 biopic “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.” And, while I grew weary of Private Practice, pretty much hated every moment of Grey’s Anatomy, and semi-swore offScandal after the gratuitous, cheaply written rape scene, I still deeply value her contributions to television. Beyond that, I think her presence is changing things for the better. But her recent remarks against “hash-tivism” make me wonder if her intentions and predilections are in alignment with the awe she inspires from the black community.
Rhimes gave the Dartmouth commencement speech on June 8th. She graduated from the Ivy league university in 1991. She later attended the USC Film School (Fight On!) and has achieved immense success over the years since graduating. I can only imagine that – as a black woman in an industry dominated by white males – her career “ain’t been no crystal stair.” But, while giving Dartmouth grads a few life lessons in her “Fireside Chat,” she went in on hashtag activism in a way that rubbed quite a few people the wrong way.
Here’s what she had to say:
“Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething
Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s “Game of Thrones.”
Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.”
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