Zoe Saldana: “There Is No Such Thing As People Of Color”

“I find it uncomfortable to have to speak about my identity all of the time, when in reality it’s not something that drives me or wakes me up out of bed everyday. I didn’t grow up in a household where I was categorized by my mother. I was just Zoe and I could have and be anything that I ever wanted to do…and every human being is the same as you. So to all of a sudden leave your household and have people always ask you, “What are you, what are you” is the most uncomfortable question and it’s literally the most repetitive question. I can’t wait to be in a world where people are sized by their soul and how much they can contribute as individuals and not what they look like. …

I literally run away from people that use words like ‘ethnic.’ It’s preposterous! To me there is no such thing as people of color cause in reality people aren’t white. Paper is white. People are pink, it’s a bit ridiculous when I have to explain to a human being, that is an adult like I am, that looks intelligent but for some reason I have to question his intelligence and explain to him as if he was a two-year-old, my composition in order for him to say, “Oh I guess I can chill with you, I can work with you.” I not going to underestimate a human being and I will not allow another human being to underestimate me. I feel like as a race, that’s a minute problem against the problems we face just as women versus men, in a world that’s more geared and designed to cater towards the male species. … That is a situation that, I spend time thinking about, and working towards ending that, I guess we could talk about that.”

– This is Zoe Saldana speaking to BET (video here) when she was asked how she racially identifies. What I think is preposterous is that she’d say “there’s no such thing as people of color,” when it sounds like what she really means is either 1) the phrase “people of color” implies whiteness is a normative state, and/or  2) that people are people and knowing the exact composition of their someone’s background to affix the appropriate label (black! half black! one-eighth black!) really shouldn’t matter. Which, whether you agree with either sentiment, are fair enough points to make. It just sounds like she’s dismissing/not acknowledging the fact that racism and colorism really do exist and affect peoples’ lives, regardless of her views. Also? For a lot of people, those labels are important because they’re empowering.

It sounds like she’s speaking indirectly here about the controversy surrounding her casting as Nina Simone in a biopic of the singer, which had lots of people, including our writer Erica Watson, upset, because Saldana is far more light-skinned. Or, as Amelia added, “Nina was fucking all about her BLACKNESS and wrote much of her music about the experience of being a woman of color. She famously said, ‘Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.’ Zoe clearly doesn’t get much of what motivated Nina Simone, even after playing her. DAMN SHAME.”

It’s clear Zoe’s remarks were pretty inelegantly phrased and are going to come back to bite her in the butt. What do you think about her remarks?  [Clutch Magazine]

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[Photo: WENN]