Gabrielle Union's honesty about rape, rethinking the roles black actors portray

Gabrielle Union's honesty about rape, rethinking the roles black actors portray
Gabrielle Union at the 47th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center.

Gabrielle Union wrote an open, candid article about the topic of rape, in which she explained why her passion for this topic is so immense due to her own experience. Union herself was raped twenty-four years ago in the backroom of a Payless shoe store where she worked. Now with a captive audience, Ms. Union has the freedom and power to address a captive audience to now use her pain as a platform to help others. It’s through the accomplishments that she’s made as an actress that she has been afforded this opportunity to rise to this occasion, and to have a voice for this time.

I couldn’t help but consider all the previous roles she’s played in order to get to this place. From being one of the not-so-favorite girls in “Bring it On” (all the while us parents were glad to see a young black actress with a leading role) to the myriad roles she’s had in a variety of films like Daddy’s Girls, Think Like a Man, She’s All That, and dozens more, Gabrielle has shown us she is an actress in her own right. She’s earned every ounce of her platform.

Gabrielle has proven she can in fact "Bring it!"

Gabrielle has proven she can in fact “Bring it!”

The unrest in my spirit after reading her article in the LA Times this morning revolves around all the discord and malcontent I see many black actors receive from their own race. I myself have been one to criticize the roles, scripts, and productions “our” people get involved in, as if we should be “better than that.” We criticize Taraji for playing Cookie in Empire, as if Hollywood has given talented black females leading roles that show them in law schools, as doctors, and upstanding citizens. Is it possible we have not kindly allowed our own people to pay their dues to help them achieve the status required to be able to have a platform to turn around and help inspire and educate others? Isn’t that what true success is all about?

Gabrielle Union is a celebrated actress who young women admire and respect.  She could never have the opportunities she has today to be a spokesperson for the difficult topic of rape, and her own experience at that, had she not taken what others see as less than stellar roles.

Actress Taraji P. Henson has been criticized for her recent role in the Lee Daniels' hit, "Empire."

Actress Taraji P. Henson has been criticized for her recent role in the Lee Daniels’ hit, “Empire.”

Gabrielle’s willingness to share her experience publicly in the hopes of helping other women heal, or men to have a clear gauge on how to perceive and receive a “yes” for sexual consent, is far more important to me than the little witchy acting teen she played in “Bring it On,” or any other role.

I just get so irritated by all these racially loaded campaigns that do nothing but divide and repress our race. Yes, black lives matter, but for me, humanity matters because rape doesn’t know a color. It affects women of all colors.

I think it’s noble what Gabrielle Union is doing and in hearing her story, I allowed another piece of my heart to heal through my own history of abuse. I believe many other women will be able to do the same thing once they hear her story, but if we are so mired down in what’s she done as an actress, versus who she is a person, we miss the point, which unfortunately, I think is all to common for us blacks when we put down actors who are working to support their families and advance their craft like any other person.  Just like there are those who had to clean toilets in other’s homes to save the money so as to buy their own to get to a place never to have to clean somebody’s else’s house again–the same is true or actors. Maybe we can use Gabrielle’s story to help us lighten up some. Obviously, there are far more important things going on in the world beside Cookie and Olivia’s coats and Lucious Lyons’ love interest.

To read Gabrielle’s story in the LA Times, click here.

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    Elana Anthony

    I am a wife and mother blessed to have six daughters who fill my home with love and laughter. My passion is writing and teaching, but most especially inspiring people to live healthy lives in my faith-filled fitness classes. My dream is to have my own faith and fitness TV show where people from all the world collectively join together on our "temple" building project of enjoying optimal health. I am a certified group fitness instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and earned graduate degrees in Writing from DePaul University, in addition to a degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the California University of Pennsylvania. I have seen and experienced the hand of God work and move in my life, and consider it an honor and blessing to be saved to serve.

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