March 9, 2015
By Tyra Oldham,
Days after the premier of the controversial and iconic episode of Scandal’s “The Lawn Chair” the show still resonates and leads to a sharing. When the level of content and media extends to an art form it becomes iconic. Shonda Rhimes‘, “The Lawn Chair” was indeed a full meal and hit the spot on so many levels.
This episode hit the salient points of race and Blackness in America. She revealed the fear and anger that exists when loss or injustice is presented on a plate of hatred and pain. The tug and pull of institutions to understand prejudices and racism that extend beyond the organization to its own agent’s decision-making lead to maim, subdue and death at the expense of society. Organizations are called to defend their apparatus and those on the outside begin to mistrust the organization. The organizations and others are left to ask why? The answer is in its systems and the inability to to discuss the deeper issues.
I ask why is it not a national question to ask how the life of young black men and women are so quickly snuffed out? Their lives gone as though their contribution to life was a mistake. Grimes responded and answered some of these questions using the role of Olivia Pope, the matriarch of the show engaged as a “Gladiator” to liaise and shout down the walls of racism. She revealed the weight and the value of the lives of Blacks in this country despite her positionality as Black woman, powerful, professional and leader to get in the faces of the affected (father and police). Her role was to negotiate between the police and the father (Courtney B. Vance) of the deceased son who lay on the cold street where he was shot under a symbolic lawn chair- Wow!
When you think this episode could not get any better this moving art piece led by Olivia (Kerry Washington) draws out the raw heat, pain, hurt and disease of hatred from the young police officer who shot the the young man. He shouts while his brothers in blue stand behind him to say, “I am disrespected everyday by the “you people” who I am to protect…. You people disrespect the nation and the system!” The shouting grows as his racism spills over to push the listener from bewilderment, hurt, anger to sadness and pity all in seconds. You are able to hear the internal thoughts out loud of racist filled with pain and misunderstanding that leads to hate and actionable choices to beat and kill on the streets of this nation where they were sworn to protect. Yet, the citizens using quick hands and movements to communicate while facing their sworn accusers engage as I too “Am a citizen”. This lack of communication leads to fatalities in seconds that can never be taken back or lives restored.
In closing, Grimes placed the President played by Tony Goldwyn a father of the country who too has experienced the loss of a son to meet the father in the hallowed room of the Oval Office- a coming together. In this moment between these men race and power do not matter but the similarities of sharing the same loss of fallen sons produces a cathartic climatic moment as they support one another in a warm embrace. Both in each others arms in pain revealing yet there are ways we can come together under the stories which connect us for a better society.
This story is something to be shared in every classroom, boardroom, living room and bedroom to discuss the role of race, power, economics, institutions and the long road ahead for this country to become a cohesive nation.
Eric Holder said we have a long way to go as he commented on Ferguson, Missouri Shooting of Micheal Brown. I respond we as nation are not on the road yet when we consider that it has only been 50 years of civil rights change in a history of America which is 238 years old since the Deceleration of Independence. This inequality extends to women, gender, religion, disability, under educated, the poor and more. While race continues to be used as a tool of disenfranchisement our nation lags in education, innovation and creating wealth. This very factor is what perpetuate the ism’s. It will take all of our citizens to build a nation.
It should not be race or the color of one’s skin that separates us but by the unwillingness to commit resources and skills to develop the world and nation. The varied contributions of each person in their capacity to give or as Martin Luther King said by the “content of their character “is what is relevant. The quality of character can build a nation that survives the declines and hardships. It should never be forgotten that other great nations failed to understand and now cease to exist. These nations and societies are now monuments to great history in which we travel such as, Rome and Egypt.
Thank you Grimes for this pivital piece that reveals multitudes and layers to be deconstructed for our nation’s betterment. Sometimes art can say what others cannot or fear to say out loud.