When I first saw the headlines proclaiming Meryl Streep’s answer to questions about diversity in the film business was to say, “We’re all Africans, really,” I sighed.
Et tu, Meryl? Seriously?!
After seeing the seemingly dismissive remark, I figured Streep was yet another celeb I’d have to write off for saying something incredibly stupid…until I saw it for myself.
As someone who has worked in this business for years, flipping quotes and picking out the juiciest or most controversial bits of a quote because it will elicit a click, share, or comment, I knew I couldn’t just rely on the sensational and cringe-worthy headlines to tell the whole story.
So I decided to do something revolutionary….find out for myself.
These days reading the actual article before jumping in to comment about how stupid/racist/terrible/crazy/sexist/*insert horrible thing here* a person is is almost a rare occurrence, but I did it anyway because I love Streep’s work as an actor and selfishly didn’t want to cast her aside (without good reason).
So what did she actually say? After being asked by an Egyptian journalist if she could relate to and understand films from the Middle East and North Africa, Streep dropped the now infamous, “We’re all Africans, really,” line.
Here’s how the Associate Press reported it:
“I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”
“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally,” she said.
“You know, we’re all,” she added, pausing, “Berliners, we’re all Africans, really.”
And here’s the video:
Though clumsy, Streep’s comments were not quite as inflammatory as the headlines made them out to be, but that doesn’t get folks clicking. The actor’s answer on the lack of diversity of the jury for the Berlin Film Festival, however, isn’t above criticism.
When asked why the festival jury had no Black members, Streep explained, “I am very committed to equality and inclusion of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions. There should be inclusion, and this jury is evidence that at least women are included.”
The only problem? All the women on the jury are white.
Like many white feminists, the fact that women are in positions of women seems to be a marker of progress for Steep, even though all of the women are white. If anything, instead of being mad at Streep’s Marshawn Lynch-esque shout out, folks should be taking issue with her inability, or unwillingness, to understand that without women of color on the panel, the festival’s grand jury isn’t diverse after all.