As we approach the precipice of a pivotal moment in US History, I would be remiss if I didn’t share some information I’ve come across that really gets to the heart of what has been going on in our country these past few years and the many years leading up to it. It cuts through all the rhetoric, conspiracies, partisan nitpicking, and transcends politics. It describes what is really going on here in the United States.
As a student of history and science, I have researched so much about US and World history and there is a lot more than what we were taught in schools. Much of this will be hard to swallow for many of you… you may have a knee-jerk reaction and deny it, you may have bought into disturbing conspiracy theories that have not a shred of proof, sucked in by fancy editing and authoritarian propaganda designed to divide and conquer. Others will completely understand where this is coming from and may already know much of this. Regardless, eventually the truth will rise to the top and all will be revealed, come what may. I do believe that. We have to believe that.
The original sins of this country are slavery and the ruthless destruction of indigenous peoples and their cultures. It is the bedrock upon which everything is built.
The land we all walk upon, the air we breathe, the luxuries we blithely enjoy in our modern lives are fed by the blood, sweat and tears of millions of tortured souls. There is no escaping this core truth. The settlers and founders did this knowingly, willingly, and passionately. They pursued these horrid crimes behind the veil of godliness, holiness, and righteousness and our society celebrates it around every corner – from holidays, to monuments, and much more.
Please understand that I am not attacking religion or Christianity directly. Yes most of the settlers and founders were Christian and much of their motivation was rooted in their warped interpretation of Christianity and claims of “Manifest Destiny”. We can wax poetic for eons about how and why and this and that, but in the end these atrocities DID happen and there is no denying them. It’s the lack of reckoning of these crimes against humanity by this country and its citizens that is the most disturbing. We owe those sacrificed souls EVERYTHING. We are indebted to them for our entire way of life, and in my opinion, they deserve our honor, acknowledgement, and atonement.
We consider ourselves more evolved now, we ended slavery, we had a civil rights movement, and more and more. Yet we turn a blind eye to children in cages at the border right now. We ignore whistleblower claims of forced sterilizations via hysterectomies to women held in these human-rights violating camps ( https://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2020/09/18/allegations-forced-sterilization-ice-detention-evoke-long-legacy-eugenics ). Many of us blindly float blissfully through a privileged life as if nothing, and that’s fine, you have every right to, “free country” and all. But this is a moment where I believe that we must look inward – into our own selves, into the history of the country we live in – for the sake of the future, our children, and humanity. We are living through a paradigm shift that will take up a chapter or more in future history books – where do you stand?
Like many of you, the social upheaval and civil rights movements of this summer were eye opening on many levels. While I consider myself someone who is very well read and up to speed on racial injustice, having experienced some form of it myself my whole life (but not nearly to the same level as Black Americans), I gained a whole new, deeper level of understanding these past few months. By being open to information and honest with myself about where I stood, I was able to allow this in and break down the veneer of falsehoods we’ve been fed. If you haven’t already experienced this, I invite you to do it, it’s quite enlightening….and much more productive than a surface level hashtagging observation of what it is to be Black or a person of color or an Indigenous person in the United States of America.
I’m not trying to convince you to vote for the Biden/Harris ticket. Our political system is extremely flawed, and the 2 party system is part of that dysfunction. I’m an independent and consider all options before voting. However, it is the current charlatan-in-chief and his sycophants that are dancing with fascism and it is terrifying when you compare what is happening here to Nazi Germany in the 1930s leading up to WWII. I always wondered how the Germans could have allowed the rise of Hitler to happen, and now we are witnessing parallels of it firsthand. The system in the United States is not off the rails by somehow becoming racially oppressive…it was designed that way from the beginning…and playing into these flaws by flaming the fires of fascism is extremely dangerous. Make no mistake about it, democracy is at stake.
The tweet threads embedded below were written by a man named Jared Yates Sexton. He is a scholar, author, and professor. I had been searching for a way to communicate my research to people and came across his work. These threads were the most succinct and clear explanation to me of what is/was happening and what could happen here given the current state of affairs. What he shares is a US history you will not find in whitewashed, revisionist, propagandized history books.
If you read his whole book, there’s even more there – he touches on many hidden, disturbing US history facts – each of which warrant their own books and dissertations. The bottom line is that there is a very unnerving, hard to accept history of the US that is tough to reconcile from any angle.
Regardless of whether you’re an immigrant, 1st generation, or come from a long history of people on this land, we’ve all inherited this cancer and the first step to healing is to acknowledge there was and still is a very deeply ingrained plague of racism in this country. It is more than just systemic, it is embedded into the DNA and soul of this country.
The foundation our society was built upon is rotten to the core and the only way to clean it up is to admit it’s there and face the reckoning head-on. If it means we tear down the facade of fraudulent justice, fake truths, and sterilized/aggrandized white savior stories we like to believe so we can sleep well at night, then that’s what needs to happen.
If you’ve already voted, no worries, just educate yourselves on this so you know what is going on. Fascism thrives on ignorance. This election, regardless of who wins, is just the beginning. The reckoning is coming – how it plays out is up to us. Look into your hearts and find compassion for your fellow humans…ALL of them…and that will be the path to salvation and hopefully a healing.
Please note that I’m also not going to get into any debates about this with anyone – I’m presenting the information for you to digest – do your own research, swallow it, deny it, whatever you want. But I’m not trying to debate anyone. That being said, if you do have any verifiable/factual refutations of the historical facts in his threads, feel free to post it here for my own perusal. I’ve vetted much (but not all) of the historical facts Mr. Sexton has presented here and they are verifiable and accurate. He does inject his opinions, of course, he’s clearly not objective in that respect, but the history itself is true from what I’ve gathered. If you have any comments or questions about what’s in Mr. Sexton’s threads, go to the original twitter threads and you can ask him directly.
I’m merely a conduit of truth to pass along what I believe is the primary issue in the US (and much of the world at large, to be honest) that almost ALL other issues stem from – the opinion that skin color somehow determines one’s value – it’s generational, it is sickening, and it will only stop if WE stop it TOGETHER.
True equality can never happen unless that is gone. Once we heal this, many other societal issues will fix themselves and fall into place, that I can promise you.
If you got this far, thank you for reading. Best of luck to you all and hope we are all still standing after this election cycle is all said and done.
Stay safe and healthy.
NOTE: You have to click on the tweets below to take you to the FULL THREAD of tweets on twitter.com that are 20-30 tweets long. Or you can view PDFs where I’ve linked here
FIRST THREAD: How the Confederacy Survived the Civil War
SECOND THREAD: Trumpism IS Fascism
I’m very honored and excited to announce that I was chosen as a The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award recipient this year!
To read more about the Impact Award, you can visit their website here:
The grant from the Roddenberry Foundation will towards creating my new non-profit organization, “Cultural Cornucopia – Ethnic Voices on the Page”. I’ve got a basic website landing page up with links to social media: https://culturalcornucopia.org – Please follow the accounts to keep up with the organization as I put all the pieces together and get it going.
I want to share how this all came down, especially during these extraordinary, tumultuous ties. So, I applied to the foundation’s website just before their deadline several months ago. I received an email a few weeks ago about being selected, just as the civil unrest and protests went into full swing. I was speechless at the confluence of it all. It’s a first step towards my push to change the system from the inside by supporting ethnically diverse storytellers. If true diversity and inclusion are going to make it onto our screens, stages, and pages, we need to champion diverse writers and creators. This is what Cultural Cornucopia intends to do.
Why did I decide to do this?
As a first generation American actor and writer of mixed ethnicity, the lack of cultural representation throughout all facets of the entertainment industry is something that has irked me since I was a child. Rarely, if ever, seeing stories and characters that related directly to me and my diverse friends created a dissonance within me that I still struggle to reconcile. Especially when those rare appearances were stereotypes, or worse, complete misrepresentation playing into prejudices of a myopic perspective.
I’ve been racially profiled on many occasions, which I believe is a result of ignorance largely due to this lack of cultural spectrum in media. The only way to combat this is to have more diverse voices creating content and telling stories. The America of today and beyond is a cornucopia of cultures and ethnicities and we’re way overdue for our entertainment to accurately reflect this wonderful array of diversity.
Both my parents were immigrants, in an interracial marriage. With my odd couple parents in the 1980s steering me through the trials and tribulations of childhood in the American midwest where I grew up, I often felt alienated. There was no outlet where I could truly escape to that related to me in a cathartic way in terms of film, tv, theatre. I eventually rejected my heritage for many years. I tried so hard to “fit in” by assimilating as much as I could. I would show them I could be one of the good ‘ole boy Americans, despite my unconventional pedigree.
Little did I know back then that my diversity was actually my greatest strength. It took me awhile to realize this, but I’m here now and I’m so passionate about telling stories from my particular background as well as encouraging and cultivating other culturally diverse stories.
This is my “Be The Change” skin in the game. What’s yours? Let’s get a conversation going about how we can contribute to #diversity, especially in media/entertainment. Feel free to comment on this post or any of the social media account posts.
Thank you for your support! ✌🏽👍🏽
#BeTheChange #theater #diversitymatters #diversityandinclusion #diversityisourstrength 💪🏽✊🏽🙌🏽
Growing up in quintessential Midwestern America as a child of ethnically diverse immigrants I would often get asked where I’m from. Being 1st generation mixed ethnicity American, I was always aware that I was being perceived as “different”, so it was never much of a surprise. “St. Louis, Missouri!” I would proudly answer, to which they’d inevitably follow up with, “No, but where are you really from?” I quickly learned this was code for, “What is your ethnicity?” It’s something I eventually embraced by illuminating my unique ancestry with pride while attributing the persistent probes to curiosity and not solely because of the color of my skin or atypical appearance, despite having had run-ins with racial discrimination throughout my life.
When I decided to live my dream of becoming an actor and moved to LA in the mid-2000s, I found myself digging through casting breakdowns attempting to see what roles I could fit. I’d frequently come across the term “All-American” and would think to myself, “I’m from the Midwest and 100% American!“ and enthusiastically submit for it. It wasn’t until I went to a casting workshop at the Screen Actor’s Guild a few years later that I learned it meant: white dude, usually with blonde hair, blue eyes, grew up near a cornfield.
To me, “All-American” meant the cornucopia of beautiful shades of people mixed with the melting pot of cultures they come from.
This 1950s era idea of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ America is something I didn’t think resonated or existed anymore, yet that outdated go-to terminology persists as standard in the entertainment industry decades later.
Next were the many meetings with potential representation and career consultations with agents and managers. Some would comment on my exotic look and how that’s “IN” or “NOT IN” at various moments. Others would say I have a great “leading man” look and vibe, but I’m “TOO ETHNIC” to play a leading man and not “charactery” enough to play the available ethnic roles.
My very existence did not fit whatever stereotype the entertainment industry had deemed fashionable at the moment for “ethnic types”.
With determination, I brushed it off as much as I could and moved onward by honing my skills, cultivating my own and seeking out interesting, culturally diverse projects.
When people try to guess my ethnic background, most guess Native American. Others guess South American, Italian, Persian, South Asian, Eastern European, Gypsy, and I’ve even gotten Inuit a few times. “You’re so lucky, you can play almost anything!” my lovely supportive thespian friends would encourage. And they’re right, I can basically morph into quite a few ethnicities, meaning a ton of diverse characters to play, including American. It’s exhilarating to research characters from vastly varied backgrounds and immerse myself into those cultures.
I guess that’s the great part of being “Ethnically Ambiguous”, the latest coined term the industry has bestowed upon the uncategorizable.
I’ve indeed portrayed Native American warriors, Persian generals, Jesus, Moses, Egyptian Pharaohs, Argentinian, Italian, Croatian, French, Georgian, Armenian, East Indian, the list goes on and yes, I’ve also played various American roles of assorted backgrounds. And while I’m very grateful to have worked on every one of those projects, very few of these roles have been on mainstream network television and studio films – it’s mostly been independent projects by filmmakers who have stepped outside the box with progressive, open minded, creative casting.
With recent movements and awareness focusing on diversity in the entertainment industry, such as “Oscars so White” and the blowback on several failed blockbuster films that have been guilty of the long running Hollywood whitewashing epidemic, the landscape is changing. While we still have a ways to go, progress is important to acknowledge and it seems we are on the precipice of a paradigm shift in terms of diversity. I’m quite hopeful for the future, and believe we can and will get there, but it will require action on all fronts.
The best way for film and television to become a better representation of the population is for diverse storytellers to work their way into the inner workings of content creation and get their culturally diverse stories told.
The Anglo-based and “white savior” tales have been recycled so many times that society is starving for fresh, thought-provoking, cultural content and the numbers certainly prove it. Charles D. King and his nascent company MACRO are trailblazing this movement. He and his team are living proof that it is up to us to make it happen. Writers, directors, producers making conscious, concerted efforts to diversify stories that actually represent what our modern world looks like and is interested in. It’s why I delved into filmmaking and writing and have several stories in development in various formats.
— Nevin Millan Ⓥ (@nevinmillan) October 31, 2017
Ultimately, the ideal would be that we get to a place where actors are not cast in roles based on filling ethnicity checkboxes, but rather based on their capability to inhabit the essence of the role. This, of course, excludes projects such as historical, biopic, etc., where the ethnicity may require a specific verisimilitude.
The point is, true color blind casting focuses on the spirit of the character the actor creates, not the color of their skin or their bone structure and not cross checking a played out list of stereotypes. Hopefully future generations will enjoy that level of ubiquitous open-mindedness.
I’m optimistic that we are moving towards a more conscious, aware environment with women empowerment and diversity on all levels of the spectrum. But more importantly, the cascading effect it will have on culture and humanity as a whole is even more paramount as we move towards acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity in our globalized melting pot.
Storytelling played such a fundamental role in humankind’s evolution into civilization that it’s up to us storytellers to get this right for the sake of the future.