Tyler Perry Accuses Black Critics of “Reverse Racism” and Lee Daniels Dismisses #OscarsSoWhite Advocates as “Reprehensible”

Tyler Perry Lee Daniels

Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels

In the same week that a Denzel Washington interview with BET, during which colorism in casting in the film and TV biz was discussed, led to much confusion and debate about what the veteran actor’s words on the issue meant, as he found himself on the receiving end of criticism (whether legitimate or unfounded)… Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels are also in penalty boxes for somewhat related comments made during interviews they gave – Perry to the AP (Associated Press) and Daniels to the New York Times.

First Perry, who launched his first scripted TV series with an all-white starring cast (his name is already on 4 different series on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, each with all-black, or mostly black starring casts), has had to react to a lot criticism (mostly from black audiences) of his TLC series titled “Too Close to Home.”

His words to the AP yesterday: “That’s totally reverse racism, because it was coming from African American people… I don’t know if it was because they thought I should only be giving jobs to black people. Well, I think that’s ridiculous. If you look at the hundreds of black people I’ve given jobs to and even the ones I’ve made millionaires, people of color, I just think it’s unfair. I’m just finding out more as I travel the country and world, the more I meet people, we’re all the same… We all got the same dramas. So I’m not seeing color as much as I did anymore in the sense of our stories. Our stories are so similar.”

Maybe Mr. Perry needs an education on this so-called “reverse racism” phenomenon as some have labeled it, and the systemic relationship of power, before he uses it to support an argument.

That said, he is correct that he most certainly can give jobs to whomever he wants to; and since his entry in the early 2000s, he has definitely hired more black people (film and TV) than maybe any other black content creator of his specific industry stature, as a member of the so-called black Hollywood elite. Spike Lee might be the only one who trumps Perry, when you consider how long he’s been in the business, and the 2-dozen or so films he’s directed, as well as those he’s produced for others – many of them grads of NYU where Spike lectures. Although I don’t know if I’d necessarily consider Spike Lee a member of the black Hollywood elite. And today you have people like Ava DuVernay embracing and actually putting into practice the notion of inclusivity. But one thing critics of Perry and his work cannot say is that he hasn’t supported black talent, in front of and behind the camera, for many years.

However, when he makes charges of “reverse-discrimination” by African Americans, and claims that he’s not “seeing color as much,” he presents a defensive stance that also demonstrates a lack of awareness and privilege.

As for Lee Daniels, in a profile published on the New York Times’ website on December 28, as his new Fox series “Star” premieres (which has a white female lead – “I wanted to show a white girl that had some swag” as “part of the healing process… I wanted white people to feel cool. I wanted them to not be made fun of. We are one”), the writer/director/producer was “sent into a fit of frustration” says the article, when the #OscarsSoWhite protests was brought up by the interviewer. His apparently fuming response to the controversy was: “Go out and do the work… Oscars so white! So what? Do your work. Let your legacy speak and stop complaining, man. Are we really in this for the awards? If I had thought that way — that the world was against me — I wouldn’t be here now… These whiny people that think we’re owed something are incomprehensible and reprehensible to me. I don’t expect acknowledgment or acceptance from white America. I’m going to be me.”

Daniels’ words obviously drew much criticism across social media, but he’s certainly no stranger to controversy, so I doubt that he’s losing much sleep over any of it, especially when you already have one hit show (“Empire”), and a potential second hit show in “Star” premiering.

But Daniels isn’t the first to share these views on #OscarSoWhite; recall Anthony Mackie’s “We’re [black people] being lazy on our game” comment 5 years ago that caused quite a stir, as he further explained that, in essence, black creatives and executives at all levels needed to step up, come together and do something about the near-dismal state of things at the time; and Morgan Freeman couldn’t be bothered at all in the same year when he said “I think we need to get over that shit” after he was asked about the lack of diversity (specifically black talents) during awards season during a BET interview. “How many Chinese do you see?” he asked the interviewer; “You don’t see them out marching and shit. Oh God please. I think … We need to get over it, that’s all.” Needless to say, those comments didn’t sit well with many. As I recall, it was the subject of one of the most popular posts on S&A in 2011, drawing 100s of comments.

But Freeman did seem to soften his tone a bit this year, when asked in February by Variety about #OscarsSoWhite. His more measured response was: “I can understand why the noise came up. But to me, it’s just noise. If we’re going to talk about diversity in the film industry, we don’t need to start with the Academy Awards. We need to start somewhere way back — with the producers, the directors, the casting agents, the writers. It should be an open field. I think in today’s world, if you look out there, that’s what would reflect today’s America.”

There have been a few others who’ve publicly echoed Lee Daniels’ thoughts, although they haven’t been as pugnacious about it, essentially, as he does, labeling #OscarsSoWhite advocates as “whiny,” “incomprehensible” and “reprehensible” people. Mighty venomous and quite unnecessary words there sir, for a significant movement (one that went mainstream and actually led to real change) that just wants a very influential industry and its product to reflect the people who effectively support it. Or maybe he doesn’t know what those words mean, or just isn’t aware of how powerful his words might be. “Reprehensible”? Obviously he’s not interested in engaging with the movement in any way.

Thoughts on any or all of the above?

In closing, I’ll leave you with a video clip (the late Sam Greenlee’s advise to black filmmakers) we’ve shared many times on this blog over the years:


  1. I kind of agree with Daniels. Who gives a damn about these awards? We all know they are a popularity contest and not based off merit. Just look at the people they nominate year after year and only include maybe one or two foreign actors. The Academy makes most of its money from that awards show and so they do like the lazy ass production studios do, they go for name recognition over talent. So yeah, what is the point of whining over “OscarsSoWhite?” Oscars don’t do much for Black creatives careers but say that you made white people cry and feel bad for Black folk.

    What we need to worry about more so is what Viola Davis said: Opportunity. Opportunities in front of the camera, behind the camera, and being the decision makers in the industry. The Oscars, and any award show really, should be the bottom of the to do list.

    • When people say the Oscars are a popularity contest, I know they don’t have the slightest clue of what they’re talking about. That would be you sir. Who the hell was Hillary Swank when she won her first Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry (1999). Did anyone know the supporting actor who won last year for Bridge of Spies (2015). You’re wasting your time screaming this ignorance. Instead, you need to really do the research and dig deeper. This ain’t the Grammys. The Oscars would not only nominate but would award an unknown film with unknown talent, like Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012).

  2. “so I doubt that he’s losing much sleep over any of it”

    HELLO!!! And neither am I.

    In fact, I can’t be the only one tired of these “race bait” articles? Damn, especially in light of the post “THE TOP 20 GROSSING “BLACK FILMS” OF 2016 AND WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT THE YEAR…” I think we all should take a deep breath and then ask the question “Is it colorism, racism, reverse discrimination, Tyler Perry, Denzel’s or Lee Daniel’s fault that list is so dismal a representation of the co-called black cinema in 2016?

    Yeah, take a good look at that list and then answer the question “WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT US?

    Listen, as one who simply loves watching movies, I am tired of the petty finger pointing. In the last 75 years, since the first black face starred in an American Television sitcom, we’ve been pointing fingers, criticizing and blaming our actors and filmmakers on what they’re doing wrong.

    And look at that current list one more time… let’s get on that train to Ride Along 2, on our way to Barber Shop 2, so we can wave at Madea and BOO!

    Anyway, again, “Is it colorism, racism, reverse discrimination, Tyler Perry, Denzel’s or Lee Daniel’s fault that the list is so dismal a representation of the co-called black cinema in 2016?

  3. Despite how Perry and Daniels’ comments were received, there is some truth to both comments.
    Perry is not a PhD so I don’t fault him for his misuse and misunderstanding of “reverse racism”. Of course, he could read a book and educate himself on how ridiculous that sounds and find a better way to address the criticism. But again, not everyone has a advanced level of understanding around the problematics of that term – and they don’t have too. I appreciate Perry for what he’s doing in terms of class representations on television. No one else – except Daniels’ maybe – is doing that. I haven’t seen a “trailer park” drama on TV before. Like it or not, Perry is making inroads.
    I actually agree with Daniels’ comments at it’s base. And at base level, he and Mr. Greenlee agree. Why seek white people’s approval? However, he should not disrespect the participants in the #OSW campaign. Black Hollywood is a community like any other black community. Dude, Respect the Block. I don’t mean to say that as superficial or make assumptions, but black people make community where ever we are. And we are members of communities (plural). Daniels should respect his community and their concerns.
    Black people, MAKE THE FILMS YOU LIKE. The only validation you need is from your audience (who ever they might be). I’m a black creative, and I write for black people. No matter their background, I write for them. There are some universal themes that all black people can relate to, non-blacks as well.
    Don’t seek validation from a body that was not created for you or represents you.

    • I just watched the Washington comments, here: http://www.bet.com/celebrities/news/2016/12/23/denzel-washington-fences.html
      And he ends on something my grandparents used to say: “If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.” His point was for people to stay ready and do the work. My only issue – and it is truly the only issue I had with his comments – is that he addressed only one side of the issue. He addressed someone giving people an opportunity instead of black people creating opportunities for themselves. It’s not just about doing the work. I think we are “doing the work”. What we are not doing however is making sure we create opportunities. It demands what Mr. Greenlee suggested, going guerrilla style and not asking permission. And it also demands for black people to create opportunities and do more projects for, by, and about black people – the spectacular and the ordinary lives of black people. That’s what’s happening with Daniels’ and Perry’s projects as well as projects like Greenleaf, Atlanta, Insecure, and Queen Sugar. Don’t blame each other build from what we have as a collective, and view it that way – as a collective.

      • My bad “Guest”… I don’t have premium channels. #Struggle. But my point remains.

      • Shameless is based on the British version of the shameless. And unlike blacks-whites don’t have issues with seeing a variant of their lives.
        We seem to do-at least until recently. When folks tried to create stuff that didn’t showcase black dysfunction-it got ripped to shreds by blacks for any little thing from light skinned girls to having a father in the story who was not a thug.

        • Ghost,
          The reason why ‘whites’ don’t have an issue with seeing variance in the depiction of their lives is because they’ve always – since the inception of media on this continent – been given the privilege to depict themselves as diverse universal subjects. ‘Blacks’ on the other hand have suffered through centuries of racist representations that reinforce white supremacist beliefs about black people. So the ‘no brainer’ here is that black people have not always had the privilege to create media works by, for, and about themselves. We are spectacular and ordinary, dysfunctional and ideal, shameful and shameless. And now we have the platforms to depict ourselves as such. My point still remains. We should not blame each other for any lack that may be present, it’s just a way to make excuses an not innovate a solution. What I hope we will do is create more opportunities for each other – regardless of whether we will be rewarded for them by mostly elitist-white-male-senior voting bodies. And many black creatives are already doing this.

  4. It’s human nature that we feel honored to have our work held up in high regard, so why shouldn’t the Oscars be a milestone in the life of an actor, director, producer, etc. as long as it’s not the be-all and end-all of their existence?

    • Agreed. First, it amuses me when people say “the Oscars don’t matter” when that award is clearly considered to be THE highest recognition for the film industry. Saying the Oscars don’t matter is like saying a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup and NBA Championship don’t matter in the football, hockey and basketball industries. #OscarsSoWhite was not about lack of awards; it was about lack of nominations and opportunities. And although it was erroneously presented as a black vs white thing by Chris Rock and others, the bigger issue is the lack of opportunities for all people of color and for women. Second, I agree with some of the argument some black filmmakers need to up their game. I would define that as making films that deal with non-racial topics or finding more creative ways to deal with racial topics. I think it’s important to make movies like Selma but I think we should also see ourselves making movies like Whiplash, Moonrise Kingdom or The Nice Guys. These are stories about a music student, an overzealous boy scout and a P.I. & a bruiser and any of the characters could have been non-white. I think the blacks who get the few filmmaking opportunities should make more movies about atypical professions and unusual situations starring people who happen to be non-white. Not until black filmmakers branch out from making movies about being black will they get more recognition from the industry. Third, I agree that Perry’s use of “reverse racism” is stupid as are Daniels’ comments about being accepted by white America (see my Super Bowl comparison.) If anyone’s “whiny,” it’s Daniels.

      • I rarely agree with anyone here but you MARIE might be that rare breed. Yes, I agree. The only thing that bothers me is the notion that the absurd #OscarSoWhite hashtag was made as a cry to the film industry’s lack of opportunities for non-whites and women. I disagree with that. If true, it would start as soon as the first quarter of the year ends and we see about 100 films released hardly starring people of color. It’s all about the OSCARS and I think that it is a misplaced accusation. Having the word “Oscar” in it puts attention on the thing that has NOTHING to do with the lack of opportunities for black people. Because, really, it is about black people, not just non-whites, another misconception. Inarritu, two time Best Director winner, isn’t white at all. But besides that, we’re in agreement.

  5. Perry, Daniels, Mackie, Freeman, I agree wholeheartedly with all of them. Bottom line: the Academy cannot nominate what doesn’t exist. And the films just cannot exist, they have to be at the level of the best of the best. This year won’t be a problem with films like Fences and Moonlight. But the years that inspired the stupid #OscarsSoWhite hashtag didn’t have films that came close to the greatness of those aforementioned films. So, again, if the great film featuring black talent in front of and behind the camera doesn’t exist then yes, people need to put in work and stop whining.

    Black people always want a handout. Meanwhile, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag is inappropriate as both years had a Mexican Director win the Oscar, one who doesn’t even speak great English. Wait, that would be 3 years in a row a Mexican director won the Oscar. Sorry. My bad. I almost forgot.

    And this:

    “quite unnecessary words there sir, for a significant movement (one that went mainstream and actually led to real change) that just wants a very influential industry and its product to reflect the people who effectively support it.”

    …is total b.s. If this is true then the hashtag would be #HollywoodSoWhite or something like that, not the Oscars. Like Morgan Freeman said, the problem starts with the producers, directors, casting agents, writers, not the freaking OSCARS!

    You think this year is going to be different because of that stupid hashtag??? If you do then you’re hopelessly deluded. No, NO! It will be because Denzel Washington, Barry Jenkins, even Pharrell Williams, and everyone who worked with them to get their films to the big screen, they all had put in that work!!! BELIEVE THAT. If not for those three films, the Oscar nominees would be all white again, especially if all they had from the black community was the ultra-lame The Birth of A Nation.

    • Just wanted to point out that not every film that is Oscar nominated is “great.” War Horse, Joy, American Sniper and many more have not been the greatest of films. But they starred famous white people or were directed by famous “great” white directors. White people and their projects never have to be the best. I don’t think it should be the same for black people either.

      Oh and the Oscars. The hashtag has more to do with virality and pomp and circumstance. Oscarsowhite is a great phrase. Think of the Oscars as an tv show and not just an award show. The Academy of Arts and Sciences makes its entire budget from the sponsors its gets for the program. If the ratings continue to slide what will they do for funding? Since people of color are the future of America and the Oscars wants to maintain its relevancy it has to get its ratings up and get people of color to watch. Which literally means getting people color to be nominated. Maybe streaming as well to get younger viewers. Their 18-49 demo is skewing too old. I agree they can’t do anything about producing casting etc. but they need the ratings. Otherwise the Oscars will be a thing of the past.

      Oh and lastly, people are not whining. Unless you have access to funding and can greenlight projects you are just another ignorant person on the internet who has no understanding of the financing involved in a getting a movie made. From development to packaged, financed, produced, filmed, post-production, distributed and marketed. None of that is free. So in the La La land that you live in everything is easy, but for the writers, directors, producers and actors nothing is that easy.

      Mexican American’s are not black and which of his films STAR a Latin actor? Which? Can’t win without a white man in the lead. How amazing.

      Variety. Indiewire. The Hollywood Reporter. The Mary Sue. Deadline. Are your friends read them and the comment section. And start reading movie reviews or listening to good film criticism podcasts it will teach you something.

  6. I kind of agree with Tyler Perry but I wouldn’t call it reverse racism but I understand his frustration. Which black person hasn’t been frustrated by the intense “criticism” that black people have on damn near anything? And Tyler has given more jobs to black actors and black film community than ANY other black american director/producer (that’s including Spike Lee, no offense to him).
    I felt like Lee Daniels was just rude and my dislike for him just grows. Even watching interviews about him talking about race it’s like I understand what he’s trying to say but how he says it is just so awful. Him calling supporters of OscarsSoWhite whiny and reprehensible is to call people like Will and Jada Smith whiny and reprehensible. As one of the few successful black directors out there in Hollywood you would think he would be a little more careful in insulting his own community’s beliefs and struggles.

    • Who can knock Tyler Perry? He kept more black people working in Film and television than almost anyone probably in the history of Hollywood. Black people like to complain but wonder why their blessings are being blocked. They preach that attitude of gratitude but never practice it.

      • Drop the mic NO BRAINER… AND THANK YOU!

        I’ve said the same many times, Tyler and Oprah has done more for the black film community than anyone else in history. Granted, Tyler may not be the best director, however there’s much we can learn from him and Oprah on gratitude and the outdated custom of giving back and reaching back to those less fortunate than you.

        To that point there’s an idiom that says “in order to keep it, you must give it away.

        • Granted, Tyler Perry isn’t a good director but no one can deny the money he helped circulate through “Black Hollywood,” the spotlight he placed on the community. Same with Oprah. This comment he made was justified. People need to leave him alone before he gets bitter and jaded.

  7. I see nothing wrong with Tyler Perry expanding and doing all white drama shows! He has already done 3 or 4 drama series with all black casts. Now, if he had done a horror, sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, thriller, suspense/mystery, animated series with all white casts, I could understand the hate because black actors are rarely ever represented as lead actors in those genres! The way I see it, is Tyler Perry is spreading his garbage shows around to people of all colors! Homeboy wants to expand in the widest and whitest market possible!

  8. As for Coon Daniels, he needs to STFU for 2017! Now that Coon Daniels has a film that grossed over 100 million at the B.O. and two TV shows under his belt, he believes he has arrived on the red carpet in Hollywood and now disagrees that black actors/directors shouldn’t complain about Oscars so white! However, it wasn’t that long ago, when Coon Daniels was an unknown and struggling indie filmmaker and was desperate to get any award nomination let alone an Oscar nom. I can recall Moni’que saying when it came to promoting Precious, Coon Daniels was one of the main people pushing her to campaign for an Oscar nomination for the film. Moni’que also said that Coon was very upset at her because she didn’t thank him during her Oscar acceptance speech! Just look at this Coon now! It’s almost hard to believe this phony is even the same person!

  9. Devil’s Advocate: Re: Tyler Perry.
    Other side of the story is TP wouldn’t even be in the position to do an all white show if it weren’t for his 95% black audience base. They supported the plays, the movies, the tv shows regardless of its substandard quality mostly [or solely] because of his use of majority black/all black casts. Now that they’ve made him a millionaire and a household name, he decides to switch to the other side. I’m sure his fans felt played by TP for expecting him to be as loyal to his base as his base was to him.

    On a real note, who the heck is gonna watch this show? As soon as whites see that it’s a Tyler Perry production you know they’re going to turn the channel. The base fans are pissed and won’t watch unless it goes from all white to majority black . . . and that just might happen. And what the heck happened to TLC? I remember when it was The Learning Channel and had mostly educational programs. They should really change the name.

    • Don’t matter, in a 100 years years they will not be studying the film’s of TP. And note his initials stand for something else.

    • -JMAC
      I’m not even a fan of Tyler Perry’s films but one thing I know is Tyler would never abandon his black audience! He is just expanding to new territories! After all Tyler is a business man and like all business men, they want to expand their markets after they growth in level off in their core markets! Now, if he was abandoning his core black audience for an all white audience, I could see the brouhaha but as long as Tyler always makes films for his black audience, he’s good!

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