Casey Affleck Is White Privilege
The actor has his privilege to thank for the fact he’ll enjoy awards season without worrying about sexual harassment accusations from 2010 being a focal point of his story.
In 2010, two women sued Casey Affleck for sexual harassment while working with him on the movie I’m Still Here. Amanda White, a producer for the movie, said that Affleck physically grabbed her when she rejected him and proceeded to harass her for their time together on set, allegedly instructing a camera operator to flash his genitalia at her. Magdalena Gorka, the movie’s cinematographer, said she was accosted with a “near daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome advances.” Affleck vehemently denied the accusations and settled out of court with the women before anyone could take the stand.
This week Casey Affleck hosted SNL and is the frontrunner for Best Actor at the upcoming Oscars for his performance in Manchester By The Sea.
Now it’s quite possible that the women who accused Affleck of harassment are lying and he is totally innocent. So he’s well within his rights to pursue awards and hosting opportunities under the auspices of someone who was wrongly accused of a crime. The white privilege, however, comes in when you consider that Affleck has reached these new career milestones without hardly having to even acknowledge the accusations that have yet to be disproven or even thoroughly investigated since they were first made public. White privilege is an infinite reservoir of benefit of the doubt with no need to explain or defend actions no matter how repulsive they may be.
And to add some white privilege garnishment on the whole operation, the only people who have been criticized in this whole situation as of late have been black women.
The popular false equivalency being made regarding Affleck is to compare his treatment to that of Nate Parker’s — the The Birth Of A Nation director and star of whose 1999 rape trial resurfaced as his movie was garnering Oscar buzz. I’ve seen far too many articles ask why Parker got treated differently than Affleck only to dismiss the comparison because Parker’s case was criminal and involved actions “far worse” than Affleck’s. The fact is, Parker and Affleck’s cases are apples and oranges and the inclusion of the Parker example has only been used to diminish Affleck’s own allegations by virtue of him being accused of an apparently more harmless form of sexual assault. The whole comparison ignores the fact that what Affleck was accused of doing is deplorable and needs to be addressed on his own merits separate from Parker’s actions.
Another reason for making the Parker/Affleck comparison is to discredit black women and black feminism. The argument is simple in its stupidity: black women were making the rallying cry to have Parker’s past* reexamined and brought to the forefront, yet have been silent about Affleck because they really just hate black men and only target us with their activism. It’s a grand scheme on behalf of black women to silence and discredit the black man. Or something.
That’s bullshit, fam.
Yes it’s true that black women led the charge to hold Parker’s feet to the fire over his past sexual assault allegation and his subsequent handling of the case’s outcome. The furor began on social media thanks to black women and the rest of the media picked up on the story which led to its mainstream reach. But here’s what is happening with Affleck: black women are still bringing his allegations up on social media and writing about them, however the rest of the media is choosing to ignore the groundswell of concern to instead write glowing profiles of Affleck and shower him with praise for his Oscar-worthiness without acknowledging the concerns surrounding whether or not he sexually harassed these women. The lack of coverage about Affleck’s history isn’t an indictment of black women’s mobilization or concern. The lack of coverage is about everyone else preserving Affleck’s privilege.
But let’s say, for argument’s sake that black women have been ignoring Affleck’s past. Since when did it become their responsibility to patrol everyone’s morality? When did black women become our moral vigilantes held to the task of telling us when someone should be held accountable for his or her crimes? We’re always leaning on black women to determine what’s right and who should be held to task in America. That’s not how change is achieved, especially when black women only stand to get the most scrutiny when they do take stands against privilege, patriarchy and racism. Maybe Casey Affleck’s trial in the court of public opinion should be up to white women to enforce this time. Though I’m not sure how much damage that will do to Affleck as the last six weeks have taught us that pussy-grabbing white men poll really well with that demographic.
Casey Affleck will probably enjoy the rest of the Oscar season unencumbered by any attention given to allegations against him. He’ll keep making his media rounds. He’ll keep winning awards and he’ll give a speech at the Oscars about perseverance or something when he wins Best Actor. I’ve seen this act too many times to be truly surprised. Affleck’s impending success and the washing away of his past won’t be due to lack of effort from black women. His ability to skate by will be thanks to the unending, unrelenting, unyielding gift that is white privilege. And Affleck is more than happy to reap its benefits on his way to glory.
*The idea that black women cost Nate Parker an Oscar is the silliest argument out of this whole fiasco. The Birth Of A Nation is a flawed project that’s shot like a high school final exam. Saying that black women bringing up his rape trial kept him from an Oscar is like saying a bad Tinder profile kept me from dating Beyonce. We never had a chance in hell in the first place.