"We're still centering certain kinds of people and maybe, in tiny fractions, allowing other people to the table," Kerry Washington said

By Robyn Merrett
June 23, 2020 03:50 PM
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Kerry Washington
Leon Bennett/Getty

When it comes to enacting real change in Hollywood, Kerry Washington believes society should dissect the "language" of inclusivity and diversity.

While discussing the entertainment industry in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery on the podcast Hollywood the Sequel, Washington, 43, shared that while she's hopeful for the future, more work needs to be done.

"We look at ourselves to get better and do better," the mother of two said when asked what she hopes will come out of the most recent movement We See You, White American Theater, which calls out racism in the arts. "When we say we're committed to diversity — it's diverse from what? We're still centering whiteness as the most important thing and inviting diversity around that."

"Or when we talk about inclusivity, there's still an in and an out. So, we're still centering certain kinds of people and maybe in tiny fractions allowing other people to the table. There's just so much of it that needs to reexamined. The simple answer is ... I hope a lot of good [comes out of it] and that we can see each other, and have courage to make room for each other."

Washington shared that although the world has seemingly been awakened by protests against systematic racism, "not much has changed for black people in the last couple of weeks."

"There's a different response to it," Washington continued. "The sentiments of the moment that feel revelatory — I don't feel like those feelings belong to me."

"This is not a moment of revelation, but I'm watching the revelation around me for people, and I'm grateful that the world is showing up for black lives in a different way, but this is what has been the reality — this level of danger and anger and fear. Maybe trauma and lack of safety — this has been the reality of Black Americans since there were Black Americans."

Still, Washington admitted "It feels for me like something is different."

"We have to be willing to look at ourselves, regardless of what industry we're in," she continued.

Kerry Washington
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

As for how else Hollywood can be better as a result of this movement, Washington said: "I think a more radical acceptance of anti-racist society, policies and culture."

"I think what people are realizing is that it's not enough to just not be racist — that because our institution were built in the fabric of racism, because our country was born with Black Americans being designated a fraction of a human being —  it's not enough to just not be racist, we have to be actively antiracist and for that desire to come from a deep understanding that we all deserve full rights of humanity."

"Yes, all lives matter, but accepting to be in an anti-racist society, we affirm that Black lives matter. I think people are finally understand that and our institutions need to understand that — not just interpersonal relationships. It's important we're having these conversations at our dinner tables, in our class rooms and in our highest systems of government."

"Systems that are supposedly built for public safety — We have to ask ourselves who we deem the public and who we deem the enemy. I'm hoping that all of this new revelatory reflection lends itself to transformation not just of hearts and minds, but also institutional practices," Washington added.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • •National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.