In thirteen years at a southern white Baptist Church and four years at a private white Christian College, I have lost count of the number or times and ways people have lamented “WelL WhAt Do YoU WaNt uS To Do??” when presented with a problem that affects people of color deeply.
In truth, that response is oppressive in its own right. But this post isn't about dissecting why, it's an analysis of a problematic situation and the ways we can learn from it.
When Marvel okayed the Avengers Endgame poster for release they overlooked a glaring error. Danai Gurira's name had been left of the large credits. Although she appeared on the poster with her costars, her name was listed in the minor credits below.
What happened next is a case study for all of us. For makers and managers, it is a story of how to begin a recovery from a disrespectful mistake. For patrons and supporters, it's a study of how to truly be an ally. And for anyone who is totally unsure of why this is a big deal, it's an opportunity to listen and learn.
Fans of Gurira and Marvel alike took to social media to call out this mistake. After all, it had to be a mistake.
There were some who pointed out that the poster did credit Gurira, albeit, not at the top with the other stars. Marvel after acknowledging the error, re released the poster. This time crediting Gurira properly.
What We Should Take Away from This Situation
Here are a few steps that were taken that are worthy of note and the learnings they carry with them.
- In all of the fanfare and excitement, people did not sweep this situation under the rug.
LEARNING: It doesn't matter how big the event, institution, or the circumstance, acknowledge that people with influence have done wrong. Don't put yourself in the Nasser side of injustice.
- People were educated enough on the topic of black female disenfranchisement to call out the pattern of behavior in Hollywood and why this poster could not go unaddressed.
LEARNING: While this situation was about Danai Gurira, it was also bigger than her. The seemingly little mistake had to have been proofed and reviewed by several departments. And because Hollywood has historically underrepresented, undercompensated, and exploited black talent, it matters that this instance is addressed and ended.
- People did not use rationalizations of why it happened to excuse it. They demanded correction. Well some tried.
LEARNING: Marvel did not make the case that because the error wasn't malicious, it didn't hate to be addressed or corrected. Don't be that person who disrespects the receiving party of injustice by making this about what the offender intended. Intent doesn't cancel out what happened.
- Fans didn't stop asking for amends until the situation was resolved.
LEARNING: It's not enough to simply acknowledge that something went wrong. If you are an ally, you push until things are made right.
- Instead of doubling down on their wrong doing Marvel made a new poster.
LEARNING: When confronted with a tough blunder like this, leaders can’t shrug off the seriousness. Don't try to make yourself or the institution the martyr. Make things right.
Although the situation is hyper-specific there are actually a lot of takeaways to dissect from it. What do you think? Did Marvel handle this situation well? I for one thought there should be more to the story.
How can it be handled better in the future? And most importantly, in what ways does this situation challenge and empower you to contribute and see injustices resolved in your own sphere?