First, congratulations on your well-deserved Academy Award. Second, thank you for breathing new life to a volatile political issue at an event that has become as safe as glitter. It was wonderful to see you reading from a note instead of reciting from memory, so that no message would be lost for the short amount of time you were allowed to deliver an acceptance speech. After all, your message was urgent and you had the whole world for an audience, millions all over the world, many of whom were gays and people of color. Like me and my friend, both gay, both men of color, both immigrants, you know, the ones you claimed to have "fought for:"
"It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
It's time for all the women in America -- and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now.
I understood your intentions. I grew up in a household full of women. You were speaking for my mother, my sister, my aunts, my niece, and all the other women around me. They taught me early on about feminism, without having to sit me down and push for a political agendum with a placard or a t-shirt, but instead, by letting me be witness to their struggle for crumbs that fall their way. I saw gender inequality growing up in Manila, watching my mother juggle several low paying jobs to raise a family. I saw gender inequality working in New York, as many women around me hit the glass ceiling of organizations I worked for. I owe my life, my way of thinking, my activism, my political perspective to all the women who raised and taught me. I learned to understand the core of equal rights and equal pay. I understand the need to remind people that such inequality still exists. There is nothing I want more than the women of my life, especially those who have had children and are aging, to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
But I also know and understand, in my years of living in America, that equal rights for men and women don't necessarily translate to equal rights for gay people and people of color. In this fight for justice, there are many bandwagons of issues, all of them connected while the human rights music plays until they break apart like years of rusty chains once certain rights are achieved for some people. The question becomes, whose bandwagons are left, and who is going to fight for the rest?
This is when your statement -- "and all the gay people and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now" becomes the rust the breaks the chains. The fight for human rights for all shouldn't be mutually exclusive. You don't have to call on us separately to fight for gender equality. We are not in the corner of the room waiting to be brought into the fight. We sit front row, us -- gay people and people of color -- because gender inequality is our problem too, perhaps more of our problem as it can't be separated from the weight of racism and homophobia. Many of us, like my friend and I, sit in multiple bandwagons where all the other ISMs splinter most. It is difficult to prioritize one issue over the other, even if it seems, for instance, for the undocumented, that the fight for immigration legalization precedes all other fight for equal rights.
Honestly, I waited for someone to make a political statement at Oscars night. I am grateful for your courage, despite the possible backlash of making one's political agenda public. We live in such an imperfect world run by a few white men. Thus, it's hard not to see white privilege while watching the Oscars, its movies about white lives, and the awards that go to whiteness. It's hard not to interpret your statement as a white feminist remark. It's hard not see Sean Penn's "greencard" joke as offensively racist. The institution that gave you the award is in itself the fire breathing dragon that needs slaying, if not tamed soon enough. At the very least, you can make a movie next year about white women and gender inequality and have the Oscars rally around you. It is never the same for gay people and people of color, as evidenced by the lack of color in this year's Oscar movies.
The bandwagon in which you sit are miles away from the rest of us. Perhaps this is where the real conversation about social justice begins, how we can all sit in the same bandwagon so we can travel together to fight for our many causes. There will be no need to insinuate indebtedness, or who goes first, next, or last. We can't help you break the chain of oppression, if the rest of us will be left behind. Not now, not anymore. Un pueblo unido.
Nunca Sera Vencido,