The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Mo’Nique’s Integrity Throws A Spotlight On Steve Harvey’s Lack Of It
Harvey has shown us time and again his investment in Black capitalism, in catering to the white gaze, and his disdain for Black women
Yesterday, a clip from Steve Harvey’s talk show went viral. In it, he overtalks and chastises Mo’Nique for the way she has spoken out about being disrespected and blacklisted in the entertainment industry, and how Oprah, Lee Daniels, and Tyler Perry have been complicit in derailing the Oscar winner’s career.
“I got labeled as difficult, my husband and I,” she says. “We got labeled as ‘difficult’ because I said one word — and that was ‘no.’ Now I said ‘no’ to some very powerful people…the difficulty came in when people that looked like me, like Oprah, Tyler, Lee Daniels, and I gotta put my brother Steve on the list. Y’all knew that I was not wrong. Each one of you said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’re not wrong.’ And when I heard you go on the air and said, ‘My sister done burned too many bridges, and it’s nothing I can do for her now,’ Steve, do you know how hurt I was?”
“But it’s the way you went about it,” Harvey responds. He has a rationalization at every turn to explain why she is in the wrong in his imagination, rather than acknowledging how he has contributed to her hurt and the narrative about her “difficulty,” a label that often gets assigned to women, especially Black women, in their world.
“Inequality is devastating at its extreme,” Mo’Nique offered. “And when people said, ‘Mo’Nique, do you think calling a boycott was extreme?’ You damn right. But isn’t inequality extreme? So, we’ve got to get to a place where we’re unafraid to say it out loud.”
“When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth… This is the money game!” was Harvey’s retort. “The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.”
“Before the money game, it’s called the integrity game and we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money,” she stated plainly.
But Harvey shouted over her, “If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble. I can not for the sake of my integrity, stand up here, and let everybody that’s counting on me, crumble so that I can make a statement. There are ways to win the war in a different way.”
In this exchange, Harvey is admitting that Mo’Nique has been telling the truth all along, but the truth is not what he is concerned with. The truth about the fact that these people actively hurt Mo’Nique, her husband, and their careers, all because she chose to tell them ‘no’, is not his concern—his only concern is that he absolve himself for his own role in the messy situation.
What also gets discussed is Mo’Nique’s attempted boycott of Netflix last year after they offered her a terrible deal for a comedy special and she rightfully accused them of racial and gender bias. She demanded payment equal to what they offered Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock ($20 million) or Amy Schumer ($11 million) were offered. Netflix only offered Mo’Nique $500,000 and asked her to sign a contract that far benefitted them and disadvantaged her and her career.
Monique Judge of The Root summed it up as: “According to the terms presented in the contract Netflix offered Mo’Nique, it would own the copyright of the program and control all exhibition rights. It would own all audio rights. And basically? It would own Mo’Nique… For 12 months after the special premiered, Mo’Nique would not be allowed to tape or negotiate another comedy special with anyone else. When that 12 months was up, Netflix would have dibs on her next comedy special, and she would be able to do one with someone else (HBO, for example) only if Netflix passed first… For 24 months after the special premiered, Mo’Nique would not be able to crack any of the jokes she did in the Netflix special anywhere else, and when the 24 months were up—Netflix would have first dibs on those jokes, too… So basically, Netflix wanted her to take $500,000 to not be able to do what she is in the business of doing in the first place, and she was supposed to be OK with that? Hell no.”
What becomes obvious when you consider all of this, is that Harvey’s gripe with Mo’Nique is not about the money. If it was about the money, he would applaud her for standing up to Netflix for the shitty deal they tried to offer her. He would support her in her endeavor to reassert herself as someone who deserves to be an active player in the entertainment industry. What Harvey doesn’t seem to realize is just how transparent his misogynoir is. He invited a wronged Black professional onto his show, not to create space for her to speak about the ways she has been wronged and unsupported by the industry that continues to prop him up, but to berate her and tell her she has “been a problem” in public. He brought her onto his show to silence her, to prove himself right, and to be applauded by his white audience in the process.
Let’s be clear. Steve Harvey let us know a long time ago exactly what his politics are. He’s spent years opportunistically furthering his career through writing self-help and relationship advice books aimed at Black women and laced with hotepry and misogynoir. During a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he spoke about how he met with President Trump and was apparently shocked at the amount of backlash he received for willingly associating himself with a known white supremacist. He also still maintains a friendship with convicted rapist Bill Cosby and openly admitted that he called to check on him after hearing about his calculated acts of sexual violence. On the 2016 Kings of Comedy tour, he did an obnoxious bit about how he would willingly throw himself into an anti-Black trope for a big enough pay out.
Harvey has shown us time and again his investment in Black capitalism, in catering to the white gaze, and his disdain for Black women. The fact that the best thing he can think to do for poor people is to simply not be one of them—rather than using his millions to tangibly support them—is evidence enough that we shouldn’t be listening to anything he has to say about these matters, and neither should Mo’Nique.