Stonewall discussion brings light to lack of diversity in media

[Nick Cunningham]

In 1969, the Stonewall Inn was the site of the riot that sparked the LGBTQ+ movement.

The Center of Inclusive Excellence held a discussion on the historic riot in observation of Transgender Awarness Week on Thursday in the CIE.

The discussion was led by junior Jace Williams, who uses they and them pronouns.

Williams informed the audience that the Stonewall Inn was a gay bar started by three mobsters in Greenwich Village, New York. The inn was protected by the mafia, and was able to have a liquor license because they bribed police.

Williams said at the time of the riots, homosexuality was illegal due to sodomy laws in every state except for Illinois. There were also clothing laws, designed specifically to keep people from cross-dressing.

“On June 28, 1969 at 1:02 a.m., police did their typical raid,” said Williams. According to them, this was typical of police to do – they would go in, arrest some people and take away the alcohol. “This time, they said no. This time, they didn’t want to be walked on by police.”

Williams explained that a crowd began to grow outside the inn as people were pushed out of the bar. The riot was incited by a woman, believed to be Stormé DeLarverie, who yelled, “Why doesn’t anyone do anything?”

This resulted in people throwing beer cans, bottles and bricks at police, they said.

The raid was led by Deputy Police Inspector Seymour Pine, who later apologized for his part. According to Williams, Pine said if what he did helped gay people, he’s happy.

After showing the trailer for the 2015 film “Stonewall,” Williams opened the floor to discussion.

The group discussed the critical reviews of the movie, as well as the fact that it was “aggressively whitewashed” and “downright offensive.”

Kim Dexter, director of Equal Opportunity, Title IX and ADA Compliance, said “Stonewall” was widely boycotted by the LGBTQ+ community. “That’s something we wouldn’t have even acknowledged just a few years ago,” she said.

The discussion turned to the lack of diversity in movies and television shows, especially concerning LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color.

Freshman Matty Bennet brought up Laverne Cox, who he said was probably the only “widely known transgender actress out there.” He mentioned an interview he’d watched, in which Cox was asked how excited she was to receive her role on the Netflix show, “Orange is the New Black.” He said she responded by saying, “I didn’t quit my waitress job. I knew that these roles for transgender characters on T.V. are few, if any.”

Williams brought up the upcoming movie, “Ghost in the Shell,” based off a popular Japanese anime that cast Scarlett Johansson as the main character, and Bennet added that another movie called “The Great Wall” was starring Matt Damon. Both are movies in which a person of color is replaced by a more popular white actor.

“Here’s a white man, coming to save the day,” said Bennet.

The group discussed the fact that this was also almost done with the 2018 “Mulan” remake until there was massive outrage about it due to the fact that the studio had cast a white actor to play Mulan’s love interest, a character who then saves the day.

Junior Zach Pierce added he’d like to see a horror movie in which the person of color doesn’t die firs, or a romance movie in which “the drama doesn’t come from the fact that it’s an interracial relationship.”

Dexter said if a popular white male actor had played the main character in “Stonewall,” “that $114 becomes $114 million.” She added most people aren’t going to see movies like “Stonewall” for their historical value, but to see their favorite white actor.

Bennet said he’d like to get to a place where a person could go and see a movie, and their demographic would not be a distraction. “It should just be ‘Oh, they happen to be black,’ or ‘Oh, they happen to be gay.’”