OPINION

Opinion: 'Sonygate' or how Hollywood’s dirty secret was accidentally spilled

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 02:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE)  Seth Rogen on the set of "Dave Skylark's Very Special VMA Special" on August 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The show will air Sunday, August 17 at 9pm on MTV.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV)

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 02: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Seth Rogen on the set of "Dave Skylark's Very Special VMA Special" on August 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The show will air Sunday, August 17 at 9pm on MTV. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV)  (2014 Getty Images)

A dirty little secret, long suspected but now confirmed by Sonygate, is that liberals are bigots too. It’s one of those facts that communities of color have known and fought against for decades, and although there has been progress, the fixed mindset thrives.

The successful black TV creator and writer Shondra Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) tweeted this about emails by Hollywood producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, The Truman Show) and Sony Co-Chairman Amy Pascal mocking President Obama’s taste in movies: “Calling Sony comments ‘racially insensitive remarks’ instead of ‘racist’? U can put a cherry on a pile of sh*t but it don’t make it a sundae.”

The only thing the company is watching is whether its stock price drops. That will be the indicator of whether Sony will take action to seek Pascal’s resignation and/or sever its ties with Rudin.

- Felix Sanchez

The emails, released on the heels of Chris Rock’s essay for The Hollywood Reporter, confirmed Rock’s opinion about Hollywood and Latinos:  

But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A., you've got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there's a part of it that’s kind of racist — not racist like "F— you, nigger" racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o’clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it’s General Motors. It’s this weird town.

Thinking about racism conjures up images of Governor George Wallace and the National Guard standing at the schoolyard door, blocking blacks from entering the University of Alabama — not the digital version exposed by Sonygate. Yet the gates of Hollywood have always been only narrowly open to people of color, and the guardians with the keys to the riches, like Rudin and Pascal, ensure temporary passage through the gates of (the once) entertainment's Fort Knox. This is how racism and bigotry are perpetuated in the digital age.

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But now the gates have been blown open because a film like The Interview, with Seth Rogan and James Franco, was green-lighted without any regard to international consequences, such as those an assassination plot of a world leader might render. Regardless of your opinion of that leader, the audacity and arrogance of that decision has damaged Sony and left it gravely vulnerable and exposed. Some would argue that Sony got as good as it gave.

Where do we go from here? Some serious soul-searching, followed by the appointment of an internal ombudsman? The hiring of a chief diversity officer? More qualified platitudes ala Scott Rudin (“If anyone was offended … I apologize”). A photo-op with Amy Pascal and a black leader seeking redemption (what’ll that cost)? The only thing the company is watching is whether its stock price drops. That will be the indicator of whether Sony will take action to seek Pascal’s resignation and/or sever its ties with Rudin.

I am sure “crisis communicators” are huddled in a large conference room drafting meaningful mea culpas, focused-tested to see whether any new statement can stem the Sonygate hemorrhaging; but by all guestimates, the flood gate of information has just begun.  

As an advocate for Latino representation in front of and behind the camera for more than 20 years, I have seen other digital rocks shatter glass houses before, but none like this. As other media companies watch in stunned horror, thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I,” I suggest that they clean up their racist and bigoted emails now before their houses comes crashing down too.

Felix Sanchez is the chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts in Washington, D.C.

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