5 REASONS SEASON 4 OF OITNB WAS RACIALLY UNSETTLING
After a year of risen suspense due to season three’s surprising conclusion, Netflix’s award-winning original series, Orange is the New Black, made its grand return to turn up Summer ’16. While season four’s story line and direction was amazing, its major underlying theme of the season seemed to upset more than a few people. Race played a major role in season four’s plot and development of characters, and it failed in almost all aspects. Listed below are my top five reasons I wasn’t here for it this season, as a Black individual.
Reason 1: The Latino/Hispanic Divide
This season we were presented with the new HBIC at Linchfield, and her name was Maria Ruiz. In seasons 1-3, Ruiz was just a supporting character, and we seen her role as a pregnant woman in prison. Soon after she gave birth, her boyfriend got custody of the child and informed her that he would be stopping visitation because it was not good for the baby’s upbringing. This season, the writers decided to give her a new role and that was as the head of the Latino/Hispanic division at the prison. Piper became her number one target and she started smuggling drugs in and out the prison. Talk about the baddest puta, right?But I digress. The start of this season, we got to see that there would be an abundance of new prisoners and the majority of them were Dominican. On top of the Caucasian prisoners being disgusted with the new majority, other Latino/Hispanic groups like Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and others were disgusted with them. In seasons 1-3, we seen all of these groups get along as if they were one, but all of a sudden we see the writers decide to pit them against each other. We seen the different groups not only disrespect each other, but also degrade one another by calling each other things you’d only expect a Caucasian racist to do. Hopefully, we’ll see the divide close in season five.
Reason 2: WHITE LIVES MATTER
This season, Piper’s panty crusade business fell astray. With Ruiz in the picture, Chapman decided to suggest to the new CO, Piscatella, that those of the “Aztecan ancestry” were up to no good and creating gangs to stop the competition. Chapman got together a group of inmates who all happened to be White, and suggested they be the lookout for all gang activity on the grounds. The rest of the group missed the actual point of the meeting and basically ended up forming the “Nazi 2.0” party. Chapman tried everything she could to distance herself, but because she had already been marked as the leader it got her a bad scar, if you know what I’m saying. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter, this is not what anyone of color would like to see. And after explaining countless times to people why “Black Lives Matter,” it is troubling to know that because people are so damn dense and ignorant, they are going to take this as a literal and basically follow in the ideologies of the “White Lives Matter” teachings this season. I know some people will think I am taking this to the extreme, but the sad reality is that people cannot distinguish between what is fiction and what is reality. Not to mention the first thing I thought about when the inmates chanted “White Lives Matter” was a terrible joke shared by co-workers. I wore a “black lives matter” shirt into work, and one of my co-workers tells the other one “that’s not fair, we should get white lives matter shirts made.” Like seriously? I probably contemplated their deaths like 5 times after that incident. So you guys have to understand where I’m coming from. Also, let us not forget that with the emergence of the new White Supremacy family, that creates a new dynamic of following two White “families” of the prison now while we only follow one Latino/Hispanic group, one Black group, no Asian groups (excluding SoHo), and every now and then we see Sophia on her lonesome because she’s not only Black, but also Trans. Great job, writers! More subliminal messages. Keep ’em coming!
Reason 3: Knock-off Paula Dean, Judy King
On last season’s season finale, we learned that Poussey’s idol, Judy King, would be coming to Litchfield and everyone was ecstatic. With Judy King’s arrival came my annoyance at the show. Judy was placed in the Black bunks, and Caputo and Healy immediately removed her because she did not belong in what they called “the ghetto.” Not only can Blacks not be depicted as being able to live amongst Whites in outside society, but they also cannot live amongst them in prison as if one crime was greater than the next one. Mind you, none of the Blacks killed anyone (besides Crazy Eyes, but hers wasn’t intentionally), are drug addicts, or anything that severe, but they are still depicted as the savages of the prison. Judy King also caught herself in a pickle with the Black puppet scandal where she “unintentionally” depicted a Black puppet as a scammer who loves to eat watermelon, ironically. She then finds herself having a fake love romance with Cindy and makes good acquaintance with the Black family. When things get a little shaky between the Nazi’s and the Black family, King did not want to voice an opinion nor take a side. This corresponds with real life, because everyone wants to have Black friends, have Black appearances, and take part in the culture, but when it comes time to show support and/or help out on our social issues, they don’t want any parts. Let us not forget King’s decision in not voicing an opinion in the death of “friend,” Poussey. Judy King was basically OITNB’s version of Paula Dean, reminding you that just because Black people like your celebrity, that doesn’t mean that certain celebrity is for you.
Reason #4: Poussey’s Death
No greater sadness was felt by OITNB fans than when we heard our beloved Poussey gasp for air as she took her last breath and hearing her last words “I can’t breath.” Poussey was never the aggressive character and was probably the most educated character on the show, and being as though we got to see a character who was smart, bilingual, and also got travel all over the world that was BLACK was the best part. Poussey’s death was a foreshadow of Eric Garner (I Can’t Breath scene) and also the death of Mike Brown when we seen the body not moved from the cafeteria for several days. While I do not think the intention was ill, I believe that because the writers staff is not racially diverse, it is hard for those writers to be able to connect to what people like myself and others of color have to fear for everyday. On top of just writing in a racially unjust crime like Garner and Brown’s deaths were, they decided to sugarcoat the iconic killings by having her die because the officer was unaware of what he was doing. Shortly after her death, we seen her forgot about and focused on how the officer was the victim. The deaths of Garner & Brown were not deaths like this, they were intentional and uncalled for, and the officers were victimized even after America was told they had no business going through with their actions. The seasons closing scene showed the inmates rioting after learning that Poussey’s death would not be justified. We leave off with Daya holding a gun to one of the officer’s head and Poussey smiling in memory as if this is what she would have wanted. This is just playing into the idea that we, as people of color, cannot be civil when trying to obtain justice. It shows that we can only go about seeking justice in one way: violence.
Reason #5: The Writers
As mentioned in the reason above, there are no Black writers on the staff of Orange is the New Black. While that is not a problem for most people, it is a HUGE problem for me because we have people who have never endured our struggles as a separate society trying to represent us. There is literally no diversity in this room of people except for maybe the fact that maybe 3 or 5 of them identify as “queer” and that still is not enough for me. The race theme was confusing and tacky this season, and now we understand why. None of these writers can relate. And sure, we can hear them play the “I have Black friends,” or even the “I have Black people in my family” gambit that White people love to play so so much when voicing their opinions with or against us, but that does not change the fact that they will never understand the 300+ year torment, embarrassment, and dehumanization that THEIR ancestors have placed on us. So, yeah, I get where you guys/gals were trying to go with this, but I’m not here for it. Again, having a few “queer” writers is not enough for a Black SGL, such as myself. But I understand wholeheartedly why you guys would think that you are good enough to exert our struggle and represent us, because that is all you’ve seen your people do, whether it was good or bad. Thanks for the thought, but we don’t need a Public Relations specialist for the Black community.