Halle Bailey felt uncomfortable during her media tour in Mexico as “The Little Mermaid” prepares for its Mexico premiere – and it has to do with the tasteless comments and questions she received during the interviews.
Let’s unpack what exactly happened. But, first, let’s understand where this may stem from.
Colorism remains alive and well – unfortunately
Though the Latine community shines thanks to the beauty of its diversity and cultural uniqueness, there are unfortunate truths that weave the very complex fabric of the community. One of those truths is the prevalence of colorism and racism – and this is as unacceptable as the generational trauma that continues to travel through our lineage.
Throughout time there have been people who have spoken up against the discriminatory nature within the Latine community. Yet, remnants of it remain – even today.
What some people don’t realize is how these problematic behaviors are often internalized, regardless of how much they reject this revolting ideology. The reality is that at some point it will come to light. In fact, we witness this on a daily basis. And a lot of the time it comes from our own people.
What happened with Halle Bailey in Mexico?
This recently happened to Juan Patricio Borghetti Imérito when he was talking about Halle Bailey’s portrayal of Ariel in the latest adaptation of the Disney classic.
Borghetti, also known as “Pato,” is an Argentine television host who has found success in Mexico. He’s been featured in an array of novelas such as “Sueños de Juventud,” “Rebelde,” and “Atrévete a soñar.”
As Bailey embarked on her Latin American media tour for her film, she appeared on a Mexican morning television program, “Venga la alegría,” where she spoke to Pato, one of the program’s hosts. During the live interview, the Argentine host tried to “innocently” express his admiration for the actress for her role. But it was one comment that turned things sour. In an attempt to flatter the star, he told Bailey that no one saw her skin color while watching the film.
In Spanish (and translated to English) he said: “None of us who were in that room yesterday were seeing the color of your skin.” ¿Que le pasa a este wey?
El momento más incomodo de este Viernes. En redes sociales causa revuelo entrevista del conductor Patricio Borghetti y lo tachan de racista porque durante la transmisión de hoy de #VengaLaAlegria hizo un desatinado comentario a la hora de entrevistar a #HalleBailey quien anda de gira por nuestro país promocionando ‘La Sirenita’. “Nadie de los que estábamos en esa sala, ayer estábamos viendo el color de tu piel, todos, incluida mi mujer y mis hijos, estábamos perdidos en tus ojos, todos”
By Bailey’s body language and response, it was evident this was something that didn’t sit well with her. After the internet caught whiff of Borghetti’s statement, thousands started to express their anger and disdain towards the Mexican show and the Argentine host. A lot of people claimed that his comments were racially motivated and that he was not prepared to interview Halle Bailey.
Bailey followed suit too. El Universal reported that she allegedly complained to Disney Studios about the tone-deaf interviews she experienced during her time in Mexico. According to El Universal, she also said she didn’t appreciate that type of exposure, especially via people who were not prepared to meet with her.
Why is this problematic?
In simpler terms, what Borghetti said in is that he “doesn’t see color.” This is a popular phrase used by people who would rather clean their hands like Pontius Pilate on the very present racial issue in our society. If anything, this harms Black and Brown communities more because it may make them feel more invisible. News flash: Black and Brown are beautiful skin colors, and you can acknowledge it without being racist.
Theresa M. Robinson, DEI & Anti-Racism Educator, Master Trainer TMR & Associates, who was previously featured in Forbes explains what this means.
“I don’t see color is the get-out-of-talking-or-doing-anything-about-racism card that ‘good white people’ carry in their wallet,” she told Forbes. “They flash it every time the subject of race or racism comes too close for their continued comfort.” Arguably, the “I don’t see color” assertion is a subtle manipulation requesting an immediate change of topic.
This can also be seen as a microaggression, or insensitive statements, questions, or assumptions aimed at historically marginalized groups. These statements can either be intentional or unintentional. However, the core of its sentiment remains the same – and they shouldn’t be welcomed.
You are probably familiar with other microaggressions to communities of color, including the Latine community. These are some examples I’ve heard people say around me: “she’s pretty, pero tienes pelo malo,” “you are like the help, but better,” and “your English is so good for someone who speaks Spanish. Oftentimes, these statements feel like they are backhanded compliments – but they are worse. It attacks identity and that’s never okay. Remember, our community is not immune to microaggressions, which is why we should identify them immediately and challenge them.
Whether or not Borghetti meant to stir this much controversy with his comment, there’s no denying that he needs to educate himself more. This goes for everyone in the Latine community, too. And no. This doesn’t mean that people must go to their nearest BIPOC friend or colleague to learn how to relinquish their internalized racism and colorism. They must put in the work themselves.
As for now, let us all prepare to watch “The Little Mermaid” and give Halle Bailey all the flowers she deserves, especially since it’s no secret that she’s put her heart and soul into this role.