Any time a black person has the audacity to tell everybody else that they're also human beings, they are confronted with all kinds of malice and violence and ill will. It's been that way since black people were brought to this country.
'Color-blind' comes up - people say 'Oh, I'm color-blind and therefore can't be accused of racism,' but I think that if we are going to have an honest dialogue about racism, we have to admit that people of color are having a different experience.
I remember the first time that I realized that being black meant that I wasn't allowed certain things. It was in the fourth grade, and it was who I thought was my best friend not inviting me to his birthday party because I would be the only black kid there. It was the first time I ever felt restricted, and it certainly wasn't the last time.
I'm not a big fan of shooting something that looks like it could belong in any movie. I'm not a fan of, okay, 'wide shot, wide shot, medium shot, close-up, close-up - we'll figure it out in post.' I hate that.
Here's the thing: I come from a filmmaking background, so this concept of sort of overseeing a television show but not directing was, in general, not weird, but I had to get used to what that felt like. My initial instinct was, 'I want to direct as much of this as possible.' But the logistics of making of TV, that's just not possible.
We like to think of the '60s as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and a little bit of friction - no, there were all of these different groups. There was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panthers, Martin and Malcolm, but also the Whitney Youngs of the world, the Bayard Rustins of the world.
Daring to make films of any kind and thus invite the possibility of ridicule was an internal battle of mine for many years as I worked on the screenplay for what would become 'Dear White People' beginning at the end of George W. Bush's second term.
I thought I was depressed because I wasn't a writer/director. I moved into a space where I'm a writer/director, my movie is a hit at Sundance, I have a wonderful, loving boyfriend, and wow, I have financial stability. Why can't I get out of bed still?
When you're part of a society where you're constantly having to define your identity and sort of negotiate with what the mainstream culture thinks you are, you have less energy and time to figure out who you are when you go home at night.
Films with predominantly white casts can come in any form, tell any story, big or small. For black films, you have the light, fluffy rom-coms or 'Madea' movies, and then you have the black-torture awards movie.
Part of my struggle with being gay was that a lot of my homophobia was internalized because of the cues that I was - received. I didn't see anybody like myself in the culture. RuPaul was the closest to a gay, out black man that I had growing up.
I often have to play a role to get what I want in my life. At the same time, I can't do that without also nourishing who I really am and being aware of my true self and the ways in which I'm not bound by my race or sexual orientation or class or country or whatever.
We get caught in our little silos and end up working against ourselves. And I think social media culture really encourages that, because you're really just shouting into a void hoping someone picks up on what you're saying.