Meryl Streep whitesplains diversity in Berlin: ‘We’re all Africans really’

Meryl Streep is the head of this year’s Berlin Film Festival jury. She, along with Clive Owen and others jury members, will be deciding which film goes home with the Golden Bear, the festival’s grand prize. Apparently, this year’s jury at the Berlinale is all-white, which wouldn’t be that big of an issue in previous years. But considering we’re still having conversations about and around #OscarsSoWhite, the jury members were asked (during their press conference today) specifically about the lack of racial diversity in this year’s jury. And Meryl’s answer was… well, what you would expect from someone who has the most convoluted and blatantly stupid answers to questions about feminism.

The Berlin International Film Festival became embroiled in the debate about diversity in the movie industry Thursday, with jury president Meryl Streep dismissing questions about the all-white panel by telling reporters that “we’re all Africans really.”

Streep, who heads a festival film jury for the first time, said she was committed to equality and inclusion “of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions.” The seven-member jury will choose the winners of the Golden Bear and various Silver Bear awards at the first of the year’s major European movie festivals.

“This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.”

Asked by an Egyptian reporter whether she understood films from the Arab world and North Africa, Streep said that while she didn’t know much about the region, “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”

“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we’re all from Africa originally,” she added. “Berliners, we’re all Africans really.”

[From The Associated Press, via US News & World Report]

If you’re looking for another example of the destructiveness of non-intersectional white feminism, look no further. A white woman looking out for her own self-interest (as long as Meryl heads the jury, then she has no problem with anything), then dismissing the actual lived experiences of racial minorities with a blasé shrug of faux-togetherness. “We’re all Africans really”?? Girl, what happened to you?


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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96 Responses to “Meryl Streep whitesplains diversity in Berlin: ‘We’re all Africans really’”

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  1. NYer says:

    She’s an actor…a female actor, at that. Not traditionally the source of power brokers in Hollywood. Why do we expect her to explain a situation she has little control over? The wrong people are being put on the spot, and it’s a no-win situation: we ask them to explain and then we crucify them for their answers.

    • lisa2 says:

      She is more than just an actor. Meryl has been in this business for many many years. She is a multi nominated actress and winner. At this point in her life and career she should have some voice and power. If not what has she actually been doing over these many years. Because if she just wants or wanted to be an Actress then don’t step out of that lane. She was asked because she choose to be the head of this year’s festival. She is on a panel with no person of color judging films of various makeups and ethnic backgrounds.

      the question was valid.. she just couldn’t answer it in an intelligent way.

    • Gina says:


      You should read her comments and the question again. No one is “asking her to explain,” why there is an all white panel. The question was, do you think you understand films from these regions/cultures. She said it’s not needed because we all have a common core, and are ‘all Africans.’ Which really doesn’t address the question at all, and yes is quite stupid.

      So if that’s her belief, why let her off the hook and empathize with a millionaire actress who’s at the top of the food chain and has been for years?

      If that’s her conviction and opinion she shouldn’t get a head pat and cuddle when those who disagree speak out in opposition to it.

      Why does she get your sympathy and some equally talented esteemed Asian actress who didn’t make the jury cut does not?

      • Kiki says:

        As a proud and beautiful black woman, I was hoping someone would say something about the detrimental circumstances brewing in our black society. Unfortunately, I was expecting too much and I got so little. This is probably why I am voting foe Bernie Sanders.

        I was not shocked and I expected little from Meryl Streep, but she did raise a valuable point abd say this that made me so proud. She is right, WE ARE ALL AFRICANS.

      • amunet ma'at says:

        Yeah I have to agree with her one statement that we are all Africans, my only complaint is that you can’t make that case for how that relates back to film diversity. But she did drop some knowledge on a group of people who are still to this day incredibly racist against those of African descent.

    • Nancy says:

      Well said and agree completely.

    • Lin says:

      so many other actors and entertainers get those questions She should educate herself

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Come on. Any thinking person should be able to answer such a pervasive question. She’s an actor? So it’s ok to completely ignore one of the most important social issues of our time?

    • Tonka says:

      She is one of the white people who has the power to decide which stories get recognized at a highly regarded film festival. Her answer is an embarrassment to white women and an insult to filmmakers of colour. She needs to stop talking or else get educated. Failing that she needs to brace herself for the well deserved blowback she’s going to get.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Please. She is one of if not THE most successful female actresses in the country, she has power that many others do not use and she chooses to do nothing productive with it so long as she’s getting consistent work and money.

    • Timbuktu says:

      I’m sort of with you on that one, actually. There’s a reason most actors don’t have college degrees. And, based on interviews I heard and read, it is not just because they were all discovered early and knew they found their calling. The way some of them articulate their thoughts, I suspect they would be doing manual labor if they weren’t pretty and/or talented.
      I truly think we need to stop listening to our actors and hoping that they would say something insightful or enlightening. How often do you turn to other college drop outs for advice on diversity, police brutality, or global warming?
      And yes, I see that someone mentioned down the thread that she actually does have a college degree, but it’s not like anyone checks diplomas before asking questions…
      The fact that actors have power is sad, really, I think we need to move away from that, not keeping hoping for them to become smarter.

    • pinkparasole says:

      She has tons of opinions on diversity in hollywood….as it pertains to white women. Let’s not coddle her please. And no, we are NOT all Africans. African people exists and these dismissive-but-trying-to-sound-profound-and-one-lovey comments don’t take into account that there are people living real lives on that continent TODAY that are very different from your. I mean, we lal start off as females in the womb, so are we all women? Please…..

  2. SBS says:

    An oddly worded play on “Ich bin ein Berliner”..?

    • Gina says:

      I thought so too. Which makes the sentiment even more outrageous in that context. She really is speechifying and saying diversity doesn’t matter in 2016 because….Lucy (mother of mankind) was found in Africa.

      The question then becomes Meryl, when are you going to include other voices save ‘white Africans?’

      • paleokifaru says:

        Actually we’ve got hominin fossils older than Lucy, although still in Africa. Sahelanthropus tchadensis is dated at 6-7 million years old and is found in Chad. Sorry but I had to comment because it’s my field!

    • Birdix says:

      “well I eat jelly donuts, and I was in Out of Africa so, yes, I have all the bases covered.”

  3. Lin says:

    Oh God. She is dumb. and stupid. And idiotic. Oh God. She needs to go away along with the Kardashians. I’ve never even heard a kardashian say something this dumb. What a fool. oh sweet baby Jesus. What a joke. I can’t believe this

    • Gina says:

      Shocking thing is, I don’t believe a Kardashian (partic the older girls) would say something so clueless about race.

      How hard would it have been to say, ‘Expanding our world view is always better?’ Or ‘diversity,’ is never a bad thing.’

  4. Gina says:

    I thought she was supposed to be intelligent. How disappointing she’s proving to be after all these years.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I’m wondering whether we all just assumed that. Has she given interviews that would support it? That she’s smart and/or educated? Maybe it’s a case of being so good at one particular thing – her job – that we simply assumed she must be intelligent or knowledgeable about the big issues?

      • Sofia says:

        I think it is exactly what you wrote. She is good at acting and therefore we tend to fill the gaps about how great she is about everything else. If Viola Davis says something really stupid and clueless I’m not sure I will recover:/

      • Giddy says:

        Yes. This makes me realize that I assumed she had the intelligence, depth, and thoughtfulness of some of her characters. It makes me wonder if she somehow thinks that since “we are all Africans” she represents actresses of color?

      • Hollz says:

        She has a BA from Vasser and an MFA from Yale School of Drama. This woman has no excuse.

      • Jib says:

        She went to Vassar and you don’t go to Vasaar unless you are very very bright. Gifted, really. But she is white, rich and privileged and totally out of touch so that is why she sounds so stupid.

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        Um, book smarts have very little to do with genuine intelligence. I saw some people getting their MA alongside me and they were … not stupid, no. Just very limited to certain areas and not necessarily interesting to talk to or knowledgeable about issues that had nothing to do with their studies.

    • M.A.F. says:

      To me, she has always be a low key airhead. But you would think that as she gets older and having her daughter in the business, she would have a different attitude.

  5. Lama Bean says:

    I have so much respect for her acting skills. She’s amazing in that arena.

    Otherwise she needs to stop talking.

  6. LAK says:

    I can’t believe she gave that answer to a question about African or Arab films.

    It shows she’s never watched a single film from that region nor is aware that those regions produce films.

    Or have the brains to give a ‘no comment because I don’t know, but I will watch with an open mind’ answer!!

    • Lizzie McGuire says:

      I think we were all expecting a more well thought answer but lately Meryl has been giving some comments that made me doubt that she knows anything from feminism to diversity on film. As long as Meryl is nominated for any ridiculous film just because of who she is, she’s happy & to not be bother. I bet her & Helen Mirren are great friends.

      • Alex says:

        Same. I didn’t know until the last year or so how utterly clueless and offensive she really is. I honestly cannot take her speaking on anything really

      • lisa2 says:

        I wonder how many films she sees outside of the mainstream. She doesn’t talk about film makers or films from people outside of Hollywood. And yes she had played characters from many cultures; but how much of that culture has made any impact on her.

        But nice that she is letting us know who she is in the REAL.

      • LAK says:

        Actually, i’ve been thinking for years that Helen Mirren dumbed herself down in order to make it in Hollywood.

        I remember growing up she was a take no prisoners type of outspoken person such that by the time she was cast in ‘Prime Suspect’ it was a triumph of intelligent, mature, outspoken actresses. Sidenote – it’s amazing that in 1991, Helen Mirren had to fight to play the central role her way as opposed to the dolly bird way OR that they cast a woman in the role…..but I digress.

        Anyhue, when she went Hollywood, she had a make over that included her opinions, and I don’t recognise Helen anymore!!

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I know! I guess if they had asked her if she understood a film about brain surgery, she would have answered, “I have often played a doctor on TV. “

    • vauvert says:

      I love her acting but lately I just can’t believe the idiotic, entitled, elitist view of the world her interviews answers reflect.
      And btw, there are some pretty cool movies from Algeria, Egypt, and the Middle East on Netflix. Delice Paloma was one of the best, watch it if you want to see both a fabulous actress and have a look at a very different society….

  7. Lucy says:

    This is such a disappointment. I don’t even feel like making fun of her. It’s downright sad.

  8. lower-case deb says:

    isn’t it like telling non-white actresses “it’s okay you have a hard time getting work, because–as a great character actress who due to talent alone, obviously, has no problem getting jobs–i can play a lot of different people from different cultures, and probably better at it than you.”

    mebbe i’m being too glib. anyway, let tomatoes fly

    • lisa2 says:

      She obviously doesn’t watch a lot of films by different cultures.. so why is she on this jury to begin with.

      • lower-case deb says:

        not just on it but Heading the jury :(
        perhaps the ‘suits’ (real power) behind the Film Festival wants a ‘soft’ and ‘acceptable’ figurehead, and she’s nothing but a sockpuppet to them, still….
        her somewhat callous and inarticulate answers don’t sit well. it just doesn’t convey that she cares a whole lot. which doesn’t bode well to foreign films she’s judging but don’t understand.

        maybe she just phrased her answers wrongly, but… well… i’m a very inarticulate person, so i pick my battles. i avoid being a head of any panel, spokesperson of any group. gruntwork with all work and no talk, i’m in.

        she’s a great actress but maybe she should avoid signing up for things/authorities like these?

  9. me says:

    “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.” – Ummmm ok White lady.

  10. QQ says:

    *deeply heartfelt cringe*

  11. grabbyhands says:

    “This jury is evidence that at least (WHITE) women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.”

    Fixed it for you, Meryl.

    It is extremely disappointing to realize that someone who always appeared to be smart and aware is simply another person not interested in issues outside the sphere of her white privilege.

  12. Nev says:

    She was alwayyyyyys EXTRA. Cmon now and her acting is overrated. And EXTRA.

  13. Freebunny says:

    Big up to Lars Eidinger.

  14. Colette says:

    I have never read or seen Meryl’s interviews from past years.I am curious why people keep referring to her as “so smart” or “intelligent”.What has she said in the past that indicated to you she was intelligent? Has she spoken about world affairs,literature,technology,etc in the past to demonstrate her intelligence.I’m really curious what subjects has she spoken about or is it because she is articulate people assumed she was intelligent?

    • Gina says:

      It’s well know she graduated from an Ivy league (drama) school – so I think people make that assumption.

      Yes I know, so did dummy ‘W,’ – but I didn’t think she’d have the same resources or assistance while there as he did, and probably did her own course work. Lol

      • Locke Lamora says:

        But is gradutaing from an Ivy leauge school a testament of her intelligence if she did drama? I mean, I don’t know how it is in America, but in my country, in order to get into The Academy Of Dramatic Arts you need to act well, you don’t need to be particularly smart. It also matters much more WHAT you study, rather than WHERE.

    • perplexed says:

      She went to Vassar. She always carried herself in a way that seemed intelligent. She has an aura that carries over well into any intelligent part she plays. Yeah, I’m confused now too at myself for thinking she was bright.

      I always carried the assumption with me that she was articulate, but now I’m not sure why I ever assumed that either. She sounds really inarticulate here.

    • Lisa says:

      I think it’s because of her looks and the roles she takes.

      She has, in the past, smacked down big directors like Dino DeLaurentiis for being sexist and rude about her looks. She’s played what I think some people consider strong women, at least for the time. She’s always been kind of been a woman’s woman because she was sort of plain for Hollywood, but “real world” pretty. She’s traditionally feminine and graceful (not that there’s anything wrong with those traits, just that those are things that Hollywood and the Western world tend to value). You could picture being friends with her because she’s not threatening.

      But she doesn’t exactly come across as a modern woman now. Shit like this sounds like something that might have gotten a pass when Out of Africa was new, but not now.

    • Jib says:

      She graduated undergrad from Vassar. And you don’t get into Vassar unless you are extremely bright. But that doesn’t mean she has a clue about the real people in the real world outside of her ivory tower on the hill behind locked gates.

  15. Sixer says:

    Let’s all club together and buy her a copy of Ain’t I A Woman.

    • MinnFinn says:

      I’ll contribute.

      This awards season is click-bait nirvana for journalists. Is the idiom ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ used on your side of the pond?

      • Sixer says:

        Yes, it is. And it’s perfect! “All coming out of the woodwork” also seems apt!

        I’m making a mental list. And I’ll know whose words to always discount in future.

  16. Brea says:

    “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.” LOL

  17. Saks says:

    I would have given her a pass because that question was made to get that kind of bad answer (it is also a weird question especially because of the format of Film Festivals). But she has been saying dumb things for months, so not this time.

  18. The Original Mia says:

    I’ve been done with her since she beat out Viola and gave that ridiculous patronizing speech. This just cements my feelings.

    • Hiddlesgirl85 says:

      @TheOriginalMia: Thank you! I thought that I was the only person who found Meryl’s Oscar speech that year both odd and condescending.

      • The Original Mia says:

        I guess we are a party of two because I ranted and raved about that speech. Haven’t looked at her the same way since. This just proves how completely out of touch she is.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Hear, hear! That speech. I cringed so hard. But then again I’ve never thought she was the greatest. I’ve always felt there was an element of calculation to her roles esp., in later years.

  19. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    “We’re all Africans really.”


    “This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.”

    Ugh. Meryl’s version of diversity stops right at white women and goes no further.

    “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”

    Ooh that’s so impressive Meryl I take it all back! Point to the film you played about the mother who lost her young son to a trigger happy cop and THEN had the city of Chicago SUE HER for the unpaid cost of transporting his dying body to the hospital! Oh, wait…you didn’t play that role?

    Damn, maybe because that isn’t a role. Because that’s what’s happening to Tamir Rice’s mother right now. No makeup. No cameras. No dressing room or luxury trailer. Her son was gunned down by a cop with a record of instability and the law that they keep telling us to respect said there’s no fault in an officer shooting someone dead within 2 seconds of rolling to the scene and then refusing to administer any CPR.

    Then in the midst of that hellish nightmare she is informed the city is suing her for 500 dollars for the unpaid debt after failing her and her son at every turn. Tell you what Meryl. Hollywood is so eager to erase black history, when they do a movie on this tragedy you’ll prob be given a shot at playing the mother. All you need is a little self-tanner.

    • Marty says:

      Jfc, I didn’t know that was happening to Tamir’s mama. How much are they going to put that poor woman through?

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        I don’t know Marty. I also want to apologize because I conflated two different issues. CLEVELAND is suing Tamir Rice’s family.

        Silly me I got confused because an officer from CHICAGO is also suing the family of the child he killed, you know for all the pain and suffering caused by having to go through all the stress of murdering someone.

        Hopefully Celebitchy will allow this one link if not its just a Google away, days like this I don’t even know what to do or say. If it was to help the family a GoFundMe page would be great, but theres something profoundly sick about paying someone who did something wrong because our govt. keeps failing it’s responsibility.

      • Marty says:

        My God! I don’t even have the words to describe how heartbroken and disgusted this makes me. In both cases.

        This is why I get so angry when people say we are “race-baiting” or inciting “race wars” when we protest. The struggle was always here, we didn’t start it, we’re just out here trying to survive.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I seriously want to see that movie, with Viola Davis as the mom…

    • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

      They are bold and shameless. I’ve read about them both but the still send me into flames.

    • I Choose Me says:

      I’m just going to leave this here.

      “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

      • Sixer says:

        From a Tim Turnbull poem:

        “It starts when you begin to feel,
        with no real justifying cause,
        the interests of the commonweal
        are perfectly aligned with yours;
        and therefore you suppose it’s true,
        (and it’s already understood)
        that everything you ever do
        is always in the public good.”

        I honestly think that’s how Meryl (and all the other privileged ones) sees it and herself.

    • Alarmjaguar says:

      The suit against that child’s family is criminal (not to mention the original shooting). I can’t understand how people could do that

  20. Lisa says:

    Oh, sh-t. Please don’t, Meryl.

  21. kri says:

    Holy sh!t. Omg. Did she…do a mashup of JFK and Hollywood Dumbspeak?! Or did she just spend 24 hours in a meth lab without a mask? WTF is she talking about. I am so horrified right now.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    That’s rich, coming from one of about 3 people who ever came out 100% European on the DNA section of Finding Your Roots.

  23. Charlotte says:

    Just because somebody may have a talent for acting doesn’t mean they’re an intellect. We need to stop holding stock in their opinions because their opinions don’t really matter. Yes I respect her acting talent, it doesn’t make her somebody I then have to have all my opinions influenced by. I ignore idiots I meet in *real life* and I shall ignore her too!

    • Tig says:

      I am seeing your point. If the berlinale selects the jurors, who expects Meryl to then take them to task in public over their selections? Whether or not she should have chosen to participate is a discussion subject to be sure. However, are we saying here that the other members of that jury are incapable of evaluating the entries? That is separate and apart from her answers to these questions.

    • Kitten says:

      How do you do that BTW? I try SO hard to ignore idiots, but I never can.
      Teach me the way….

    • Timbuktu says:

      Just said the same thing above.
      My masseuse may be amazing, but should I ask her who to vote for in the next election?

  24. Jaded says:

    That’s one of the most offensive things about people of colour I’ve ever heard. How to diminish everyone on the planet who isn’t white in one simple sentence “Berliners…we’re all Africans really…”. Her word salads are as bad as Sarah Palin’s.

  25. Jess says:

    Ugh. I use to love Meryl but the more she talks the more disappointed I become.

  26. xflare says:

    Who came up with the word “Whitesplaining” ?

  27. Charlotte says:

    Kitten, generally I find eating my feelings works…

  28. Tara says:

    I swear I’ve heard this before tho… From Gambian acquaintances. They often say it of friends they feel close to, considering them sorta extended family. Different for Streep to say it tho…

  29. Original T.C. says:

    I’m honestly having second hand embarrassment reading her interview. It reminds me of that beauty contestant who had no idea about geography and just spoke like her brain flew away. I hope she was drunk or on Ambien. I’m scared.

  30. Alarmjaguar says:

    Really, Meryl!?

  31. ToxicShockAvenger says:

    “I don’t know much about the region, but I HAVE played a number of white women from different regions, and people are people, right? Like, I played a white woman from Poland, a white woman from Britain, a white woman from Australia, a white woman in Africa even though I shouldn’t really count that one since I’m African, a REEEAALLY white woman from Vogue, an Italian white woman from Iowa, and… should I keep going? Can you taste my whitebow? Look, all I’m saying is, if it has tits, an accent, and a sun hat, it’s on my resume. No one has to blacksplain diversity to Julia goddamn Child.”

  32. serena says:

    Can we all agree Meryl Streep is an idiot?

  33. Goodnight says:

    I know people are focusing on the diversity issue, but when I read that I was just like ‘another white actor says something white’. What struck me was the scientific inaccuracy of her statement.

    Yes, human ancestors such as Australopithecus originated in Africa, but subspecies of humans such as H. erectus and H. neanderthalensis had occupied just about every continent by the time we evolved into H. sapiens. Homo sapiens are not ‘out of Africa’.

    It’s like people who say that we evolved from apes. No, apes and human beings share a common ancestor, but they evolved from it in one direction and we evolved in another. Evolution isn’t linear, it’s Y-shaped, with endless branches.

    I can’t believe that THAT is what immediately came to my mind, rather than a criticism of her whitesplaining.

    I am such an anthropology sperg. Goddamn.

    • Olenna says:

      I agree there were anatomically similar cousins of Homo Sapiens (modern humans), and that we (modern humans) and these species evolved from branches of the same primate tree, as did the great apes and chimps. But, the generally accepted scientific belief is that modern humans originated and evolved in Africa. There is no evidence that other species such as Neanderthals or Denisovans are the originators of modern humans (Homo Sapiens), despite genetic research indicating these species contributed a small portion of their DNA to the genetic makeup to some of our ancestors through interbreeding. Also, it is the generally accepted belief that all known archaic humans, like our cousins the Neanderthals, originated in Africa and, like Homo Sapiens, migrated from there to other continents.

      • Goodnight says:

        I’m not sure I agree? There are really two competing schools of thought. The out of Africa theory was the dominant one for a long time but it’s no longer considered to be fact in the scientific community, and is contested by the multi-regional theory.

        My studies have been based on the multi-regional theory, which is pretty popular these days (hence it being taught as the dominant theory in many Universities, including mine).

        I agree that hominin ancestors originated in Africa. I understand that Neanderthals have only contributed a very small portion of genetic material to h. sapiens. I was more making the point that human ancestors (especially h. erectus) had dispersed from Africa before they evolved into h. sapiens and therefore h. sapiens are not all from Africa as a species. There is significant fossil record to support this theory. It’s also supported by the fact that humans from different continents have more DNA from certain human ancestors than others. People of African descent generally have genetic material from h. erectus, whereas people of European and Asian descent often have genetic material from h. neanderthalensis.

        Honestly, my texts really only mention the out of Africa theory in passing, but since a lot of my material is written by my professors there are going to be certain biases. Mine clearly believe in and thus teach the multi-regional theory because out of Africa hardly gets a mention.