De-centering Whiteness in storytelling: Sarah Gavin on “24”

Confession: I never watched 24. It’s a cultural phenomenon (much like Glee) that I chose to miss because White dudes beating up and shooting Brown terrorists isn’t my thing. I sorta know the basic premise, and I know Keifer Sutherland’s in it. Other than that — I’m completely clueless.

However, when I found out that Lana Parrilla (aka Regina Mills aka Mama Regal aka Her Royal Evilness aka HBIC) played Sarah Gavin on a few episodes, I decided to check them out.

I’m not gonna rehash a synopsis of her part in the series because you can look that up. What I want to do is once again talk about Sarah Gavin’s story in a way that de-centers Whiteness.

If we look at Sarah Gavin’s episodes from her POV as a woman of color working in a White-dominated organization, we see a story that gets played out in the lives of women of color all the time.

It’s like this:

You have been recently hired at a huge company for a very important job that requires a great deal of skill. You just want to do your job, help people, get paid, and go home. Like any newbie, you have questions when you see something that you don’t understand. A White person would be praised for their eagerness to understand how the company operates. But you’re not White, so when you ask these questions, you get called stupid and incompetent.

No matter. You still treat everyone with the utmost professional courtesy (even if you roll your eyes and curse at them while they’re not looking; you’re nice, but you’re still human). Then somebody did something really fucked up and set it up to make it look like you did it. The powers that be (who are all rich White folks, by the way) believe this without even asking what the fuck you stand to gain from doing it (answer: not a damn thing) or thinking twice about how convenient it all is given the history of the company when it comes to double-crossing and what not. Remember, you were stupid and incompetent when you were just doing your job, but now that shit’s going down, you’re some kind of criminal mastermind who set this whole thing up all by yourself.

That’s right: you, the person who has no history of wrongdoing, is prime suspect number one in this fucked up situation, and no one is coming to your defense. Meanwhile, the mass murdering heroin addict who behaves like a rogue agent on a rampage has people helping him out against direct orders. And it “just so happens” that you are Latina and he a cis straight Anglo dude.

You are then subjected to procedures that are, at best, morally and ethically questionable. Nobody comes to your defense. Nobody says, “That’s some bullshit! You got rights!” Nobody says, “You’ll have to get through me first!” At the end of the day, it’s made clear that these fuckers will ask you to lay down your life for them, but they don’t give a ratfuck about you.

What do you get for all the bullshit they put you through? A paid day off so that you can get back to work. But, hey, you’re a trooper. You stick around. After all the shit’s over, you talk to your boss about what needs to happen to make things cool with you. A raise, a few more vacation days, and better benefits is fair enough. Boss says OK.

Why the fuck didn’t you get that in writing from the people way upstairs?

Boss quits due to some family stuff. When you bring up the agreement to your new boss, she looks at you like you’re the cleaning lady asking to be CEO and says, “Get the fuck outta here.”

That’s it. This is the final straw. You’ve been through too much to let them screw you over like this. You tell the new boss that you’re not leaving until you have proof that everything is going the way old boss said it would. You’re not mean; you don’t make threats; you’re just not going anywhere. If you were a White man, you’d be a model of thoughtful, civil disobedience. But since you’re Latina, you are first a pest and now a threat.

So they call security on your ass and have you arrested.

In other words, this is what happens …

2 thoughts on “De-centering Whiteness in storytelling: Sarah Gavin on “24”

  1. You did not just play that Steve Harvey clip *IS DEAD*

    HATE YO ASS FOR THAT ONE!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It’s funny you mention that specific scene because 24 came under fire (and rightfully so) when it was revealed that Aisha Tyler’s character was a double agent. The season prior, they had killed off their two most popular characters which ironically were the show’s two most notorious villains: Nina Meyers and Sherry Palmer.

    It seemed like they were trying to combine the character into a hybrid with Tyler’s role and they created yet another evil black woman to pick up where Palmer left off.

    I actually watched 24 from start to finish……*smdh* while admittedly they did a lot of things right in regards to POC characters, a lot of the other fails, I could write a damn book.

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