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Shailene Woodley Talks About Her Standing Rock Arrest But Not the Privilege She Was Afforded Afterward

Back in 2016, Shailene Woodly was arrested while protesting the construction of the Dakota Acces Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Last night, she spoke to Jimmy Kimmel about her arrest while promoting her new movie, Adrift. The conversation is interesting, and even a little uncomfortable. It’s Kimmel’s job, after all, to make his conversations fun and to make jokes. But Woodley seems determined not to turn her arrest into a joke.

Now, I don’t think Kimmel is necessarily doing anything wrong here. He’s not even being overly flippant. But I immediately found myself cringing when he says Woodley was arrested and the audience laughs. Is the joke here that Woodley doesn’t seem like someone who would be arrested? Because of her fame, her femininity, her whiteness? I’m not sure why else the audience would be laughing. I don’t think Kimmel intended for that to be a laugh line, but when that reaction is left unexamined, it makes what follows glaringly awkward.

Back in 2016, Woodley talked about her arrest quite a bit. She acknowledged her own privilege in the fact that on the day she was arrested–which was Indigenous People’s Day of all days–26 others were arrested with her. “Did you hear about them?” she wrote in Time.

Hearing her talk now, I wonder what the last year and a half has been like for those 26 people. Because when Woodley talks about her arrest, it sure doesn’t sound like the typical case. She was put on probation, but didn’t really have to worry about the details of that because she spent most of her probation period filming a movie in Fiji. When she was in the U.S., though, she explains that she had to be careful not to break any laws, even the little laws many of us break all the time without realizing it, like accidentally standing on someone’s property. But Woodley has to be aware that not many people would call the police if she were standing at the foot of their driveway. As we’ve seen time and time again–so many times even just over the last few weeks–that’s not something a luxury that’s afforded to black people in this country.

It’s admirable that Woodley uses her privilege to bring attention to political issues. I do wish, though, that she were willing to use the P-word in discussing her own experiences.

(image: screencap)

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