One recurring theme on Orange is the New Black is that the people in charge always focus on the wrong issues. Case in point: when the riot broke out in Season 5, all the administration and the press seemed to care about was celebrity Judy King and how she was dealing with the chaos. They didn't spare a thought to prison reform or the other inmates. Taystee decided to use that to her advantage when it came time to speak out publicly: Judy was supposed to be the one to vocalize the inmates' issues in the hopes of finally being heard. But that all changed when Taystee got in front of the cameras herself. Taystee's speech to the press on Orange is the New Black was a personal and powerful message that gave her a chance to finally speak her mind and demand some justice. Warning: Episode 5 spoilers ahead!
Initially, Taystee was just going to introduce Judy. She reassured the press that Judy was fine but then gave them a much more important reminder: Poussey had been murdered just two days ago by one of the guards, C.O. Bayley. The fact that Poussey's death had been downplayed and barely reported on was one of Taystee's major motivations in starting a protest within the prison. She had been trying to make her voice heard ever since Poussey's murder and once she was in front of the press, she just couldn't keep quiet anymore. Instead of allowing Judy to speak for her and the other prisoners, Taystee spoke for herself.
In a moving speech beautifully acted by Danielle Brooks, Taystee broke down why and how the media's reporting on the riot thus far was so inappropriate. She told them that Judy King had been kept separate from everyone else and given preferential treatment solely because she was rich and powerful and white. And then when a woman was senselessly killed on the floor of the prison cafeteria, Judy was given the chance to go home early. The disparity in treatment was glaring, but no one seemed to want to give it the attention it deserved — something that's all too relevant in the real world.
"Now, our fight is not with Judy King," Taystee continued. "Our fight is with a system that don't give a damn about poor people and brown people and poor brown people. Our fight is with the folks who hold our demands in their hands." She instructed the press to read the demands, which were a plea for basic rights like healthcare, education, and respect: things any person should have access to. Going to prison didn't mean the inmates should be subjected to inhumane treatment.
Get ahold of our demand list because those demands are fair and necessary and show that we intend to keep this demonstration peaceful and focused on change.
Taystee's criticism about misplaced priorities was sure to be something that would resonate with many viewers. It can often feel like the wrong things are given the most attention, so it was gratifying to hear Taystee's speech. All she wanted was for someone to listen. Only time will tell if someone does, but at least Taystee finally got the chance to speak.