this year’s Academy Awards showcasing the most diversity in its
history the #OscarsSoWhite controversy might now be over. The Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) nominated six African
American themed films, at least ten black actors and filmmakers.
there is another ongoing controversy brewing in the entertainment
business that perhaps Isaacs can’t fix- an unwelcoming
competition between black Brits and African Americans for movie
issue scratches below the superficial veneer of diversity, and, that
is, there are differences within diversity that perhaps many film
writers and producers have unintentionally missed, but African
American actor Samuel L. Jackson now want them to pay attention to.
recent blockbuster hit “Get Out,” a satirical horror film
about racism in liberal suburbia America with black British star
Daniel Kaluuya cast as the lead actor has ignited a debate about a
trend many African Americans- actors and non-actors- find troubling
and eerily reminiscent of how minority groups are pitted against one
critique of the Hollywood system overlooking African American actors
for black British ones as “another form of the industry
discrimination they face on a regular basis.”
told a New York radio station “Hot 97”, “We can’t
tell our own stories?…I tend to wonder what that movie would
have been with an American brother who really feels that.”
born actor Abraham Amkpa, who has appeared in NCIS and The People c.
O.J. Simpson agrees with Jackson. “There’s a very
different shade of racism that exists in America,” said Amkpa.
“If it was an African American actor, I think it would’ve
translated a bit more on the screen.”
it’s that shade of American racism that African American
viewers feel Hollywood wants to either sanitize or avoid completely.
By directors and producers using black British actors to fill what is
perceived as a” diversity quota” without dealing with how
the two African diaspora ethnic groups experience racism opens
another door to, what many contest, as being both insensitive and
dismissive to still thorny issues, like slavery.
example, was there a political correct way for Tarantino to portray
American slavery in Django Unchained?
Unchained (2013) depicts a slave-turned-bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx)
who fearlessly treks across the U.S. to find his wife (Kerry
Washington) in order to rescue her from a brutal Mississippi
plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
film is classic Tarantino; this time a homage to the spaghetti
western with romance and revenge narrative. Tarantino set the story
in the most unlikely of places— America's Deep South before the
Civil War in 1858.
is Tarantino’s playfulness set in the troubling historical
environment that is still unsettling for many Americans today. Leave
it to Tarantino—he’s challenged us to ask a few difficult
it politically incorrect to depict American slavery in a playfully
there a politically correct way to depict American slavery?
some will contest that Tarantino is being well...Tarantino, and he
means no disrespect, others argue that his privilege as a
well-respected moneymaking white heterosexual male filmmaker gives
him carte blanche to recklessly express his creative juices even if
it reinscribes stereotypes that many feel Django does.
Tarantino pushed his critics back stating his objective in making
Django is to stir a conversation about slavery because America won’t.
the film “Get Out” wants Americans to talk about race,
too. Producer Jordon Peele of sketch the comedy show “Key &
Peele” is African American. And unlike Tarantino many African
Americans felt he knows the 411: that all blacks are not alike and
black Brits and African Americans come to these thorny topics like
racism and slavery and police brutality from two totally different
lived experiences that shape their interpretative lenses.
Brits portraying the African American experience embody their role as
an artistic interpretation whereas I feel African Americans must
portray, as part and parcel of a “politic respectability”
a historical narrative with little to no poetic license. And, without
poetic license, creativity is stymied. William Shakespeare’s
“Romeo and Juliet” would have never morphed into “West
the debate now has black Brits feuding with African Americans about
who can best portray the African American experience the debate has
also highlighted that differences within diversity is not only about
race or skin-color, but it is also about ethnicity, gender, sexual
orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious
beliefs, political beliefs, to name a few, rendering different and
legitimate interpretations brought to a role.
in point, British actor David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr in
Selma. Many African Americans were put off by Oyelowo’s
interpretation of an iconic and revered figure such as MLK. Oyelowo
recognized the tension when he accepted the role.
African American actors push away from Hollywood’s classic
stereotypes- mammies, coons, pimps, prostitutes and thugs- and its
historic cinematic racial troupes seen in films- from Gone with the
Wind (1939) to The Help (2011)- this pigeonhole African Americans
once accepted for themselves is no longer.
many - blacks as well as whites - have stated how elated they are to
see more black representation in the film industry, Brits and African
Americans actors vie, in a very small market, to keep their craft
of a lack of diversity and meaningful roles in U.K. film and
television many black Brits have tired their luck here. My black Brit
heart-throb Idris Elba has addressed the British parliament to “stop
the talent drain” requesting for greater diversity in U.K.
the feud between black Brits and African Americans is troubling and
ongoing Jackson’s critique, however, not only points to
discrimination in Hollywood, but also in the U.K.
what needs to be done is for Hollywood to first recognize in their
casting that black Brits and African Americans are two distinct
African diaspora ethnic groups whose experiences racism is also