Whitewashing: A Total Disrespect to the Black Race?May 26, 2016 01:21PM ● By Khadijah Ndiaye
The history of whitewashing has been well documented over the years. However, it seems necessary to reexamine the inequality and the denial of opportunity Black people have to face in the film industry. Even though there is no harm in having a fictional character being portrayed by the opposite race, it is quite ridiculous to have a White actor portray a nonfictional Black person especially when there are hundreds of unemployed Black actors.
As if the outcry #OSCARS SO WHITE is not enough we now have a White actor, Joseph Fiennes (who looks nothing like him at all) playing Michael Jackson, Ugh! The casting is a blatant example of whitewashing. People are outraged and talking about an upcoming TV comedy series with the White British actor, Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson (MJ). This TV series is based on the urban legend that says MJ and his two closest friends, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brandon were in New York the night before the 9/11 attacks. MJ was doing a show. The next day they could not fly out because of the event, so they decided to take a road trip from NY to Ohio.
According to "Entertainment Tonight" (ET), Fiennes described the the script as a challenge and says, "I was as shocked as many of you are. I am a White middle class guy from London. This role is endearing to me, the more I studied and learned about Michael, the more I love playing him."
A Better Idea
However, I have a better idea: how about casting one of the many paid Black Michael Jackson impersonators that already look exactly like him and love him? Fiennes then speaks about Michael Jackson's skin pigmentation and says that Michael is closer to his skin color than his original color. In whatever way Fiennes sees it or may put it, MJ is not White and because of his skin condition, it especially does not give Fiennes the right to play MJ who was a Black person. Black skin color comes in all shades from the lightest to the darkest. It is more than unbelievable that Fiennes feels comfortable saying MJ is close to his skin color. I am sure when they decided to cast a White person to play a Black person they had to know that they would receive a lots of exposures and criticisms.
I cannot help but wonder if anyone did any research on how MJ felt about this. Maybe they missed one of the world's most watched live interviews in television history in 1993 with Oprah Winfrey and MJ. Over 90 million people watched the interview, according to Oprahtv.com. When asked by Winfrey about a rumor that he wanted a White boy to play him in the early 1990's Pepsi commercial, MJ fired back by saying "That is so stupid. That's the most ridiculous, horrifying story I've ever heard. It is crazy!"
He expressed his desire to stay true to his identity as a Black man. MJ clearly stated, "Why would I want a White child to play me? I am proud of my race and I am proud of who I am. That's like you [Oprah] wanting an oriental person to play you. Does that make any sense?" So there you have it, straight from MJ himself. I think he might be turning over in his grave about this comedy.
MJ's nephew TJ also told ET journalists, "The 9/11 comedy about my uncle is offensive. Like everyone else, my uncle was distraught, saddened, and trying to process what had just happened." He stayed with a family friend in NJ for a week before flying back to Los Angeles.
This film is to be the first venture from a new production company created by actor Ralf Little, and written by journalist and writer Neil Forsyth. I say to them that when casting actors for movies, no matter the race, a white actor should never play another ethnic group.
Why is the industry okay with constantly having an actor portray someone of a different race? The industry needs to know that when this happens to any person of color, it makes most of us feel like it is backward and bigoted.
Sign On-line Petition
I signed the online petition called Care2 Petitions, which in early March already had over 96,719 signatures. This petition gives a clear message to the studios: Stop Casting White Actors to Play People of Color!�This has been going on since the 19th century. It was known as "Blackface" when a White person acted and looked like a very dark "happy go lucky" Black person. Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American Theater. Very soon it became popular all over, especially in Britain, where Blackface lasted until 1981.
Just Stop It
The industry needs some kind of regulations regarding casting White people to play ethnic roles. Starting with Just do not do it! There is already a shortage of parts for minority actors usually limited to the sassy Black woman, the spicy Latina house cleaner, or the nerdy Asian student. As for White people, they continue to have the big star roles even when the movie is about a person of color.
What we have to do is simply not watch nor support these types of films until they start to have more people of color playing important character roles. When we are constantly pushed to the edge, not being able to represent ourselves to tell our own stories, then it is about time to restart the conversation about the whitewashing of Black people in the film industry. No matter what movies portray, we have to remember that our skin is beautiful and we must love ourselves. We need to make our voices heard by signing a petition and demanding for the movie industry to stop whitewashing people of color.
Khadijah Ndiaye is a conscious worldwide reporter, writer and photographer based in Philadelphia, PA. She writes for Woloftimes and works with the Most Wanted Film production crew based in Senegal. She is an activist, loves her African/Caribbean background and strives to express that as much as possible through her writing. She says, "I am very excited to be a part of FunTimes--the best magazine! I wish for everyone to subscribe and spread the word about us!"
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