HELLO AMERICA!—When there is a choice of survival or accepting in the mirror who we really are, that is when we are on the road of sanity and truth. Currently, dealing with the pandemic and everything else erupted because of it, forces us to reveal our fears. The virus did not display signs of racial preferences, when it hit, every country on the globe hysterically realized it was a choice of life and death; it did not matter what your nationally was. Everything about your daily life changed; film studios, theaters, prestigious social closed, Beverly Hills suddenly resembled a ghost town. People are forced to wear a mask and if you attempted to enter even a drugstore or any other public play without a mask, you were turned away.
Of course, there were and are those who actually believe their social station in the city allowed them to be an exception and when discovering they, too, would not be able to be an exception, they, of course, exhibited various levels of anger and resistance. Of course, after being publicly informed of all the weekly and daily number of virus deaths, the resisting attitude mellowed somewhat and currently, no matter where one goes in the film city, masks are displayed as if it is a Halloween gathering.
Much of the past pent up sexual and racial frustration blatant in America based on laws planted on the books by changes made in the Congress, suddenly, resurged from a place and family with KKK and racist history. Further evidence of this was intensely displayed from the attack on our Capitol building and everyone and thing projecting symbols of who we are as a nation and, of course, a democracy.
The attack on the Asian community sadly supports this thesis; it is clear the attitude and feelings from the old South is struggling to take command again in our towns and cities via political means. The senate where the power really exists is struggling in every possible to be stuffed with young Caucasian men and women who are willing to sing the old songs of a “south” buried after the Civil War. The confederate flag, caps, jackets are unabashedly displayed at social gatherings and major sports games. The cry for the “ol’ south” is blatantly displayed.
The right to “vote” is even being challenged and that is protected in the Constitution, and yet an effort to play games with mapping out areas where it will limit people of color to express their choices of existence. Yet, not a single on the “Right” voted it in Congress; obviously, a civil war is blatant, laced with determination to revisit a time when people were forced to work and sing songs of servitude while in a cotton field or smiling as maid or butler responding to their master with “Yeassuh, Boss.” Of course, this reality had been submerged in our country for years; only subtly showing its face in films and, of course, theatrical shows by the characters Blacks were forced to create. Artists such as Paul Robson and Ethel Waters and even Lena Horne refused to be straddled into demeaning categories such as this. It, of course led to them not being signed for film and stage roles that were financially beneficial to their advantage.
As a young 18 year old young actor auditioning for Otto Preminger for a role in his film “Carmen Jones,” I displayed a real “Steppin Fetchet” submissive character role and Preminger loved it and signed me to the role of the character “T-Bone.” However, on the first day of shooting scenes, I could not display the “Uncle Tom” character he expected; Preminger yelled that I was not “Negro” enough! He quickly insisted the assistant director, Max Slater, who was from Germany to show me how to speak more Negro. It was quite a battle, but I managed to get through the scenes necessary for the story. If I had not signed a contract, I am sure it would have been a way to get rid of me.
I am often asked my feelings concerning many people of color create concerning life in America today; I must confess some are rather interesting with a touch of suffocation and class. However, there are those stories based on life in the black ghetto etc. that represents only ignorance continuing an image of a people stuck in a valley of zoo characters. There are millions of well educated, talented people in all phases of life, however, the only reference seems to be pulled from the cultural bag by both Caucasian and young writers of color. Continuing an image of a people trapped in utter ignorance, lacking very little substance.
To make an “image” change for those of color really has to, also, come from within. Writers must present stories of those families, very much like those of other races and cultural exposure who are seen struggling for a decent life of hope and individual growth, not trapped in a ghetto of emotional stress without dreams facing signs of “NO WAY OUT!”