By Joseph Chriswell
The face of racism has forecast its shadow over Hollywood since its birth, plagued with demeaning roles for ethnic people of various cultural backgrounds. This leaves aspiring actors and actresses of color to fend for themselves in an uninviting profession; if a role is obtained, it is more than likely a degrading role. This reoccurring act has proven to be offensive and has further perpetuated stereotypes many find false, and historically insensitive.
With consistency, the media has portrayed many of its ethnic workers in the light of ignorance and shame. Whether they be poor, uneducated or educated and wealthy, they typically play a much lesser role. Many of the greatest films that have hit the big screen to date, has employed very little to no black actors/actresses. These black actors are most likely to appear in either a meaningless comedy or typical love-story, or a recap of the ever scaring slave trade. Additional examples include prison tales, or movies subdued in poverty and gang activities, just to name a few.
However, there have been films that have introduced a black male/female as the lead, but in comparison the count does not come close to the blatant roles of sheer ignorance.
Which leads me back to Dec. 14 that witnessed the debut of the seventh Star Wars movie titled “Star Wars VII –The Force Awakens”. Before the film’s theatrical debut, many Star Wars fans had a change of heart and decided to boycott the film. This decision came about when selective white fans saw that the lead actor chosen for the film was a Nigerian actor, John Boyega. Disappointment reared its head all over social media, calling for a boycott and claiming the movie promoted “white genocide.” Twitter users using the handle named “End Cultural Marxism” further prompted this action. A subsequent tweet from another account read "A friend in LA said #StarWarsVII is basically 'Deray in Space,' " — a reference to civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. A Twitter account named after the hashtag has been set up to promote the hate-filled hashtag and retweet comments posted using it.
Ignoring the fact that, while hardly a bastion of cultural diversity, even the earliest Star Wars movies featured leads of color; for example, James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader through the entire original trilogy, and Billy Dee Williams's Lando Calrissian joined the series with the second installment, The Empire Strikes Back. With that being said, it should be noted that this is not the first time that the more closed-minded Star Wars fans have been vocal about increased representation of minorities in the franchise. Author Chuck Wendig responded to some homophobic fans upset at his inclusion of an openly gay Imperial officer in the novel Star Wars: Aftermath by imploring them to "stop being the Empire." On social media, other Star Wars fans have responded in defense of the new movie.
Lead actor John Boyega had something to say to the anti-Star Wars fans out there: “I just don’t get it. You guys got every single alien in this movie imaginable to man. With tentacles, five eyes. Aliens that, if they existed, we’d definitely have an issue…Yet what you want to do is fixate on another human being’s color. You need to go back to school and unlearn what you have learned. I am grounded in who I am, and I am a confident Black man. A confident, Nigerian, Black, chocolate man…to get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people.”
Boyega also criticized the role that Hollywood has played in this issue: “It’s Hollywood’s fault for letting this so far that when a Black person or a female or someone from a different cultural group is cast in a movie, we have to have debates as to whether they’re placed there just to meet a [quota],” he said. “I don’t hear you guys saying that when Brad Pitt is there. When Tom Cruise is there. Hell, when Shia LaBeouf is there, you guys ain’t saying that. That is just blatant racism.”
From 1983-2015 there has only has been two to three African American people in the movies. In 1983 it was Femi Taylor and Billy Dee Williams, why didn’t they boycott that one? In 1999 it was Samuel L Jackson, Ahmed Best, and Hugh Quarshie. Both Samuel L Jackson and Ahmed Best was in the 2002-2005 Star Wars as well, why didn’t they boycott that one? The answer is clear: it is because they were not the stars of the movie.