People of Color
In the spirit of Aug. 26's Women’s Equality Day, we took to social media and the blogosphere to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment and 95 years of women voting in the U.S. However, as some of our supporters rightly pointed out, that landmark constitutional victory did not guarantee all women the right to vote. Our efforts should have acknowledged that painful reality.
As we look back at the suffrage movement, it’s important to acknowledge how racism tainted this historic fight for the vote. Many black women activists — such as Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Anna Julia Cooper — were staunch supporters of women’s rights, yet experienced discrimination from fellow suffragists and white supremacists. These divisions, along with conflicting political interests, caused immense friction within the suffrage movement, thus revealing the challenges of fighting sexism in a deeply racist society.
Taylor Swift’s controversial new music video, “Wildest Dreams,” is intended to evoke awe of the “wildest” of African landscapes: pure natural beauty, “undiscovered” and “untarnished” — and entirely without Africans.
Perhaps because this video launched soon after Ms. Swift’s recent race- and privilege-related feud with Nicki Minaj, or because at the time of writing, the video has reached nearly 25 million views since its release on Aug. 30, response to the video has been intense. Reading articles on both sides was a conflicting experience, as a young white woman raised on fashion magazines, classic cinema, and the idealization of “old Hollywood.” Can we love and appreciate those films without endorsing that oppression? Is it possible to create an homage to them without endorsing them entirely? In short — how can we free ourselves from the cognitive dissonance of outwardly condemning racism, misogyny, and colonialism while still internally glorifying images and ideals that are built upon them?
The answer to this question may lie in other, more nuanced, portrayals of midcentury American culture.
Actor and writer Dylan Marron is the creator of Every Single Word, a popular tumblr and video series dedicated to exposing the lack of racial diversity in mainstream Hollywood films.
For the series, Marron, a biracial native of Venezuela best known for his work on the cult-favorite podcast Welcome to Night Vale, chooses a well-known, recent film and edits it down to only the lines spoken by people of color. The results are damning. None of the videos in Marron’s series last over a minute. Some, like Noahand Into the Woods, which feature no actors of color at all, simply cut directly to black.
Marron spoke with Sojourners about the origins of the project, the long-term effects of poor diversity representation onscreen, and systemic struggles facing people of color in the entertainment industry.
The forthcoming dedication of the national memorial monument honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., affords an opening for considering the complexity and meaning of his leadership. He was not the tamed and desiccated civil hero as often portrayed in the United States around the time of his birthday, celebrated as a national holiday. He was until the moment of his death raising issues that challenged the conventional wisdom on poverty and racism, but also concerning war and peace.
King was in St. Joseph's Infirmary, Atlanta, for exhaustion and a viral infection when it was reported that he would receive the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. As Gary M. Pomerantz writes in Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, this was the apparent cost exacted by intelligence surveillance efforts and the pressures of learning that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had formally approved wiretaps by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His evolving strength as a leader is revealed in his remarks in Norway that December, which linked the nonviolent struggle of the U.S. civil rights movement to the entire planet's need for disarmament.
More Than Equals, co-authored by Chris Rice and the late Spencer Perkins, is considered one of the pivotal books in the Christian racial reconciliation movement that found its greatest momentum in the early and mid-1990s.