Reverse Racism

26 10 2007

In a way I feel somewhat dirty by allowing a story printed by the Daily Mail to inspire my post today but alas, I think they may be right in this case (well, even a stopped watch is correct twice a day). By means of a defence I would like to point out that story came to my attention through a TV show covering topical issues in the news rather than by actually reading that pathetic excuse for a newspaper. Regardless of how I came about the story the key is I think that blacking up is not racist, and to say it is would actually constitute a genuine case of political correctness gone mad (unlike the story I posted about yesterday).

By saying that blacking up is racist is we deny white actors the chance to play roles like Othello, unless they play it white (which actually spoils the play as race is a central theme). It would be illegal to deny someone an office job simply because they’re white. Why is that any different to depriving an actor of a role for the same reason? Othello is a much-coveted role for actors, the chance to play any Shakespearean part professionally usually is. Is it really fair to deny white actors the chance to play these roles?

The underlying offence caused by blacking up stems from a time when black actors were simply not given opportunities since their roles were played by white actors who blacked up. And yet by arguing that an amateur dramatic society in a town whose population is over 99% white cannot use blacked up white actors and instead should either choose a different play (whatever happened to freedom of expression?) or bring in black actors from other areas (and hence black actors would be depriving white actors of opportunities) all you are doing is reversing the roles.

“Positive discrimination” is simply “reverse racism”. Of course many argue that on account of the oppression minorities have suffered over the years it’s simply a way of “righting a wrong” yet I’m reminded of the old saying that two wrongs do not make a right. Correcting the racist mistakes of our past by making “reverse racist” mistakes in our present seems somewhat counter-intuitive to me. Race should be irrelevant.



4 responses

27 10 2007

I really couldn’t agree with you more on this. I particularly like your last statement: “Race should be irrelevant.” I just wish that principle would be more often carried out in our society.

27 10 2007
Jayne d'Arcy

I agree, race should be irrelevant. A brilliant Stephen King story was made into an equally brilliant movie a few years ago starring Morgan Freeman. What was very cool about Freeman in the part of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding was that the written character was an old school, red-headed Irishman, complete with the accent. When I watched the movie, I forgot about the “white Irishman” and fell head over heels for Freeman’s Red Redding.

27 10 2007
Mr President

Exactly. Shawshank was made no worse by a black man playing the “white Irishman” because race was not central to the role. Equally Patrick Stewart recently played Othello so brilliantly that it’s been lauded as the best ever portrayal of the role. This is what inspired me to mention Othello.

How did he do it? Well, he still kept race a central theme to the play. Yet blacking up was not an option. So instead he simply reversed the roles, Othello being white and the rest of the cast being black. I applaud the thinking, and perhaps that is the way that white actors can play the role.

The amazing thing in this story is that the local theatre group were sensitive to the issues of race, and in fact censored the play to remove the “n” word and instead use the phrase “people of colour”. In my view the use of that word is surely far more offensive than blacking up?

27 10 2007
Jayne d'Arcy

We’re too sensitive these days. It seems like we’re turning into a bunch of wussy, suit-happy Americans that find injustice and offense around every corner. I wish I could have seen Stewart as Othello. That sounds like it was a fantastic production.

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