Every time I watch a Hollywood movie, I am reminded of how necessary it is for the makers to drop in a few black people. Doesn’t matter if the insertion of the characters looks deliberate or even forced — sometimes there is just one character whose only purpose is to maintain a semblance of ‘diversity’. If the lead actors aren’t black, let’s find a black jailer, a black policewoman, a black lawyer, a black-somebody!
America is predominantly white (more than 72% of the population), and it should have been okay with run a series or a movie entirely with white people. But no, you simply can’t have an all-white anything. It’s forbidden by an unwritten law.
The practice is everywhere — in advertisements, video campaigns, web series, posters, and surprisingly, in animated movies too. To an outsider, this looks odd, even funny. As if the country is trying too hard to hide something. As if there must be a spattering of black to show all is well.
Well, looks like it isn’t.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s brutal daylight murder by policemen, the make-believe facade seems to be coming apart, as it did during the terrible 60s. Racism in America suddenly seems to have a permanent home in the heads, if not in overt public conversation.
The ‘Black’ in our psyche
Let’s face it. Black is burned into our psyche. Day is white, night black. The fairy is white, the demon black. Knowledge is bright, ignorance dark. What about Whitelist and Blacklist (which we just hear that Github plans to remove from its lexicon)? Did you think it was easy to dissociate colour from human perception? It ain’t so straightforward after all, no matter how prejudiced or wrong you think it is.
Sometimes what you do is not what you really want to do. Sometimes what you say you believe is not really what you believe. A lot of people either wish to do the ‘right’ thing or don’t have the guts to go against popular conversation. Equal rights for all is so good on paper. It’s popular because it’s progressive. Hell, it sounds cool too. So, on the surface, everyone seem to like it. No one to talk against. However, deep inside, behind closed doors and in private conversations…