Halle, Hollywood and Race
by Ward Connerly
Hollywood is known as a fantasy world, a world of make-believe. The Hollywood movie industry is also known as one of the most liberal communities on the planet. But, for Hollywood and the rest of America, the realities of “race” came alive at the 74 th Academy Awards ceremony several weeks ago. What happened that night was that the American people were allowed to attend an advanced course in sociology and, specifically, the study of race in America.
As I watched and listened to Halle Berry’s acceptance speech for receiving her Oscar for best actress, telling the world that “This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and Diahann Carroll,” my first thought was: “You have to be kidding! This isn’t about the issue of race.”
Like it or not, however, that night was about race, with all of its complexities and nuances. In fact, race became a part of this event long before the acting stars got out of their limousines and made their way into the venue. Race became a factor when some blacks criticized Berry for her part in the stormy sex scene with her white leading man, Billy Bob Thornton, in Monster’s Ball, and Washington for playing a crooked cop in Training Day.
There is the thought held by some blacks that black actors and actresses should only accept roles that reflect favorably upon their “race.” And, hot, vivid “interracial” sex scenes and crooked cops are not their idea of good “role models” for black people. They seem to forget that true equality means that black people are entitled—indeed, obliged—to play scoundrels up on the big screen, just as some may be so in real life. It requires a heightened sense of distraction from reality to believe that black people can only play “good guy” roles, but never the bad guy or the person of questionable character. That is not equality; that is fakery and social fraud.
Lest anyone didn’t notice, Ms. Berry’s mother is white. That makes Halle Berry at least “half-white,” and possibly more, depending on the ancestry of her father. Considering that her father has been disowned by her because of his “abusive” behavior to Ms. Berry’s mother, according to Ms. Berry, one wonders why, if given a choice, an individual would choose the identity of the disowned parent instead of the one who played the greatest role in her life—her mother.
The answer to this question was found in an interview with Ms. Berry and her mother following the Awards ceremony.. Ms. Berry said she self-identified as “black” because she had an experience with prejudice as a multiracial child that led her mother to counsel her to accept the black identity to avoid further frustrations in life. For her part, Ms. Berry’s mother characterized her daughter and Denzel Washington as “great representatives of their ‘race.’”
How can it be that a mother and a daughter are of different races? Yet, this fascinating background tells us a lot about race in America: the legendary “one-drop” of blood rule is alive and well. One drop of black blood and you are black, according to the laws of slavery, the cus-toms of Jim Crow segregation, and the prevailing customs, traditions and laws of contemporary American life. America’s burgeoning multiracial population is denied their freedom from race because of this idiotic legacy of the past. I can personally attest to this fact.
None of those on my mother’s side of my family have any trace of African blood Yet, they are identified as “African-American,” a term coined by Jesse Jackson. I have one ancestor on my father’s side of my family, my grandfather, whose mother was born a slave and was of African descent. My other three ancestors were Eli Soniea-Canadian French, Mary Smith-Irish and Choctaw Indian, and Fannie Self-a woman of Irish and American Indian descent. Is it because my skin is brown and some of the physical attributes that I inherit from my African great grandmother are more prominent that I am socially obliged to ignore the other three quarters of my ancestry? Unlike Tiger Woods, who is faced with a social quandary similar to that of Ms. Berry, Halle and her mother have essentially said, “we won’t fight the system.” While understandable, that is unfortunate.
The media is a co-conspirator in this drama about race. All across the land, headlines read: “Black actors win Os-cars.” Had the awards for leading actress and leading actor gone to Sissy Spacek and Russell Crowe, respectively, it is doubtful that the headlines would have been: “White actors win Oscars.”
I hope Halle Berry and Denzel Washington are the last “black actors” to win Oscars. In the future, the individuals receiving awards for their roles for being up on the big screen should only be actors playing roles that make us laugh or cry or escape into another world for a couple of hours. What was the color of their skin? Gee, we didn’t notice!
Yes, Ms. Berry called attention to race in a way that made many of us squirm because we thought race was needlessly injected into the Academy Awards. But, as one of my favorite comedians, Flip Wilson, often said: “The devil made me do it!” In this case, we, the American people, and our allegiance to the outdated and immoral “one-drop” rule, and the refusal of some to let go of their preoccupation with “race,” are the devil.
Ward Connerly, author of the autobiography, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences, is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute — a national, not-for-profit organization aimed at educating the public about the problems created by racial and gender preferences. Connerly has gained national attention and respect as an outspoken advocate of equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background.
by Ward Connerly
Copyright (c) 2002 ACRI and The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved. <
Date: Wednesday, August 07, 2002 5:59 PM
From: Valerie Wilkins
Subject: re: Halle, Hollywood…article by Ward Connerly!
Letters to the Editor:
Re: Halle, Hollywood and Race – by Ward Connerly
Tinseltown has been hypocritical for so lonnnnggg that I find it extremely refreshing when someone exposes the star “dust” that they like to sprinkle around…. Mr. Connerly’s article hit the nail on the head concerning the “one drop rule” that permeated the Oscars. I must admit though, I was completely giddy when both Berry and Washington won! Until the speech Ms. Berry made. Actually, I tuned on and off, so I missed both live(!) speeches. Unbelievable, but understandable after listening to her mother congratule them both in the famous Green Room afterwards.
My question for those biracial actors in the industry who do embrace all their heritage, is “Where’s the….”? We should address this syndrome, too. Many interracial households go to the movies and spend their hard earned dollar bills for the great national escape! Popcorn and hotdogs!!! Notwithstanding, now that we’ve seen another nauseating episode of race-is-here-to-stay-in-none-other-than-liberal-hollywood, at the Oscars 2002, it seems crystal clear that we may never be blessed with contributions for our struggle to end races in America.
For One America,
Valerie A. Wilkins-Godbee
Former deputy chief
A PLACE FOR US/National
a 501 (c) (3) advocacy group; 1985
Pres. Interracial Women’s Political Consortium