Blood as a Yardstick, and a Film That Falls Short
November 11, 2003
by Katti Gray
Forced or consensual, race-mixing is complicated stuff. The miscasting of Anthony Hopkins, a white actor of Welsh birth, as Coleman Silk in the film version of Philip Roth’s novel, “The Human Stain,” is the lesser criticism of this spotty movie. The fictionalized Silk is fashioned after an actual person who looked white but, by racial convention, was considered black. As a college boy, Silk breaks his black mother’s heart – he is the lightest in the family – when he flatly informs her that he has chosen to navigate life as a white man. So as not to tip off his white bride-to-be, Silk had already announced to her that his parents were dead. Silk wished to fade into a white existence that satisfied more than it constrained, he said.
If one purports to be black – or has that label foisted upon him – but is light enough to pass for white, it seems to me that one is precisely that. White.