On the night of February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel would become the first African American to win an Oscar for her role as a slave maid in the hit film “carried away by the wind.”
During the Oscars banquet at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, she was forced to sit alone, away from the same table as the film‘s white actors.
While a few white actors wearing t-shirts are nice in 2022, where have allies, advocates, and activists been all this time? Who defended Hattie McDaniel?
Black actors have long been relegated to degrading and stereotypical roles and, for the most part, white laughter was followed only by white silence.
By historically categorizing black people into certain types of roles in Hollywood, they have created expectations for many fanbases. As a result, now that a black person is appearing in a non-traditional role, these racist audiences cannot understand how or why a black person could even portray a character that is usually already fantasy-based.
For many years, casting directors, producers, and decision makers have consistently stuck to the same predictable formula when casting black actors in a movie or TV show. They normalized black people in secondary roles of servitude or being the “black friend” on an all-white cast just to tick the DEI box.
Without operating with the intent to broaden the reach and normalize black people on screen, we continue to see the racist results of the historic role Hollywood itself has played in stifling black progress and allowing resentment, to white jealousy and insecurity to run wild at our expense.