Current Event Friday #83

Just because an actress is popular doesn’t mean she’s qualified for an important role

“It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.” Thankfully, screenwriters and other executives challenged this short-sighted assumption in a recent box office film. The potential mistake and the outrage that has followed as news broke about the casting is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Many moviegoers have recently seen Harriet a biopic about noted abolitionist Harriet Tubman. If a studio head had his way in the preliminary stages of the film, Julia Roberts could have played the titular role. Yes, you read that right, Julia Roberts of Pretty Woman fame who is in no way African-American could have played the part of Harriet Tubman.

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One of these is not like the other. Can you spot the difference?

The odd choice of Julia Roberts first was presented to the film’s screenwriter over two decades earlier when the film was still being marketed to various studios. Gregory Allen Howard, who wrote the screenplay didn’t mention the studio head by name, so it’s left for speculation.

Admittedly, I’m critical of casting directors choosing actors to play parts for the sake of gender equivalence like the recent Captain Marvel and Ghostbusters films.  Other woke choices have suggested that characters need to become LGBTQ+ in order to represent the population when the characters are not necessarily dependent or known for those sexual identities, the most notable choice has been to make Captain America gay.

Casting actors in roles of historical figures even though they don’t always bear a close resemblance can happen and the actors tend to play the essence of the real-life person rather than trying to physically resemble the person. Robin Williams’ portrayal as Pres. Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum franchise is one such example of an actor portraying the essence of the character rather than resembling him. Obviously, the studio head thought Julia Roberts could play the essence of Harriet Tubman and the audience would suspend disbelief that a white person was playing an African-American. Audiences are willing to suspend disbelief to some degree, but this instance would’ve been a stretch. Thankfully, the studio head didn’t suggest Julia Roberts play the part in blackface which would have been even more inappropriate.

Notwithstanding this surprising news about the film, Harriet seems like a film worth watching in theaters. Several on my timeline have praised the film for its portrayal of an important abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor. If you’re interested in a film featuring a well-known and beloved actor portraying a real-life figure in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which opens in theaters today. This film stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood fame. With Thanksgiving break coming up, a movie outing sounds like a fun idea.

What are some dumb/strange casting choices that you’d like to recast?

Current Event Friday #73

Incidents of racism are making the rounds in the news

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race. We all like to believe that this is true and so many others believe that in our country. While it’s true that at our founding as a nation we had an untenable relationship between White Europeans and people of color, but we have progressed since that time. Sadly, some insensitive people have proven we could do better. Three such incidents of racism in the news recently are today’s topic of #CurrentEventFriday.

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Locally, the most obvious incident was the Ku Klux Klan’s Labor Day Kookout in Madison, IN. A quaint little small town famous for the Independence Day regatta attracts several dozen Klansmen who dare to proclaim the superiority of the white race. As the group has waned in influence, the numbers have dwindled while the counter-protestors have grown significantly. This is a promising sign that more are opposed to racism and refuting it. Madison overlooks Trimble County, KY so there is at least some historical tendencies of ‘copperheads’ in the area. During the Civil War, ‘copperheads’ were Southern loyalists living in Union states in the North. Hopefully there will come a time when the Kookout gets cancelled from lack of interest.

Not as local, but somewhat nearby is an arrest of a University of Illinois student. The alleged perpetrator is a sophomore at the campus. After this student and another left a noose in an elevator in a residence hall, the other student came forward and confessed that their friend had indeed placed a noose in the elevator. After the student was arrested and charged with a hate crime for leaving the noose, the university dismissed the student. A similar story occurred during my own undergrad when parts of a pig carcass were found near an African-American fraternity house because another fraternity discarded the carcass carelessly after a hog roast. No hate crime charges were filed since no malicious intent was able to be assigned to the guilty parties.

I posted a short blurb and a news story that followed on my Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s still worth discussing. A couple in Mississippi looked into renting an outdoor event space for their wedding but were refused as the groom was African-American while the bride is white. When the owners of the event space were questioned about the refusal, they argued that both gay marriages and interracial marriages were against their Christian race, or Christian belief. As word broke about the event space and Social Media critics attacked the ratings of the venue and commented on the Facebook page, the owners quickly deleted the business page. I know that gay marriage is a hot-button issue and religious freedom bills allow business owners not to violate their conscience, the argument for these bills is seemingly about endorsing behavior not natural traits. That’s at least my interpretation of homosexuality, and I would suspect many others. Sadly, the argument about a Christian Race alludes to rhetoric of Klansmen that the White Christian Race is under attack. It’s also not completely surprising that Mississippi is still struggling with racism. The site of the Emmitt Till Murder as well as the 1963 Civil Rights murders the state is seemingly the poster child for racism. The state is making at least some progress as the mayor and town council in the town where the venue is located condemned the venue and distanced themselves with the racist undertones. Yet, the state representative for the district including the town of Boonville where the venue is located has not issued a statement. This same representative co-sponsored the latest religious freedom act in Mississippi that protects business owners from being penalized for refusing gay marriage ceremonies. Pretty safe to assume that pressure will be brought to bear on the state representative, and he’ll have to make some sort of statement.

I for one think that we have made progress as a nation since the Civil Rights Era, but we are still divided by race. Electing an African-American man as president not once but twice is to me fruit of diversity appreciation in our country following the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. Seemingly, groups like Black Lives Matter that notice a racist devil around every corner tend to undermine progress while alt-right and White pride folks also give fuel to those determined to promote unity of will with diversity of thought and race.

Hopefully, as everyone can recognize actual acts of racism perpetrated with evil intent rather than naivete about race relations that leads to misunderstanding will move us where we should be as a country. If we are a nation where all people are created equal regardless of race, gender, age, or religion then we need to be able to agree on what is prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Even more hopefully acts of racism also fade away and we do become the nation we aspired to be from our founding.

Are we improving with race relations in America?

History Monday #57

Los Angeles race riots based on clothing? Yes it happened

“All of those Mexicans are bad people. They’re not the best people for America. They’re not loyal to the country that lets them live here.” No, these aren’t recent statements about Latinx people in America. These are statements that were basically made during the events covered in today’s #HistoryMonday.

On this day in 1943, late that evening nearly a dozen soldiers encountered a group of young Mexicans near the Naval Reserve Armory where they were stationed in Los Angeles. City planners and military advisors allowed the naval base to be in a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood thanks to the low cost for building in the area.

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The Zoot Suit

 

Many of the Mexican-American citizens dressed in zoot suits, the fashion of the time. The zoot suit required higher amounts of fabric including wool, precious and rationed materials during World War II The suits were defined by baggy pant legs and were accented with gaudy shoes and pocket watches. The apparel worn by the Latinx citizens gave the event the name we know it by today—The Zoot Suit Riots.

The naval reservists and other Americans resented the fashion of these self-named pachuchos. By failing to abide by the wartime rations, these citizens were being unpatriotic and therefore untrustworthy.

As the sailors began arguing with these pachucos, the verbal arguments escalated into physical violence.  Statements to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the sailors alleged that the Mexican-Americans attacked them first. As the LAPD responded to the emergency calls to end the violence, many either joined in with the sailors or stood idly by and allowed the violence to continue.

During the next few days, many more zoot suit wearing Mexican-Americans were attacked by other soldiers and civilians. Some of those attacked for wearing zoot suits were stripped of the clothing. As the suits were removed from the Mexican-Americans rioters defaced the suits and outright burned the wasteful clothing in protest. More than 150 people had been injured, and the police had arrested more than 500 Latinx civilians on charges ranging from “rioting” to “vagrancy” in the following days. In addition to the Latinx civilians attacked, a handful of African-Americans and Filipinos were also attacked presumably as part of mistaken ethnic identity on the part of the Caucasian rioters.

Media coverage further inflamed the situation, encouraging others to join the effort. Local press described the attacks as “cleansing” Los Angeles of “miscreants” and “hoodlums” who caused violence around their neighborhoods.

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No doubt, much of the problems stemmed from racism more than a fashion faux pas. Even today, some of the same attitudes persist today. While the focus now has shifted to African-Americans, there are still subtle accusations about Black culture including the apparel.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the perceived ridiculous clothing and music of African-Americans but I know that not everyone listening to that music or wearing those clothes is a “thug” or “gangsta” just as not every White person is a “nerd” or “pure” either.

Besides the parallel with African-American and Whites, there are still problems that exist with Latinx people and Whites that didn’t immediately end after the zoot suit riots. While much of the anger now is directed towards Latinx people with questionable citizenship status.

Tensions were also still unresolved by the Angelenos which saw riots in Watts and predominant African-American neighborhoods during the Civil Rights era of the 60’s and riots in those same neighborhoods three decades later in the aftermath of the acquittal of LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King. Los Angeles’s population explosion in the early decades of the 20th Century created potential for issues as city planners couldn’t accommodate for the population boom in a timely manner. Seemingly, the issues are at bay right now but there’s always potential in large cities with pockets of certain races and ethnicities in various neighborhoods rather than a healthy heterogeneous population.

What do you know about the Zoot Suit Riots?

History Monday 2

Today in History Executive Order 9066 was signed.

 

It’s time for History Monday again. So, welcome back to Mr. Stroud’s History classroom. 😉 You can find the noteworthy events that happened today in history on http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history. Today we’re talking about Executive Order 9066.

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This Executive Order was signed by our 32nd President of the United States — Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Executive Order 9066 was enacted just a little over two months after the ambush by the Japanese armed forces on Pearl Harbor. While the next day response on Dec. 8, 1941 to declare war on Japan was expected and logical, sadly Executive Order 9066 was not.

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Executive Order 9066 was enacted by FDR to “protect” vital areas for the US Military. The vital areas included most of the West Coast and provided the path for the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. The first half of the 20th century was marked by the political idea of Progressivism. One of the hallmarks of this political philosophy was segregation. FDR like his distant cousin Teddy served in the War Department of the cabinet for other Presidents before their own election.

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The later Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. During World War I, the War Department of the United States sought to segregate the US military by race and additionally, to warn good Americans about what the Germans could do. In the years of US involvement in WWI, Americans were urged to refer to Sauerkraut as Liberty Cabbage as one of the milder examples. It was during these years, FDR learned about the power of winning hearts and minds of Americans against the bad guys.

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Pres. F. Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 to help Americans know that the Japanese in America would not be a threat to them. As the order was enforced, Japanese Americans were relocated all over the united states to ensure American safety. Thankfully, the order was suspended in 1944 and allowed the Japanese to return to their homes. Eventually the camps were shut down in 1946.

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The order was thankfully rescinded by President Gerald Ford in 1976 exactly 54 years to the day. This paved the way for the eventual remedy for this sad episode in our history as a nation.

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The remedy for this unfortunate series of events was made in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. Pres. Reagan signed a bill guaranteeing $20,000 tax-free and an official apology to anyone surviving the camps.

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So, what does this mean for today? I’m hopeful that we won’t repeat this mistake. I know some who disagree with my political stance and worry that our current administration may have designs to achieve this. While I agree sometimes his tone is often harsh, I really don’t expect him to do so. I’m also thankful that we are in a much better place as far as race relations. We may not be completely a utopia of race relations, but we are getting closer. I think we also have learned the dangers of segregation as part of the Progressive era.

 

Let’s hope you pass the test I have afterwards. Just kidding, hope you learned something again.