Yet another case of how skin color is ingrained

In an op-ed published today on the Chicago Tribune site, columnist John Kass pokes fun at an Obama/Clinton ticket in a piece entitled, "'Bill and Barack Show' full of hope–and punch lines."

For the most part, Kass' piece is amusing in that "i-didn't-have-anything-better-to-write-about-damn-that-deadline" kinda way. 

To wit, Barack plays the "straight man" to Bill's wacky antics: 

It opens with just the two of them, wandering barefoot on the banks of a river in North Carolina during the primary, best friends, cane-fishing poles on their shoulders, and Bill whistling a catchy theme song.

But then the screen fades, and we're in Washington, where the rascally Bill is always getting the nerdy Barack into all sorts of mischief and hairy situations.

That image alone is worth a chuckle…or two.

Interestingly, Kass casts Hilary and Michelle as crazy 21st century versions of Edith Bunker and "Weezy" Jefferson.

Also, worth a chuckle.

But then you get to this part:

Halle Berry will play Michelle though I've always been weak on Angela Bassett.














I love me some Halle Berry.  I am probably one of the few black people in the nation who genuinely think she deserved the Oscar for her brilliant performance in Monsters’ Ball.

But come on…why we lightening Michelle up already? 

She ain’t even the First Lady yet.  Damn!

Before I get the “oh you’re overreacting” comment I want to say that I’m not so much mad or outraged or angry or calling for Kass’ head as I am more intrigued by what this actually means, what it says about black people, women specifically, in the white imagination (and I suspect in the black male imagination, as well).

On the one hand, it could just be a comment on how white folks seem to only recognize or know about two or three of us in any given field.  The comparison between Angela and Halle could just be that…Kass don’t know any other black actresses.

On the other, if he does know more than two or three black actresses, then it does mean something that he juxtaposed Angela and Halle…and then chose Halle.  It just does.  No arguments, kids.

It also says a lot about how blackness is constructed in all our minds, particular when that blackness is gendered.  It’s always light v. dark.  Angela and Halle have been propped up as the bookends on a spectrum of black womanhood in Hollywood that we are supposed to believe are diametrically opposed and at war with each other (mostly because of the “controversy” over Monsters’ Ball). 

The point of course is how absurd it is that Halle is a choice to play Michelle Obama.

As constructed, Kass’ column represents an interesting duality for blackness.  We are fighting both the dominant image of blackness (in this case, the notion that there is only one black actor “good enough” for all black roles) and the perception of being “too black” (in this case, the notion that worth is correlated to how light one is). 

Those things are not always the same, but they are always at work simultaneously. 

Kass’ column
My article on race in Hollywood

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
This entry was posted in Culture, Current Affairs, Film. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Yet another case of how skin color is ingrained

  1. Um…I wouldn’t say you’re overreacting as much as I think you’re offering an opinionated analysis. Nothing wrong with that…although I’d love to see angela eat that role up. Who’d play narack though? Tyler perry?

  2. Tyler says:

    Oh god no! Not Tyler Perry
    I actually think someone like Michael Ealy would NAIL Barack in a movie.

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