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Friday, February 12, 2010

White Out: Racial Politics and the Black Image in Hollywood


By Sikivu Hutchinson, from Our Weekly

Nine white actresses grace the cover of the March 2010 “New Hollywood” issue of the magazine Vanity Fair, sprawled like anorexic lilies against a spring green field. In a film season where the most talked about performance by a young actress was that of an African American woman—best actress Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe of the film Precious—New Hollywood looks suspiciously like the Old. Although the nation has elected its first African American president and ushered its first African American family into the White House, the American film industry remains among the most segregated in the country. As one of the most powerful mediums of cultural propaganda on the planet, the film industry is still an empire of white corporate control. A 2002 study published by UC Santa Barbara professors Denise and Bill Bielby concluded that rampant cronyism, arbitrary hiring practices and the racial biases of bottom-line oriented foreign investors have kept both the film and TV industries bastions of whiteness. Further, the absence of studio heads of color exacerbates the exclusion of people of color from the old boy networks that often dictate hiring, promotion and the green lighting of films in the industry.

It is because of these exclusionary practices that the self-image of African Americans in 21st century film remains a political minefield. For example, the colossal mainstream success of the Tyler Perry...www.ourweekly.com