In light of the recent protests over the killing of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and others by white police officers, racism is in the front lines once again. During an in-depth interview, author Kathryn (Kaypri) Marcus, who recently co-wrote her mother’s book entitled, I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know: A Southern White Woman’s Story About Race speaks out about “post -racism.” The book is an autobiography that was written by her mother, Dorothy Hampton Marcus, who worked in race relations beginning in the 1950s as a southern white woman. Kaypri Marcus finished the book for her ailing mother which was over a decade in the making and feels that it is an essential glimpse into racism past and present.
When asked about the recent upheaval in the news about racism and the killing and treatment of African Americans, Kaypri exclaims, “Yeah, whoever invented the term ‘post racism’ was wrong. Maybe because Oprah has her own network or that our President is African American, they feel there is equality, but no other President has been hung in effigy…treated like this before.”
Marcus is just one of many speaking out about the fact that inequality still exists. In recent articles featured in The Hollywood Reporter and New York magazines, Top Five actor Chris Rock did a candid interview about race playing a major role in Hollywood. “It’s the most liberal town in the world and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist — not racist like ‘F— you, n—-’ racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A,” says Rock.
For Marcus, it’s hard to believe that it’s been fifty years since the fight began and her mother was one of many fighting for equal rights for blacks. Unfortunately, she feels like we are still in the fight. Even after President Obama was elected and re-elected, Marcus explains, we keep getting reminders that racism is alive and well.
As she puts it, “Even when he first announced his candidacy, I was very surprised. I said, ‘Is he crazy?’ Then he kept winning primaries again and again, and I was like, ‘Wait, he might really have a shot.’ I don’t think anybody thought he would really win. I don’t think anyone can deny that since becoming President, he has been put into a lot of hard places and prevented from doing many of the things he wanted. He constantly has white males of privilege blocking him.”
Chris Rock shed some light on part of the problem during his recent interview. “It’s a white industry, just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing, it just is and the black people that do get hired tend to be the same people,” says Rock.
According to Kaypri, media is part of the problem, not the solution. “In my mother’s time, media really didn’t reflect everybody and though there has been progress, the lack of balanced images has a greater effect on society at large. For example, though it’s not on the air anymore, the TV show Cops always seemed to focus on black and brown men committing crimes. I think the show imprinted something in our natural psyche and now when many see a black male, regardless of age, there is automatically a feeling a fear that comes about – criminals come in all colors.”
For Marcus, it all sounds eerily familiar to when her mother was a young woman in the South and the lynching of African American men was feared, they had to be fearful of just walking down the street. “One wrong turn and they would have risked losing their lives. Mike Brown was walking in the middle of the street, Eric Garner was standing on the sidewalk, Trayvon took a quick trip to the store to get Skittles and an Arizona tea when someone decided he was a threat. All these cases speak volumes about the reality of racism in our country and the way black males are seen.”
She adds, “Hollywood is a mirror for the society at large, which is obviously not protecting everybody’s human rights. There is no affirmative action, people hire who they know and who they know usually looks like them…and most of Hollywood is run by white males. People look at the success of Shonda Rhimes’ ShondaLand block of shows which comes on one night a week and say, ‘How great!’ But there are six other nights a week and a ton of other networks, and yet you still have to go on YouTube to see diversity, there is more programming for non-whites in Webisodes!”
Marcus closes by saying, “We live in a culture that is driven by the media; therefore, if someone is portrayed over and over again on TV in the same manner, it gets embedded in people’s minds and if that is their only exposure to people other than themselves, that’s what they believe to be the truth. I know black actors who are tired of going out for the thug roles. They just want to play regular everyday people.”
Marcus believes, “The cultural mindset and media’s portrayal of African Americans has to change for post-racism to really exist someday.”
For more information about the book, visit I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know and the I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know Facebook Page.
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