“What does it say to Black kids watching when the world’s biggest children’s entertainment company cannot give them even one animated film that features a Black person that stays a Black person throughout? What does this say about Blackness to kids who are not Black? About whose life is being portrayed as mattering? And whose does not?
This is how bias and harmful stereotypes are created and perpetuated in society. This is how whiteness protects whiteness and thus a system of white supremacy through media representation: by normalizing itself as human and othering Blackness through erasure and dehumanization. Whether conscious or unconscious, this bias and adherence to white supremacy and Black erasure and dehumanization is real and damaging.”
For NPR Books, I wrote about The Devil You Know, the incendiary new book from Charles Blow:
“Some time into his new book The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, Charles Blow recalls hearing Harry Belafonte give a speech.
The subject was Belafonte’s bailout of some student members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC.) Belafonte had raised $70,000 in bail money and called up his best friend Sidney Poitier to help him deliver the money. But it was not easy. Belafonte recalled how he and Poitier were chased by the Ku Klux Klan, whose members accosted them at the airport; Belafonte and Poitier had to take off speeding in a race for their lives.
Poitier and Belafonte were, without a doubt, two of the most acclaimed Black stars in America. And this still happened to them. But Belafonte’s did not end his story at the recounting of this memory of vile racism and terror. Belafonte turned it into a call for action. Facing the audience that Charles Blow sat in, Belafonte asked a simple question: ‘Where are the radical thinkers?'”