HELLO AMERICA!—Recently, I have been receiving so many messages concerning current actors of color portraying old concepts and views of themselves as a people in this country. Betty Hamilton, a third-grade teacher, and listener of my radio WLMR radio show and reader of this column from Boston inquired why so many potentially fine actors, especially black female artists believe they must continue the old creative handle when representing who they are?
“Every time I see a black woman viewed sitting in a hospital, office seeking a job or even waiting in line at a market, portrayed as low class, poorly spoken, physically out of shape or displaying a physical stance so stereotypical attitude-wise of characters fostered during a time when Hollywood or playwrights believed it was safe to picture them as merely humble servants or those used for simply a group of people at the economic mercy of the Haves and made sure the socially accepting image of a black character was one which would satisfy the preconditioned programming of an audience who expected nothing more.”
“I, as a teacher, become even more determined to teach my young people they are much more than bodies to be looked upon as being less than human beings,” Ms. Hamilton offered and continued with, “It is so sad as well as unfortunate that we are still struggling to be recognized as simply as part of the human race. And not here to be simply looked upon as servants or a group forced to actually believe there is no other way out of a psychological mode as being a group continually viewed as a people on their knees praying for liberation, wearing kerchiefs to establish a place of servitude displaying an apron as servant or holding a child from another race. One only has to remember HATTIE McDaniel, the wonderful Oscar winning “Gone With the Wind” actress who wasn’t allowed to sit with the other industry members at the Academy ceremony to fully understand how Hollywood was during that pathetic period of human servitude.”
Our teacher from Boston hit it right on the head at every turn because when I finally met Hattie’s brother “SAM” who was also an actor who fought back tears when remembering his famous sister said:
“Hattie was a fighter. She fought all the way believing she had a purpose in life. She never let us forget that she was a daughter of a former slave and that was something never to be forgotten. She was a good singer and did shows on the road until she got a chance to come to Hollywood. And when she got here, Hattie quickly got going being cast in small roles even though the only ones they considered her for were those of a maid. It didn’t matter because even though the black community criticized her for that, she simply said either she played a maid or servant or be one. So, she just kept on going until she eventually got the choice role in “Gone With the Wind.” And even that with all the accolades she was still forced to be a servant, but it wasn’t until she was signed to star in the TV series “BEULAH” that she was considered an actress to reckon with. However, after a few seasons, she was hit with breast cancer and later died. But my sister was quite a determined person.”
Since I rented a house next to the one Miss McDaniel owned, I was privy to many of the stories concerning her last days. I was deeply affected emotionally upon hearing when she found she was dying of breast cancer and planned where she wanted to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard, the owner of the cemetery refused to allow her to be buried there, as they didn’t take blacks. Even to this day hearing this is a shock! Hattie’s second choice was Rosedale Cemetery and that’s where our dear Hattie is today.
So America, when people like teacher “Hamilton” reminds us how it was in the supposed land of the free, it should make us even more determined not to accept going back to a period of intellectual enslavement or conditioning where one of a different color was forced to look at themselves as less than human but working constantly as a part of a civilized country or world representing one with genuine respect for each other. THIS IS MY DREAM AS WELL!