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If Betsy Ross Flag Complaints Silly, 'Little Mermaid' Complaints Even Sillier

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Silliness is in the Eye of the Beholder


First, people complained about Nike removing a sneaker with a Betsy Ross-themed American flag.


Then, some people complained that Disney casted an African-American woman as Ariel in the live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”


Back in the day, people complained when an African-American girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) got the title role in the latest “Annie” film.


While some people on social media called Colin Kaepernick’s complaint about the Betsy Ross-themed flag as silly, I have yet to see those same critics call the “Little Mermaid” complaints silly.


I guess silliness is in the eye of the beholder.


While some people might not like Kaeprnick’s stance on racial issues, at least his complaints deal with real life racism, past or present, and not cartoon craziness like some other folks.


After hearing the news that Disney had cast 19-year-old singer Halle Bailey in the coveted role of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” many critics went off because a White actress initially voiced the role of Ariel and the cartoon character was White.


One YouTuber said that if Disney wanted more African-American characters, then they should develop the current African-American characters and leave the White cartoon characters for White actors and actresses.


Some also criticized Zendaya for getting the part as MJ, the wife of Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”


On YouTube, YoungRippa59 said, “Anybody that supports race-bending of comic book characters is a f’n loser. It’s one of the most unnecessary things that producers are doing right now in TV and film. It’s nothing but a joke of a concept by the production companies to appease you chumps that foam over the mouth about the concept of diversity and representation.


“Granted this is almost exclusively done to White characters, but the fact that folks actually champion these actions is sort of laughable. These fools have no connection to the source material, so leave it to these normies to change every character they can to someone that’s non-White. Of course, if Black Panther were portrayed by White-mc-White face everybody would be up in arms, including me. The whole ‘it’s just a fictional character’ line would be immediately retired.”


Despite YoungRippa59’s protests about the race-bending of characters, I find it laughable that he seems not to know the history of blackface makeup in Hollywood in which White actors played all roles depicting African-Americans.


At the inception of Hollywood, African-American actors and actresses could not get any roles in movies.


Even though the depiction of African-Americans often, if not always, centered on a negative stereotype of African-Americans such as the lazy, shiftless, unintelligent lackey, the roles never really went to African-American performers.


If an African-American dreamed of Hollywood glory, that dream often turned into a nightmare of no opportunity because basically no roles went to African-Americans.


But when African-Americans, especially women, got roles, those roles never really consisted of characters powerful and/or positive.


The roles usually consisted of slaves, maids or later prostitutes.


African-American women never got to play the roles of queens, princesses or other rulers.


Even the comic books and cartoons usually did not portray African-American women as princesses and queens.


Therefore, the casting of Bailey in “The Little Mermaid” and the depiction of Tiana, voiced by actress Anika Noni Rose, in “The Princess and the Frog” represented a new day for young African-American girls.


Young White girls grew up with constant images of White women as beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated and powerful.


Young White kids even had toys that appeared in their likeness.


As a child, seeing images of yourself does something positive to your self-esteem.


For decades, children of color rarely had those images growing up.


So if a role in a Hollywood movie goes to an African-American actress instead of a White actress, it is par for the course for Hollywood because for decades roles intended for African-American actors went to White actors.


Furthermore, how can Black Panther, the king of an African nation, star a White actor in the lead role unless the White actor wears Blackface makeup or White invaders colonize the country?


The race-bending or alleged reverse racism that some people see is just a figment of their imagination and not really worth entertaining.


Hollywood has bigger concerns than the color of Ariel’s skin in “The Little Mermaid” like equal pay for men and women and eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault in the entertainment business.


On the other hand, Kaepernick’s opinion that some White supremacists use the Betsy Ross-themed flag, with 13 stars in a circle, as a symbol of hate is actually true and not an animated cartoon.


And it is true that hate crimes committed by White supremacists in this country have gone up exponentially during the administration of President Donald Trump.


And it is true that White supremacists and not Muslim extremists commit most terrorist attacks in America.


But critics of Kaepernick still believe that his stance on the Ross-themed flag is stupid and/or silly.


While I, like many other Americans, did not know that White racists had appropriated that Ross-themed flag to highlight a time in American history in which diversity remained non-existent and slavery represented the norm, that does not make Kaepernick’s concern unwarranted.


It is easy for people who never had to deal with real racism to criticize those who experience it on a regular basis.


Furthermore, African-Americans constantly hear the complaint that we should leave the past in the past and focus on the present and the future.


But obviously, that does not apply to people who like Ross-themed flags from 1776.


The Ross flag represented the past.


Shouldn’t America focus on moving forward?


And shouldn’t America criticize those who complain about cartoon racism with the same vigor that it criticizes those who actually speak out against real in-the-flesh racism?


I guess it is not the complaint that actually matters.


It must just be the person complaining that gets America riled up.


This article was published on Friday 05 July, 2019.
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