(Todd A. Smith)

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The anti-woke movement from many on the political right, which protests anything diverse might seem like a new phenomenon in Hollywood.

Unfortunately, Halle Bailey is the latest Black actress to catch the venom from some racists for having the nerve to portray a fictional character who was originally “played” by a White “actress.”

But thankfully, one of Black America’s favorite aunties Stephanie Mills posted a message for Bailey on social media about the hate mail and threats she received for portraying Dorothy on Broadway’s version of “The Wiz,” an urban remake of the popular film, “The Wizard of Oz.”

On Instagram, the legendary singer/actress wrote, “As a young black girl playing the roll (sic) as ‘Dorothy’ in 7 time Tony Award winning Broadway play ‘The Wiz.’ I know what this baby @hallebailey #HalleBailey has been dealing with. I got so much hate mail, I was told Judy Garland is ‘turning over in her grave.’ All because a little black girl was playing a roll (sic), that was once played by a white girl.

“It’s sad to see the same thing is happening to this beautiful, talented, smart and intelligent actress. Halle, God put you in this place and time….So let your light shine. Hold your head up high, walk in your peace, and celebrate the greatness that you are.

“They told me I would never make it on Broadway, they told me I couldn’t sing, they told me I was dark, I have watched and listened to ‘they’ try to tell you why you shouldn’t and couldn’t. Well this weekend your movie comes out.

“I’m so proud of you and how you handled all the naysayers. We have never met, however I have been in your shoes. Baby girl, let them know that this #LittleMermaid is made of teflon…Let’s make sure we support #thelittlemermaid #BlackGirlMagic…”

Well, Black America, Latin America and many in White America heeded Auntie Stephanie’s message because the live action version of “The Little Mermaid” dominated the Memorial Day weekend box office.

Many right-wingers vowed to boycott “The Little Mermaid” as if they were the only people with enough money to go to the movie theaters.

Many right-wingers say, “when you go woke, you go broke,” as if almost 50 percent of the American population is not people of color.

Black people famously began saying stay woke to warn people to stay conscious of racial discrimination and oppression.

Infamously, many on the right have misappropriated the term and change the meaning of woke to mean anything except the White American status quo.

However, the box office results should prove that so-called going woke does not necessarily equal going broke, especially if your fanbase does not support racism and exclusion.

Many Black, Brown and White people do not subscribe to racism.

Therefore, Bailey playing the role of the mermaid Ariel is no different to them as a White person getting a role that the screenwriters originally envisioned for an actor of color.

It is always funny to me that when Black folks really endure racism, many White people on the political right often ask, “why does everything have to do with race?”

Then, presumably people from that same demographic make a big deal when a person of another race plays a role that originally was just a made-up cartoon character.

If critics had a problem with Leslie Odom, Jr. playing Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway play “Hamilton” that is one thing because Hamilton was a real guy, who happened to be White.

But for someone to get mad at the race of a cartoon character in a movie shows that they are the people making everything about race.

More importantly, when some White people ask why Black people make everything about race, that is not a question any Black person can answer, past, present or future.

That is so because there is no such thing as race, biologically.

Unfortunately, race is just a social construct created by people we identify as White to justify the enslavement of African captives and the genocide of Native Americans.

Therefore, White people created race and racism.

As a result, those White people who committed the original sin of slavery would be the only people that could answer that question.

Modern White people could not even answer that problem because they did not create the problem.

But those who make a big deal and threaten to boycott “The Little Mermaid” simply because of the race of the lead actor are the main reason that things are still about race.

People like that will continue to act in racist ways to maintain the status quo.

That is why anti-woke and critical race theory are buzzwords for so many angry right-wing voters.

That is why so many politicians on the right want to take their country back.

That is why they urge politicians of color to go back to their S-hole countries.

Those who cry reverse racism at the casting of a Disney movie see a country that is becoming more inclusive and diverse.

They see a country that is living up to its pledge of liberty and justice for all.

And throughout history, when the country has begun to come together racially, bigots have driven a wedge into the heart of the country to racially divide us.

It happened during Reconstruction.

It happened when Black performers like Mills began to take the entertainment industry by storm in the 1970s.

And it is happening in the 21st century to younger stars like Bailey.

It is just a shame that the people responsible like to throw rocks at American unity, then try to hide their hands as if they are not solely responsible for the racial divide in this nation.

Todd A. Smith
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