"I Have a Dream" is a speech by renowned activist Martin Luther King that he gave in 1963. In the speech, he profoundly talks about the problems the African American community was going through at the time. He identified that despite the fact the emancipation proclamation was offered by Abraham Lincoln 100 years before, people of color continued to suffer and whites. Martin Luther King was passionate about seeing a changed society where all people regardless of their races, received quality rights. In the contemporary environment and past decades, African Americans have received certain depictions in Hollywood films owing to perception (King, 2012). It is essential to connect how the speech provided by Martin Luther King connects to modern-day depictions of African Americans in film and further note the efforts made to offset the situation.
The fact that most African Americans moved to the urban areas from the rural south saw a change in the depiction of African Americans in film. Previously, they had been depicted as poor people living in substandard conditions. However, the fact that most of these movements to urban areas took place in the early 1940s, it is possible to identify that this was a stride in the right direction. Some of the Hollywood companies even started giving actors roles where they would share stages regardless of their race.
The changes made by the Hollywood companies were not convincing enough that there was equality in the environment. Martin Luther King, in his speech, identified the fact that the founding fathers had created a promissory note (King, 2012). The note had it that after independence, every American, regardless of race, would receive equality in all aspects ranging from voting to employment (Horton & Price, 1999). The fact that having African Americans and white people in the same field and stage only came after more than 150 years after independence showed how much more the country needed to change.
A point to note is that the entire blame is not to fall on the whites in the entertainment industry. Some of the African Americans in the film industry are doing well for themselves and consequently are part of the problem facing the stereotype (Horton & Price, 1999). Just as in his speech, Martin Luther King states that some African Americans that are of the elite community have been brainwashed by the Whites (King, 2012). Martin Luther urged them to go back to their culture and support people incapable of defending themselves. The same is applicable in the film industry. Even though some of the current directors and producers are of African American descent, they cast their actors according to the White Man's stereotypes.
The directors portray African American to be suffering struggling and oppressed under the whites. For the whites, they are depicted to live fancy lives, drive luxurious experiences, and even have black men working for them. When asked about this, the African American's state that they engage in these actions as a form of "insider look" (Horton & Price, 1999), which means that they seek to understand the industry and thus identify how to change it. The statement that they are just there to review the industry is a lie. The lie is for they get paid high amounts by whites to continue working in such conditions as long as they are qualified.
Some of the renowned actors that have worked hard to see an end to such discrimination in the film industry are a famous couple, Will and Jada Smith. The two have had a long and prosperous career in film and consequently, have insight on what goes on. An aspect that disappointed the couple was that there was no nomination of any African American in the Oscar awards a few years ago. It is the dream of every actor regardless of race to get a nomination spot, let alone win in the Oscars. The vision is similar to that of Martin Luther King, where he seeks to see no descrimi9nition and equality of all people regardless of gender or race.
Owing to the complaints made by the power couple, many other African Americans sought to uncover the truth behind this. Many petitions were made seeking to have the organizing committee resigning stating that the amount of bias in these awards was just ridiculous. After going through various milestones, the organizing committee was reshuffled in such a manner that it included an African American. True to the struggle of Martin Luther King that was also cited by Jada Smith during one of her acceptance speeches, the fight must be taken to these people (whites), for them to realize that equality is essential for all.
One other concept to go through is regarding the 1970s films that were termed Blaxploitation (Patterson, 2019). The messages in these films were clear, and this was to have the blacks fighting harder to avoid white superiority. Many black Americans were pleased with these films and were found in numerous African American neighborhoods. The movie depicted African American men and women in superior white-collar positions. For the whites, the characters were portrayed to appear working in blue-collar jobs such as construction workers and janitors. The Blaxploitation films were banned in Hollywood.
The reason why Blaxploitation films were banned in Hollywood is that the media and film directors at the time were mostly black. The directors believed that the roles were reversed and if only the whites were depicted to work white-collar jobs and black collar jobs, then that would be acceptable (Patterson, 2019). This aspect seeks to show the fact that despite the abilities that the blacks put to ensure some form of balance, they have always been shut down by the media and film industries such as Hollywood. The point that African Americans could not fight for their rights effectively is one of the concerns that Martin Luther King had. He became an activist and wrote the famous speech owing to anger. He sought to see changes in society, and this is yet to be accomplished.
One of the most famous writers of the 20th and 21st century was Toni Morrison. Toni was quite passionate about the black movements and more so the Harlem Renaissance that took place in New York (Morrison, 2017). Even though it happened prior to the writing of the speech, "I have a Dream," it still shows the efforts the African American community put seeking to ensure that they had equal rights just like others in society. Toni vocally talked about the role of the media in ensuring that people engaged in actions that were fair to each other.
Toni Morrison was angered by the manner the film industry shut down the aspect of having Blaxploitation and stated that it was against the free will of people to engage in specific actions. She filed various petitions to see to it that this changed, but at the time, she was unable (Morrison, 2017). However, later on, the formation of the Black Entertainment Television gave the struggle a break for it was meant for Black characters alone. This change exhilarated many people in the community
The speech offered by Martin Luther King was very formidable and put many African Americans in action. Discrimination reduced by some degree but did not entirely end. Some fields, such as the film industry have continued suffering from the issue. However, strides are still being made to ensure equality in the industry. It is the hope that in the coming decades there will be less discrimination and more innovation in the changing film industry which is essential for societal progress.
Horton, Y & Price R. (1999). Portrayal of Minorities in the Film, Media and Entertainment Industries: Ethics of Development in A Global Environment. Retrieved 29 August Web https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/portrayal.htm
King, M. (2012). I Have a Dream. New York: Palgrave McMillan.
Morrison, T. (2017). The Origin of Others. New York: Cengage Learning
Patterson, R. (2019). Black Culture Production After Civil Rights. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
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