I’m disturbed by how starkly reading this highlighted my own lack of sensitivity to this kind of appropriation. It would probably not have occurred to me to question the casting of British actors, though if I’d known the director and producer were White, that would have prompted me to start asking questions. I am wondering how far White Americans/Brits are from the assumption that Elba and Harris are as ‘African’ as Mandela himself.
I felt a similar discomfort reading the earlier piece “You’re Pretty for a Dark-Skinned Girl” – I had a little awareness of colourism as an issue for Black women and the misogyny they experience, but I began to see that my idea of Blackness was and even is shockingly undifferentiated, built on a colonial ‘them and us’ paradigm, inherently racist. While this is related to my awareness of injustice & oppression, I feel I still have work to do to break down the residual essentialist sense of race as a natural category in my own thinking.
This goes along with reversing the mindset that makes the act of appropriating a South African story to assuage White guilt, fill pockets and graciously accept laurels feel so natural and just. It is not. We White people must decolonise our minds.
by Shane Thomas
There are few names as globally recognisable as Nelson Mandela. And likely even fewer whose name generally invokes strong feelings of warmth and goodwill.
Mandela was recently in the news as a result of his ill health, with elements of the online world and news networks partaking in an emetic game of “Nelson Mandela death watch”. Mercifully, at the time of writing, Madibais still with us, and he has become a talking point again by proxy, due to the release of the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
The aforementioned is a movie biopic, traversing Nelson Mandela’s life. Early indications suggest that it is being positioned as strong contender for the 2014 Academy Awards. If the release date of January 3rd next year isn’t a sign to this effect, then the fact that the film’s production company is The Weinstein Company certainly is.
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