It Matters Who Represents You

Deployments on a U.S Navy ship are often long, tedious, and port calls can be few and far in between. It was during one of these welcomed port calls that I came upon the book ‘Half of a yellow sun’. I needed something to keep me busy in between sea watches and went browsing through the book section of a Navy store when one of them intrigued me. Naturally, I picked it up and skimmed through a few pages before deciding to buy and read it.

The book tackles a highly charged subject – The Biafran War! It featured various personalities against a bloody war torn backdrop. Getting through the entire book was a tough but satisfying experience for me. I knew it was only a matter of time before this book was transported to the big screen. It seemed like a book that was begging to be made into a movie and I was excited when I learned that this would come to pass. Unfortunately, in casting for this movie an appalling trend has been perpetuated yet again. Thandie Newton, a biracial woman has been cast to play a character that was explicitly described as dark-skinned. In the book Olanna is not biracial, she is intensely Igbo and therefore decidedly black. So why does it matter that a biracial woman has been cast to play a character that is fully black? The answer is simple, we do not live in a vacuum. As a casual observer of the media, I have taken ample note of the putrid depiction of black women in the media particularly those of the darker hue. In the rare occasion that an authentic black woman is given a movie role, it is almost always a bastardized one. If the role is to have any semblance of dignity accorded to it, a biracial or a racially ambiguous woman is used to fill the black quota.

I do not make it my business to tell moviemakers who to cast in their projects but when they take to degrading or assaulting black women’s image, then getting involved becomes unavoidable. The casting of a biracial woman to represent Igbo women who are native West Africans is based strictly on hatred of dark skinned black women. The book clearly describes Olanna as dark-skinned, intelligent, and beautiful. So, it is quite clear the reason the producers felt it was necessary to inject whiteness where it none existed. This is psychological warfare at its finest. This is all the more injurious because Chimamanda Adichie, the author of the book the movie is based on presents herself as a champion for the cause of black African women. She often criticizes the western media portrayal of Africa but is now complicit in perpetuating the malicious treatment of black women. I suppose pay checks and media favors are far more gratifying than actually standing for what she claims to be about.

Many black people including Nigerians who lack critical thinking skills have sought to undermine this protest. They have supplied countless excuses why a biracial is a good fit to play a West African woman and all of them are equally asinine. In their enslaved colonized minds, a biracial person with minimal melanin is good enough to represent a native West African. Evidently, inferiority complex borne out of mental slavery is prevalent amongst black people. At this point, Charlize Theron might as well take on the role after all she can claim African origin too. When movie producers keep their white characters as pale as possible but decide that a true black woman is not good enough to portray a West African woman, it isn’t just a cinematic decision but rather a targeted assault on black women psyche. For clarity, the nationality of the actress is not worth picking a bone over but rather it is the malicious depiction of the West African phenotype that should not go unchallenged. Only black is black!

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