Black Brits and African American actors vie for movie roles

It’s an unwelcome competition

There are differences within diversity. This issue scratches below the superficial veneer of diversity and is an eerie reminder of how minority groups are often pitted against one another.

This year’s Oscars were the most diverse in history. With six nominations for six African American-themed films and at least 10 Black actors and filmmakers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may be putting the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in its rear view mirror.

But, we shouldn’t be complacent about how Black actors are treated in Hollywood. There is another problem brewing in the entertainment industry — an unwelcomed competition between Black Brits and African Americans for movie roles.

This issue scratches below the superficial veneer of diversity and is an eerie reminder of how minority groups are often pitted against one another. There are differences within diversity that perhaps many writers and producers have unintentionally missed, but African American actor Samuel L. Jackson wants writers and producers to address the differences within that diversity. The veteran actor has made a point to call out the Hollywood system for overlooking African American actors to cast Black British actors instead. It’s “another form of the industry discrimination [African Americans] face on a regular basis,” said Jackson.

“We can’t tell our own stories?” Jackson asked during an interview with a New York radio station. “I tend to wonder what that movie would have been with an American brother who really feels that.”

Jackson’s not wrong. Take, for example, the recent blockbuster hit Get Out, a satirical horror film about racism in liberal suburbia America. Black British star Daniel Kaluuya was cast as the lead actor, igniting a debate about the trend many African Americans —actors and non-actors alike — find troubling.

African born actor Abraham Amkpa, who has appeared on NCIS and The People v. O.J. Simpson agrees with Jackson. “There’s a very different shade of racism that exists in America,” said Amkpa. “If it was an African American actor, I think it would’ve translated a bit more on the screen.”

And it’s that shade of American racism that African American viewers feel Hollywood wants to either sanitize or avoid completely. When directors and producers cast Black British actors to fill what is perceived as a “diversity quota” without acknowledging how the two African diaspora ethnic groups experience racism, it’s both insensitive and dismissive to still thorny issues, like slavery.

For example, was there a politically correct way for Quentin Tarantino to portray American slavery in Django Unchained? The movie depicts a slave-turned-bounty-hunter played by Jamie Foxx who fearlessly treks across the U.S. to find his wife, played by Kerry Washington, in order to rescue her from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film — an homage to the…

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