The term color has all along been commonly understood to mean, complexion, tone, pigmentation, or skin shade. The differences that indeed separated communities and societies were based on scientifically oriented genetic differences, which gave the reason for the separation into different racial colors. However, as per the recent findings, it is has come to be known that this is not the case. Richard Lewontin in 1974 drove out this myth with his study that proved that no genetic differences existed between people of different colors. Questions then do arise as to why we still have the issue of color in the society, why segregation on basis of color is still rampant in the American society. The sole reason is that this institution of American society is merely based an obsolete combination of social, historical, and cultural construction.
History dictates that our physical differences fueled the reason that we are separated in terms of color, this brought to light the emergence of racism. The Europeans marked people that looked different from them, used the difference to justify that these individuals were not their equals, and were inferior to them. In support to their claims, they conducted a scientific research to try explaining, the differences. The findings said that the differences were biological. The classifying of people of color as inferior due to genetic reasoning provided the whites with an excuse to dominate. This social issue divides countries, and serves as a weapon that keeps people of color as the minority with the intentions of denying them the educational or economic power that was necessary to survive.
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The early black actors and actresses in Hollywood went through intense struggle to establish themselves in the movie industry. The color factor had a lot to play on how they were perceived, and upon the lines, roles were allocated to them. It goes without saying that; they were treated as inferiors and not at all as equals of the whites who took leading roles in most of the films. The roles allocated to them were meant to depict them as the lowest members of the society and as people who could only serve others. The actors were givens roles that needed the demonstration of animalism and barbarism, whereas the female counterparts acted as house cleaners and care takes (Edward, 2008). According to the latest figures as per the Screen Actors Guild, the African America actors and actresses are cast in about only 10 percent of all roles in major TV and film projects. What’s more, in 1990, not a single African American actress made the list of Top 10 box office attractions, not even not one. Althea Gibson in 1940 and Whoopi Goldberg in 1939 were the first African Americans to win an Oscar, but it was only through collaborations and support of other white actors and actresses.
Other roles played b African Americans included hooking, being sidekicks and best friends. This made it tremendously difficult for them to keep up and match their white counterparts. Despite the enormous obstacles they faced daily, they still did what they did well. Because of their struggles, life for the present African Americans was made a little bit easier, and the victories a little bit sweeter. Some of the prominent actors, a couple of decades ago were: Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, and Mario Van Peebles among others. They all played strong and masculine roles, but these roles have changed over time. Martin Lawrence, one of the most famous African American actors, first ever role was in the Spike Lee Joint “Do the Right Thing.” A couple of years later he got into his own TV show called “Martin.” Eddie Murphy is another great actor and comedian of all-time; however, he too has played the mammy role. In movies like the “Nutty Professor,” he plays the grandmother and the mother. On the other hand, Jamie Foxx had to dress in drag to earn his big break on “In Living Color,” and in “Holiday Heart.”
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As the saying goes, the past shapes the future; notable milestones in the African Americans history on television include Nat King Cole, who was the first African American artists to star in a radio show, becoming the first to host a network television show in the 1956. Bill Cosby was then chosen as first African American to cast as the star of a network television show. It was until 1986 that the first African American woman Oprah Winfrey host a TV show. The civil cultural upheavals and rights movement of the 1960’s led to a more honest and balanced portrayals of African Americans. The 1970’s opened the way for more African American shows; though they occasionally dealt with racial injustice and classism, they were quite well only baby steps in the right direction. As more African Americans began to work behind the scenes, most African American themed shows became more and more common.
The direct effect or impact of the early Africa American actors and actresses is the launching of some African mandated TV networks such as the Black Entertainment Television network in the 1990’s. It has developed a nationwide audience and success with its mix of, sports, videos, and reruns of African American shows. These has helped negate and downplay the issue of color, further exposing the Africa American community as a much able community, with the ability to do and achieve what the other people can achieve.