When our favorite “Living Single” girl Maxine, we mean Erika Alexander, came by the office, we not only asked the actress about the good old days of being on a number one Fox sitcom, we also dove into some of the more serious issues affecting black actors in Hollywood. Last April, Alexander penned her own version of “Mad Men,” which actually included black people, unlike the AMC version on television right now. And with that script, she wrote an accompanying blog post appropriately titled, “Why I Wrote A ‘Mad Men’ Episode With Negroes.” Knowing how invested Alexander is in the advancement of black people on the big and small screen, we decided to ask the seasoned talent why she thinks white executives are afraid to create non-stereotypical roles for black people. To that question she supplied a rather insightful answer:
“I think you fear what you don’t know. What you don’t understand. I think that African Americans have always been the dark ‘other.’ I think it scares people.
“I don’t try to just say it’s racism, which, by the way, at its very root it is racist, but I don’t think these people realize they are being racist. I think it’s ingrained within their subconscious mind. It’s also a set of practices and structures that are inherent to the Hollywood system…
“They say, well because he’s black he won’t sell in Europe. We can’t put him on a poster. That’ll turn people away. So they make it a money thing. Just saying that out loud is racist…
“That’s not only racist. it’s a lie. Black people helped create the foundations of American culture — rock n’ roll, hip-hop, blues, jazz, all of that. And to be denied, like our image won’t sell, is in fact wrong. We rule in music, we rule in athleticism, in terms of our image. Most of the people who play the big sports — Tiger Woods, Serena Williams — they’re black and they haven’t stopped the audiences from coming. So if you say that about the image, the moving image, that that person will not be able to satisfy the market, you are basically trading on racist undertones and notions and that needs to be examined with them.”
We couldn’t agree more. Check out our full interview with Alexander as she delves more into this idea of the black image not being marketable and the trouble with “black films.”
What do you think about what she said?