It is no surprise that Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are saying things that need to be heard as they speak of The Butler, their latest venture together. That is the essence of who they are. If you are an African American trying to succeed in life, there are few better examples of how to do so than these two. Explain Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Whitaker, when asked what they thought of people who argue that the history on the screen is not known by nearly enough Americans?
Ms. Winfrey: Viola Davis was saying to me that when “The Help” came out, she was criticized for playing a domestic by other black people. Why do you have to tell that story? Why do we have to keep being maids? Because it happened, and none of us would be here were it not for them. My mother was a maid, my grandmother was a maid, her mother was a maid.
Mr. Whitaker: There’s something that’s not said, which is: Why don’t these stories get told more? Sometimes people are afraid to look at the face of what’s going on. So the fact of the matter is that many of these social issues are still being addressed, and so to put them in front of people paints the point that not only did that happen then, they’re concurrently happening, so we don’t want to look at a film that’s too present. I don’t think [we’re post-racial.] It’s important for youth, black youths particularly, to be able to fill in the blanks of themselves so they can know completely who they are, but also all the country to understand what this means, what the civil rights movement does to us as people. It is part of the journey that we must be on in order to become fully evolved human beings. You start to think: How did we continue to grow to the place where we’re in right now? If there were no Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, would there be a Barack Obama?
Read the rest of their interview in today’s New York Times. It’s amazing.