The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.
And how will they feel about the black James Bond?
A preview story describing Portland Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman's approach -- including casting African American actors -- to Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" ran in The Oregonian and on OregonLive.com last month.
Several online commenters charged the production with racist discrimination against white performers.
Several online commenters charged the production with racist discrimination against white performers. "If a casting call went out for white actors only, all negroes including Al Sharpton would be marching up and down NE MLK," wrote a commenter using the name "kedsokedso." "That's For Sure" wrote: "the black community should be up in arms." Others took it as politically correct, politically motivated or gimmick.
Was this simply an overt expression of the covert racism that plays out daily in the corners of progressive Portland's psyche? After all, though Oregon opted not to become a slave state when we joined the Union, we also made it illegal for African Americans to live here (a law that stayed on the books until 1926). And while communities back East were forced to have difficult, sometimes violent, conversations about how to develop a more equitable society in the 1960s and '70s, Oregon was able to delay that conversation a lot longer, largely because of our more homogeneous makeup (our African American population today is still only 6.4 percent of the whole).
The director continues:
Was it the idea of this very traditionally "American" (re: white) musical being handed over to a different population that felt so offensive?" he continues. "You couldn't really argue that it was somehow "unfair" to cast African Americans in roles traditionally offered to whites. After all, there are about 100 productions of "Oklahoma!" mounted in a given year, with ensembles ranging from 18 to 30, which means that about 150,000 white actors have had a shot at the roles since 1950 (subtracting the first seven years of the play's life just as a handicap). But something clearly bugged this commenter.
And that pesky little thing called historical fact also pops up. Coleman cites that, of the 1.4 million residents of the Oklahoma Territory the year before it became a state (1906, the year the story is set), 137,000 were African American. William Loren Katz's book Black People Who Made the Old West speaks of how there were 50 all-black towns. A third of cowboys were black. There was a move to make Oklahoma an all-black state and Tulsa boasted the highest concentration of African American wealth in the country.
And if you dont think that black couple in the White House is bad enough:
CNN reports that though Daniel Craig is about to embark on his third adventure as 007, speculation already abounds as to who will replace him. One name that has been the subject of intrigue is Idris Elba, the English actor best known for his role as intellectually fierce drug king Stringer Bell in HBO's landmark series "The Wire." That would make him the non-white James Bond -- an idea which Craig himself first suggested after Barack Obama was elected president back in 2008 -- and something Elba endorsed, if mildly, in an interview.
"I got what it takes to do it. I can run around, flirt with ladies and drink. Plus I'm English," he said.