It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has a dark and troubled past when it comes to racism. Whether Hollywood and its offshoots are simply reflective of the culture around them or if the pop culture that permeates people’s minds helps create and maintain the status quo is a topic of much debate, but one thing is certain: the days of casual racism within the entertainment industry are far from over.
Just as certain, however, is the fact that it’s no longer tolerated or accepted without mention. These days, there are vocal advocates for racial equality and much-needed change from within the industry, and they’re quick to call out racism when they see it.
A recent example involves Halle Berry and a radio host. Here’s what the Oscar-winning star had to say about the host’s colorist comments.
Halle Berry made history with her Oscar win
By anyone’s standards, Berry is a celebrated and successful actor. Her filmography is wide-ranging and demonstrates that she has the ability to pull off everything from action to drama to comedy with ease. With credits reaching back into the early 1990s, Berry has three decades of experience behind her.
Playing both Catwoman and Storm from the X-Men series has given Berry action film credentials, but she has also tackled some hard-hitting dramas. In fact, it was her role in Monster’s Ball that earned the star her only Academy Award to date — and made her a historic figure.
To this day, Berry’s 2002 win for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball stands as the only win for a Black woman in the category. This year, Viola Davis has the potential to be the second as she’s nominated in the category for her performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Halle Berry’s success has been at the center of debates on Hollywood racism
Even Berry’s win is mired in controversy. Many have expressed frustration that Black women only receive accolades for stereotypical portrayals. As Entertainment Weekly reports, Angela Bassett turned down the Monster’s Ball part because of the stereotypes the role of a prostitute brought up: “I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.”
Notably, only a handful of other Black women have received Academy Awards over the years, and many of those wins have been for roles that fall within limited portrayals as well. Lupita Nyong’O won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave in 2013. Octavia Spencer won in the same category for The Help in 2011.
While no one doubts these actors’ fine performances and skills, many have expressed frustration with the fact that the available parts take such limited form.
Colorist radio comments left Halle Berry fuming
Recently, Berry had the chance to wade into another discussion about racism in entertainment. As Insider reports, a New York radio host named Rob Lederman featured a segment on his show that involved comparing toast preference to the color of famous Black women’s skin. Berry was among the actors mentioned in the bit.
Berry took to social media to call foul on the disturbing commentary: “Disgusting. It’s ridiculous this type of nonsense is still being broadcasted across airwaves.” She followed it up by stating, “ALL Black women are beautiful and worthy, Rob Lederman.”
Colorism is a specific kind of racism that has been getting headlines lately after Meghan, Duchess of Sussex revealed that some unnamed member of the British royal family made speculative statements about her future children’s skin tone. Judging and sorting people of color by their skin tone is a nefarious discriminatory practice that obviously still happens.
For Rob Lederman, the consequences were swift. The host was fired from the show.
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