Shonda Rhimes, an actress and producer of good repute, responded heatedly to an article by a television critic to the New York Times. The article intimated that Ms. Rhimes has cemented her position in the entertainment world by playing “The Angry Black Woman”. Ms. Rhimes responded appropriately.
Contrary to the Supreme Court decision that gutted a major tenet of the landmark Voter Rights Act of the 1960’s, racism is alive and well, dwelling with mundane comfort throughout our nation. As a nation we have learned not to use the “N” word and to be conscious of using “hyphen” words when more dated, loaded terms are no longer tolerable. We no longer sound racist, biased, or bigoted in public and when someone does use these dated terms, we know what to conclude.
All of these changes in public vocabulary are shallow and trivial. A casual racist will not be swayed by a change in labels; the casual racists of the past decades have not been convinced to turn towards enlightenment. They did learn to promulgate their convictions with subtlety, calm, and legal maneuvers worthy of a master script writer.
However, human beings cannot easily hide their deep convictions, their hatreds and their loves. Last week the stereotype emerged as “The Angry Black Woman” and this week or next, another, probably polite example will pop up. This is not cynicism; this is an argument that the battle to overcome xenophobia is an ongoing dynamic and that there is no one final battle in the public square that will finally defeat stereotyping, neither from the subtle to the extreme.
The point is to get out in the public square and call out racism and bigotry for what it is. We should thank Shonda Rhimes, not for defending herself, but for reminding us that we are all responsible.