“Generation X: Pimping Invisible Post-Blackness”
By kYmberly Keeton
1. Film: Ruby Dee vs. Kerry Washington
Examining our history in the black literary arts and looking at where we are today versus fifty years ago is rather interesting. I was born in 1976 – thinking about that era when blackness was revered, Marvin Gaye penned a track entitled: What’s Going On. As an African American writer and art librarian, having been exposed to African American history and the African Diaspora through reading and traveling within the states and abroad, I find that each generation is to blame for the demise of its culture. Malcolm X proclaimed, “A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.” Generation X has taken on the role of pop-culture prostitutes in America – pimping out invisible post-blackness in a society that is consumed by self-indulgence, money, and fame. Looking at film, literature, journalism and the plight of black culture, I too ask the question: What’s going on?
Historically African Americans in film have been portrayed as an inferior people, mocked, and given subservient roles. There is a plethora of actors and actresses that made a conscious decision in previous generations not to defame their heritage and legacy, in hopes of paving a way and setting forth a working methodology of how to be in the world of Hollywood but not of the world. One woman that comes to mind that was the consummate example of how this was successfully implemented was Ruby Dee. The actress, activist, writer, journalist, and poet was born in 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio. Most will remember her acting in the play A Raisin in the Sun and the movie American Gangster, but when you carefully look at her body of work – she accepted roles that uplifted and highlighted the struggles of black women from all walks of life. In like manner, Ruby Dee was active during the civil rights movement alongside her husband the great Ossie Davis. So in essence, she understood the importance of dealing with the issues that plagued her people – they were the characters that she portrayed. When you look at the current generation it is a different story. I believe that Kerry Washington is a great actress and activist, but would Ruby Dee have played the role of Olivia Pope?
ForthComing Book Info: Essay will be featured in the author’s book of essays in 2015 entitled, The Literary Osmosis: Black Dreams, Black Themes, and Black Heroes.