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The two posters for the movie Couples Retreat. Notice the difference.

By Lavern Merriweather

When MCA Universal released a romantic comedy a few years ago called “Couples Retreat” starring Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman, it was a colossal failure. About the only thing from the movie that got people’s attention was the controversy surrounding it.

Some bigot that handles marketing for the studio thought it was a good idea to put the lone token black couple of Kali Hawk and Faison Love far in the back for the film’s poster. Then, when the same poster was distributed worldwide, they were both removed altogether while the other film stars such as Kristin Davis, Jon Favreau, Kristin Bell and Jason Bateman remained intact. Kali Hawk tried to soften the rightfully deserved criticism that the movie company was getting by saying that her and Faison’s characters weren’t really that integral to the film. This is typical protecting Negro mindset, even while you are being disrespected, you still defend your white massahs bosses.

I find it interesting that Ms. Hawk felt the need to service the interests of a group of people that just treated her like crap, as opposed to calling them out for being the pathetic assholes that they were. The film was done, and it wasn’t like they could fire her. So, she had nothing to lose. And if she never got another gig after speaking her mind, well then, more the better for her self-esteem. But she’s not the only one drunk on the Hollyweird Kool-Aid of prejudice.

During the 80’s when the hit TV show on NBC called “Facts of Life” first premiered, the lone black token female at an all- girls school named Tootie played by actress Kim Fields used to ride around all the time on roller skates. In an interview when she was much younger Ms. Fields attempted to justify that ridiculous practice by saying that maybe it was because she was shorter than the other girls, and that’s why the producer had her do that. I’m inclined to give Kim a pass on that one, because she was only 11 when she first started, and she probably had no clue what was really going on.

Kim Fields as “Tootie” from The Facts of Life

Let’s get real here. They had her in roller skates looking like a ninny as a way of “othering”. That’s when they make a black person look as foolish as possible to make absolutely sure that they are seen as different. And forget about ever having another girl of color on the show to balance things out even if there were about 20 girls on the show when it first came on. She’s the lone wolf. So, let’s turn her into a complete chump.

If that sounds harsh, then so is the reality. This ain’t new. It’s, in fact, a tried and true tactic that many white producers and writers have been using for decades. The troubling part about it is how quickly many black actors and actresses are willing to go along just to save face or a job. Fortunately, in her case a new production staff was hired and the lady who replaced the old group said that the main thing she did when she got there was have Kim take those darn skates off. She said that it was a ridiculous concept stating. Who in the hell does that anyway? Who indeed miss?

Then, we have the most notorious incident in 1993 of Ted Danson doing blackface at a Friars Club roast for then girlfriend comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Many of the attendees at the dinner were shocked at seeing the way Mr. Danson was done up, as were many in the public after hearing about it, since it wasn’t a taped event. When Ted began to catch hell for the whole debacle, Whoopi came to his defense by saying that it was all her idea. Whoopi said that she came up with the premise because according to her she was tired of the letters they were getting that started with “Dear n**ger lover”.

Ted Danson in blackface

While I can certainly understand her being pissed at the dickweeds who were sending hateful letters to her and Ted, that to me didn’t seem like the right way to go about addressing her grievance, particularly since none of the people she was supposed to be answering were even there. The only people she ended up upsetting were friends and fans of hers. And some in the black community were not buying it.

Black shock jock Tom Joyner seemed to believe that the only reason she stood up for Ted is because, as he put it, “Ted was knocking boots ‘gorilla style’ and she just didn’t give a damn”. I can’t say for sure if that’s the case or if it made the situation justifiable. It was a mistake, and that’s something we all make, but it appears that Whoopi didn’t learn from hers.

Once, a vile, despicable, angry, misogynist and very racist rant from actor Mel Gibson was recorded by his baby momma and leaked to the public. Whoopi, yet again, came to a white man’s defense! Except in his case, they weren’t a couple, and he said many ruthless heinous words that anyone would be insane to defend him. That’s not just falling on a grenade. That’s falling on a sword!

Whoopi was trounced, and rightfully so, for her comments, then tried to save face by saying that Mel was really sweet to her kids when he came over to play with them. Yes, and I’m sure that prick Bull Connor used to play fetch with puppies in the park. That doesn’t give Gibson a free pass from taking heat like he should have for the deplorable things that he said.

During an interview recently on TMZ, or as I like to call it KKK headquarters, talk show host Arsenio Hall was asked about the new hiring of a black actress on that nightmare “Saturday Night Live”. He had the nerve to say that producer Lorne Michaels wasn’t doing it out of harassment. Arsenio said that maybe he felt it was the right time. Okay. If that’s the case, then why did he wait until after he was berated for not having enough diversity to bring on a black woman? If Michaels truly gave a shit about his show not being lily white for the rest of the night, he would have brought more people of color on long before. I mean damn! The show’s been on for what, three decades now? And I could probably count on one hand the number of people of color they have employed. It’s one thing to put your own neck on the line for your superiors. It’s quite another when you do it for a group of people that aren’t even worth fighting for.