Too dark ... passIf you’re a black man, you can be in an Acura ad. Only you can’t be too black. Just kind of black. Like black enough to be recognizably black -- gooooo diversity! --but not black enough to be like one of those creepy, criminal-looking dudes whose dark skin makes them seem all sinister and stuff. So proceed with caution, oh ye thespians of African descent.
In one more shimmy down the damage control conga line, another company is backpeddling about a cultural faux pas. Acura released an apology today for a circulating casting document for a Super Bowl ad that called for a black actor who was "not too dark." The search, conducted by Cathi Carlton Casting, who was hired by Acura, was called afoul by an actor who was dismissed from the running because he didn’t fit the desired profile of "nice looking, friendly, not too dark."
No word if he would’ve been nearly as irritated if he would’ve actually been the complexion they were looking for. Anyway, in case you missed it, here he is, the man who, in the end, beat out the competition for the least-threatening-and-just-subtly-Negroid role alongside Jerry Seinfeld:
Funny that this should come up today, because just yesterday morning, as I was getting dressed, which is prime time for random thoughts to run through my mind, I said to myself, “Self, I think colorism was waning more externally than internally. Black folks --and honestly, Latinos and Indians, too -- still struggle with it inside of our respective communities but I thought maybe, just maybe white folks are over it.” Oops. And we’re back to our regularly scheduled program. This was just a little reminder, so scratch that.
Acura has assured that the company is "taking appropriate measures to ensure that such language is not used again in association with any work performed on behalf of our brand" and SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, said in a statement that it "immediately reached out to the casting office when the notice was brought to our attention so we could discuss the specific language used." Too bad both of them have completely missed the point. It’s not the language that was used. It’s the mindset behind the language that’s the kick in the teeth. They never said they were appalled by the colorism. They’re just a little hainty about the words used to out the discriminatory practice.
Meanwhile, as society works out the kinks of this whole dark-vs.-light thing, Black actors should spend as little time in the sun as possible, for heaven’s sake. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to stock up on skin bleaching creams, just in case that dream role comes up and you’re deemed too dark to get the part. Don’t let your overabundance of melanin get in the way. Defy the odds. Especially when luxury car commercials next to major sitcom stars are involved.
Do you think the media still plays into the whole light-skin/dark-skin debacle?
Image via .vingt-deux./Flickr