Jane White and the racial straitjacket

Just stumbled on this obituary for the actress and singer Jane White, who died last month at the age of 88.

I was particularly struck by this passage:

Ms. White never achieved the stardom she hoped for and believed she deserved. One issue — the larger one — was a paucity of roles for black actors, period, no matter the shade or hue of their skin, she told The New York Times in 1968. “We have one Sidney Poitier and one Diana Sands, and bang! — the door closes,” she said.

The situation became only more complicated for mixed-race actors like herself, she said. As she wrote in a 1992 essay, light-skinned actors of her time were still routinely dismissed as too white for black parts. They had to lighten their complexions for white parts and, in the case of light-skinned women appearing opposite black men, darken their appearance lest the black man “seem to be involved with a white girl — horrors!”

In the 1968 Times interview, Ms. White vented her frustration. “I don’t want to be disguised anymore,” she said.

Read the whole thing here.


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