In her book Race Results: Hollywood vs. the Supreme Court, Ten Decades of Racial Decisions and Film, California Appellate Court Justice Eileen Moore set out to determine how two of America's biggest institutions, Hollywood and the Supreme Court, shaped and reflected how Americans viewed racial discrimination and integration. Moore discusses her findings in an interview with me on Black Hollywood Live's Justice is Served. Surprisingly, Moore found that although the Supreme Court is often criticized for being too slow and resistant to change, it was consistently more progressive than Hollywood in its treatment of blacks.
For example, she discusses how in 1954, when the Supreme Court came out with its landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education calling for an end to segregated schools, the justices wrote that "today many Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences as well as in the business and professional worlds." However, at the time Hollywood still portrayed Blacks negatively. She found the films during the 1950s still showed African Americans as uneducated and inferior, like the ineffectual housekeeper in Rebel Without a Cause, as bathroom attendants and dock workers even while real life black protagonists were people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.
Moore presents a theory as to why Hollywood had such a backward portrayal of African Americans even as the Supreme Court made strides towards integration in the decades after Brown vs. Board of Education. Moore found that with the advent and popularity of television and families moving to the suburbs, the movie industry blatantly appealed to white biases in order to attract people back to the movie theaters. Hollywood felt that "black bashing" was profitable.
In fact, Moore says, Hollywood made a calculated move not to portray blacks as they existed, as employed homeowners with families, but often times as criminals. In The Sting the characters are thieves, in Network they are black terrorists, in Cooley High they are charged with grand theft auto, in Ghost, she's a con artist with a long criminal history, and in Beverly Hills Cop there's a scene where Eddie Murphy steals hotel bathrobes.
Even as the court worked towards racial integration in schools, at work and in neighborhoods, all white neighborhoods were common in movies like ET, Raging Bull, Terms of Endearment and all white suburban schools were the norm in movies like Ordinary People, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and ET.
With numerous examples, Moore demonstrates how the film industry misrepresented the status and achievements of blacks and leaves readers with this question, did Hollywood prolong racism by shaping negative racial ideas and attitudes of society?
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