The New Film Red Tails by George Lucas is due out in Theaters this Friday January 20th. The movie is supposed to be about the true story of the Tuskegee airmen, the Black men who became some of the first pilots in WWII to have a near perfect escort record. They acted very courageously as bomber escorts. They fought in segregated units and not only had to deal with discrimination in military, but in the United States. They basically had to fight for rights overseas, that they themselves couldn’t enjoy at home. HBO did a film YEARS ago about the Tuskegee airmen, it was really good, you should check it out when you get a chance.
This film Red Tails is being marketed as a ‘Black Film’ that is supposed to be telling the story of these brave Black men. However, I’m sure we’ve all heard the controversy by now, this so-called ‘Black Film,’ erases Black women completely from their roles as supportive wives, mothers and sisters of the Tuskegee airmen. Before you jump down my throat with “well, this is about BLACK MEN during WWII, its not about Black WOMEN…let Black men have their moment to shine.” First let me say I had a Grandfather who fought in WWII, and three Great Uncles. My Grandfather and his brother were marines and my two Great Uncles were in the army. I am extremely proud of them and I would always bring them up during discussion on WWII in my Highschool history classes, I did book reports on them and I always made sure that people KNEW that Black men fought and contributed to World War II as well. It wasn’t just white men who put their lives on the lines for this country. So, I love Black men and I want so much for this story to be told. But, please explain to me WHY is it that it seems that Black women have had their role completely erased from this history? If you haven’t heard the main love interest in the film is an Italian-white woman…yes…no Black love interest because we all know Black women can’t be in films as the supportive and loving wife, we can only be the sapphire, the mammy or the Jezebel.
In case you didn’t Know Tuskegee airmen (nearly all of them) had Black wives who supported them, cared for them and stood by them. It was their Black wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who sent them letters and packages, encouraged them and threw them parades and parties when they came back as heroes. It was also Black women (and Black men who didn’t go to war) who overwhelmingly donated blood to Black servicemen during the war because blood donations were even segregated…yes…Black soldiers were not allowed to get blood donations from non-Blacks, so it was other Blacks who gave their blood. Finally, when the Tuskegee airmen returned to the United States, it was their Black wives who helped to integrate the airbase and faced the discrimination along with their Black men.
So, why do Black women appear to be conspicuously absent from this rendition of the Tuskegee airmen and not only that, but they’re replaced by a white woman. My Great Uncle told me when he was overseas in Europe, he and other Black soldiers were routinely approached by German and Italian women and asked if they had tails…The racism that Black men faced both at home and overseas was very intense and frequently it was Black wives, daughters, mothers who had to support them because no one else would.
In fact, Black men were frequently forced to give up their seats on trains to German Prisoner’s of War. There were many Black women who objected to this practice. In one incident, Lena Horne was performing at USO sponsored military event and she noticed that the Black men were seated behind the White men and the German POWs and she actually walked toward the section with the Black men and sang TO THEM with her back facing the White soldiers and German POWs and later she filed a complaint with the NAACP. Josephine Baker also refused to perform in front of segregated audiences during the War.
World War II and the actions of Black men and Black women contributed enormously to the racial progress of the country, it was part of what led to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. There was this idea of “The Double V,” victory at home and victory overseas. For many Black people, fighting overseas was a way to demonstrate that they were American citizens worthy of the same rights as any other Americans. Many felt that if they could triumph overseas, it would bring them one step closer to equality on the home front.
So, to omit Black women from this narrative and not portray the story accurately by including Black women as supportive wives, lover, sisters, mothers (to me) is a slap in the face, especially to women like my Grandmother and Great Aunts who cared for Black men when no one else would. It erases our image from history and puts a White Woman as the love interest. It’s nothing more than racism as far as I’m concerned. It’s racism, the same way that the Princess and the Frog was racist. Hold up y’all…I loved the song from the movie, but the bottom line is she was frog for most of the movie and the guy they put her with had major issues, but that’s another topic. It seems like whenever we have a positive movie about Black women or Black men, they are always paired with a non-black person. What message is that sending to people? When we only have movies like The Help, For Colored Girls, Norbit and Precious where Black women and Black men are portrayed as all having dysfunctional relationships, what does that say? Now, before you get on me, if it were more balanced and we had more positive portrayals of Black relationships, it would be perfectly fine to have a positive portrayal of Black men interracial relationship. But its getting to be too much negative representation of Black relationships and not enough positive representations to balance it out. The media makes it seem as if interracial relationships are the only functional form of love for Black people…as if we can’t love each other. You can love anyone, stop putting a premium on interracial relationships as if they’re inherently better and give us some balance here.
I also find it interesting that people will play the “color blind love,” card ONLY when it applies to Black men or Black women. If you notice in almost every other WWII movie that’s about white people, the movie always has a WHITE leading lady as the love interest. Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, they always highlighted the supportive role that white wives, mothers, sister and daughters played. But, on the one rare occasion where they show Black men in a positive and heroic light…Black women are missing as their supportive wives, lovers, mothers and sisters? If this was just truly about color blind love…why wouldn’t we see more films where the White American men had asian, latina or Black love interests. We KNOW that white men frequently had romantic affairs with Samoan, Filipino women while overseas…why don’t we see movies that show the great love affair between the White American man and the Samoan or Filipino woman? Why is it that its only Black people who are expected to “transcend race?” Is this really about racial liberation and breaking down barriers or is it something else…?
I know that I, as a Black woman, am sick to death of the stereotypes and sick to death of being misrepresented and erased from history. I find it appalling that Black women would not be given their due credit even as a support system for Black men during this era and how dare they ERASE the image of our Black foremothers who stood by, loved and cared for those Black men who fought overseas?!
I was hoping that my assumption about the movie and impression I got from IMDB was wrong, but some have already seen an early screening of the film and it appears that Black women are not portrayed well in the movie at all and are virtually absent. It appears that there are no Black leading ladies and certainly no Black women love interest. A distortion of history at it’s finest.
As much as I LOVE the story of the Tuskegee airmen and as much as I want for Black boys to have some heroes to look up to and to understand that they too contributed to the history of this country, why should I be expected to sacrifice the image of my Black mothers who are just as deserving of recognition… After all the sacrifices Black women made during that time…I guess that’s not worthy of recognition, I guess it more exciting to create a fictional romance between a white woman and Black airmen and just ignore the contribution of the Black wives(and by the way nearly all the Tuskegee airmen married Black women), black mothers and sisters.
In addition, we’ve got George Lucas trying to coerce Black women into supporting a film that really distorts our image and ignores reality. Why should Black women be expected to support something that misrepresents their image? How much more can Black women be expected to take? The Help was enough of a distortion…
Black women have always been the mammies, the jezebels and sapphires, when are we going to be the love interest, when are they going to tell THE TRUTH about us for once? As if we don’t see white women in every movie portrayed as the love interest…it is completely ignorant and appalling to change history and erase our Black foremothers from their places as wives, lover and supporters of Black men. It’s appalling to me. It sends the message that Black women’s contribution and support of Black men and this country does not matter. It also sends a message to young Black girls that they don’t deserve to be the love interest and they’re not worth fighting for whereas white and other non-Black women are.
I will be writing a review of this film later. I am not telling you whether or not you should support this film, that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. However, don’t feel pressured to see the movie if you don’t want to. If you want to see it, go for it, if you don’t want to see it (for whatever reason), you don’t have to feel guilty for that. You can support Black men and pay homage to the Tuskegee airmen in other ways. You can visit their museum, you can watch the HBO film, you can read a book.
So please don’t feel pressured to see it if you don’t want to and if you want to see it, of course that is your right too. George Lucas is not a Black man, his film company is not Black- owned and so what if he’s dating a Black woman. I am becoming very irritated because White producers/writers seem to want to patronize Black people and then distort our image on film. We don’t need a “white savior,” to tell our story, what we need is our own film companies and buisnesses. What we need is to support each other and stop relying on others to tell our stories.
You cannot make a “Black Movie,” about Black people and exclude Black women…then replace Black women with white/non-Black women. Last I checked Black PEOPLE included Black men, Black women AND Black children. To add insult to injury nearly ALL of the Tuskegee airmen were married to Black women, so why Black women are missing as wives and supporters is odd at best and racist at worst. I’m tired of history being white-washed and I find this unacceptable.
I like this video below-
NOTE: It’s funny that [some] people are so offended by this when
a.) It’s just MY opinion
b.) I never said ANYTHING negative about Black men in my blog nor did I “tear Black men down.” If anything, I would say I actually did the opposite in the my blog.
c.) Would it be so difficult to include a single shot of a Black woman in the film, is it really too much to ask for? Am I asking for anything more than a normal woman would ask for? I’m not asking for half of the film to be about Black women but ZERO Black women in a so-called “BLACK FILM,” that Black PEOPLE (including Black women) are supposed to support…please.