He looked at me and said, ‘You’re too dark to be on TV.’ He thought I was too nice and too dark.
— Shelton Green, former TV news personality
In the film Black Bodies, we watch as former television news reporter Shelton Green takes his time considering what it means to be black in America. After struggling to find the right words — and with a sort of sadness in his big, beautiful, brown eyes — he says,
“When you are first viewed by someone, the vast majority of the time, there is an automatic judgment made about you already. There’s no hiding this (Shelton sweeps his hand around his face.) You can see it from across the street. There are people who will see you and just make automatic assumptions.”
Green says when he was just starting out in his career, a person in a managerial position told him he wouldn’t succeed. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re too dark to be on TV.’ He thought I was too nice and too dark.” Green would go on to become one of Austin, Texas’ most recognized and most successful television personalities.
We do a lot of looking at one another. With one glance, we make assumptions about a person. We decide. We judge. We classify. We accept or reject. We do all this, never even having spoken to the person. We determine who they are and how they fit into our world.
This way of carelessly sizing people up based solely on a visual assessment has arguably negatively affected more black people than those in other races. Black Bodies explores what it means to exist in our world in a black body. Sixteen black people of varying ages, backgrounds, and skin tones openly share their personal stories in order to give audiences a peek into the complex world of a black person.
Aspiring event planner Sonetchka Rosarion speaks of the difficulties of succeeding as a black person when “around the world (black skin) is pretty much demonized.” We expect young black men like writer Mic Trotty and student Nefta Fonseca, Jr. to overachieve despite being left alone to process widely accepted concepts like “black is evil; white is pure.”
“The darker you are, the more menacing,” Green says.
Rev. Steve Manning, pastor of Austin’s historic Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, once felt compelled to warn his son, “Society might give you one chance, but after that, they will throw your little black behind away!”
These are the judgments. These are the assumptions. These are the beliefs which fuel disparities in black communities, and, as District Court Judge Lora Livingston says in the film, “disparity is real, disparity exists, and we have to figure out ways to combat disparity when we root it out.”
“Disparity is real, disparity exists, and we have to figure out ways to combat disparity when we root it out.” — The Honorable Lora Livingston, 261st District Court, Travis County.
Rooting out and combating disparity, and sharing the experiences of black people for the purpose of improving outcomes in black communities are a couple of reasons The Black Bodies Project exists.
Click here to watch a trailer.
(The documentary is screening at film festivals, events, and group meetings. Contact us to set up a screening.)
Upcoming 2019 screening dates:
- Friday, Feb 1, San Diego Black Film Festival
- Sunday, Feb 3, St. James’ Episcopal Church
- Monday, Feb 11, Holy Cross Catholic Church
- Saturday, March 9, St. Edward’s University
More details to come soon.