I couldn't help but laugh as I watched this 1981 discussion between Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel on their famous TV show - the conversation centered on, broadly, the *state of blacks in American cinema* at the time, compared to years prior.
My laughter isn't at them, but rather more to keep from crying, because just about everything they talk about within the 9-minute conversation are all matters we've discussed and debated often here on S&A (and elsewhere), 30 years later!!
So what does that say about how far we've come?
And even more maddening is that within this 30-year old conversation, they reference the state of the industry 25 years before 1981, with regards to blacks in mainstream cinema, and just how little had changed in that time period as well.
So really, I could rephrase the question and ask just how far we've come in the last 55 years of cinema; how much has really changed for blacks in cinema over that time period through the present day?
Obviously not much because, once again, we're still having many of the same damn conversations about the *state of blacks in American cinema*, decades later.
Long time readers of S&A will know that I like to point these things out from time to time, because, often, we get so caught up in discussions about what's *wrong* with Hollywood where blacks are concerned, we analyze and criticize, without realizing that our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents had very similar conversations about representation (or lack thereof); the end-goal being to emphasize that our words alone haven't, and probably still will not have much of an impact on the dismal state of things. The words must be accompanied with some kind of action to propel things forward. Otherwise, in another 25 years, we'll still be discussing what ails us creatively, and that would be absolutely terrible IMHO.
The below video is part of a 3-piece series titled Race And The Movies, presented by the current incarnation of Ebert's At the Movies.
The other 2 parts give brief summaries of blacks Americans in cinema since the days of Oscar Micheaux, to black Americans in cinema today.
I embedded part 2 below - the conversation between Ebert and Siskel. Click HERE for parts 1 & 3 (And these are white people talking about this stuff):