ARTS, STYLE & ENTERTAINMENT
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Why Morgan Freeman Believes That ‘Black History Month’ and ‘African American’ are insults
Morgan Freeman has said commonly used terms relating to race should be taken out of the lexicon. In an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times, the actor said he was keen to “say publicly” that he objected to the terms “Black History Month” and “African American”.
Calling both an “insult”, Freeman said of the first: “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?”
Freeman said he objected to “African American” because it was inaccurate.
“I don’t subscribe to that title. Black people have had different titles all the way back to the N-word and I do not know how these things get such a grip, but everyone uses ‘African American’.
“What does it really mean? Most Black people in this part of the world are mongrels. And you say Africa as if it’s a country when it’s a continent, like Europe.”
The actor had previously spoken out against both terms to the Guardian in 2012, saying he didn’t like “African American” “because ‘Black’ is beautiful. One syllable versus seven”.
As for Black History Month, he said he objected to the ghettoisation implicit in devoting February to this topic.
“Black history is American history; they’re completely intertwined.”
Asked by the Times whether he concurred with Denzel Washington’s statement that he was “very proud to be Black, but Black is not all I am.” Freeman said: “Yes, exactly. I’m in total agreement. You can’t define me that way.”
Now 85, Freeman also reflected on his career, voicing some regret about the lack of range it had spanned in recent years. “When my career started in film, I wanted to be a chameleon,” he said. “I remember De Niro early on doing very different parts. Almost unrecognizable as the same actor. I had opportunities like that.
“But as you mature in this business, eventually you become a star. Then you’re pretty screwed in terms of referring to yourself as a character actor. You play a lot of the same type of role – people hire you and say, ‘It’s you that I want.’ And you live with it, I don’t think I’ve done much in the last 10 years that was much different. Driving Miss Daisy and Glory were different.
“Now? It’s just … me. The character will adapt itself to you rather than the other way round, so I do what piques my interest. Sometimes it’s just the money alone.”
Freeman’s latest film is Zach Braff’s A Good Person, in which he plays the future father-in-law of Florence Pugh. The actor’s career appears not to have been derailed by a 2018 report by CNN featuring testimonies by eight women alleging sexual harassment by the actor.
Freeman first issued a statement apologizing for having unintentionally made anyone feel uncomfortable; the following day, he said: “I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye.
“But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments. I did not assault women. I did not offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex. Any suggestion that I did so is completely false.”
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