Disney's newest feature film, "The Princess and The Frog", stars the "first" African-American female lead in a Disney movie. I say "First", because say what you want about Kida from "Atlantis," she's closer to black than anything else. And you know, the Muses from "Hercules," etc etc.
When Disney first announced the film (which is set in 1920s New Orleans, hurrah Jazz Age before the Great Depression!), the main character's name was "Maddy", short for "Madeline", and she was a chamber maid.
BET threw a hissy fit, because this is apparently racist. But showing booty buttcheek music videos that only promote one kind of beauty that isn't reflective of most black culture ad nauseaum isn't.
When I first heard that Disney cowed to a name change ("Tiana", which strikes me as more "ghetto" than "Maddy"), I'm not going to lie, I was pissed. The biggest problem with Americans and American history is that they only want to hear the good part of it, especially concerning African Americans. Slavery is given lipservice, people are told it's bad, and yet they think that African Americans are the only people in the world with a history of slavery. Refuse to believe that Africans themselves more or less started the slave trade. We as a people have this innate ability to see our history for what it really was. We don't understand the suffering and sacrifice or what it truly meant to be a slave or looked at like you weren't even human. (Funny, as I write this, I think of how blacks see myself and my white boyfriend, and it's like they don't even recognize us as human.) We weren't suddenly "Free" overnight, and it wasn't like it was Abraham Lincoln's REAL prerogative was to free the slaves in the FIRST DAMN PLACE.
I say all of that to say: How is being a chambermaid named Maddy racially offensive? That's what most people of color did back then. Segregation was still strong in the 20s, especially in the South. You COULD possibly get away with more, as it IS in New Orleans, but our future Disney Princess is much darker than a paper bag. Something in the back of my head tells me that I doubt Disney would get any flack if they had decided to make her considerably fair skinned.
So Disney changed her name. Smooth sailing until now.
The production art for Prince Naveen shows him to be either extremely fair skinned (which is a stretch - his voice actor is Brazilian; he's the guy that played Dr. Costa on "Nip/Tuck.") or just flat out white, and this is causing MORE friction. People are accusing Disney of being racist because the prince isn't black, which tells people that black men are unable to be princes.
Didn't Marvel just throw you naysayers a bone with that whole Storm marries the Black Panther (who just so happens to also be a black prince!) foolishness that was penned by Eric Jerome Dickey (who happens to write black on black on black romance novels, HORAY)? Isn't there a LONG history of black characters being with each other for the sole fact that they're black and therefore MUST be together?
Are we REALLY going through this?
Personally, I think Disney's got the right ticket on this. First off: New Orleans. My family hails from Louisiana, and we're a mix of fair to dark to in between. The real name of the game for the French then was if it was attractive and had a warm hole, that was the way to go. New Orleans was unique then (and often considered the red headed step child of America) because of its somewhat lax views of race-mingling. It happened. It was documented. If not, please explain to me how the terms "Quadroon," and "Octoroon" got into the English language.
Second of all: Disney makes a point of her being an AMERICAN princess. What is America? In theory, it's supposed to be a melting pot. There's not a single person that walks this soil that isn't some kind of a mutt. Yours truly is one of them: technically by "make up", I'm French, Native American, and African. All of this ancestry, whether by rape, love, or luck, has boiled down to produce me. To say that races shouldn't mingle or people should do this or that is a form of self-hatred, and I deal with enough of that about my body to really spend time hating the fact that I've got either a French rapist/whore blood. In the long run it doesn't matter.
America is build on multi-racial relationships, sexual or not. My boyfriend is white, and even though we're in one of the more progressive cities in the south, the people who give us the most nasty or unbelieving looks are usually black, like I'm some sort of race traitor. I think that's asinine, considering that black culture does so adore the fair-skinned big assed caricature that I recall was considered anthropology a century or a few ago. But this is getting into why minorities seem to have an issue with finding me attractive that's another essay all together.
People, look. There is a REASON why more blacks aren't featured in films like this, and we're seeing why. We throw hissy fits over the smallest and oft most accurate things and consider it racist. On the same hand, we're ignorant enough to see a movie like "Troy" and not even bother to think, "Where are the Ethiopians that the Greeks were so fond of?", or see movies like "The Mummy" and don't even BOTHER asking, "Where are the Nubians? Why are the Egyptians this fair before Alexander's conquest?" We don't ask the questions that we need to ask because we don't know, and we're OKAY with not knowing. But something that's presented to us in a frank fashion, something that actually ATTEMPTS to celebrate and teach about our deep history, we hiss and scream at.
This is why black people can't have nice things.