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The Color Purple’s Reception in the African American Community

Upon screening a review of Spielberg’s films. I learned that the Color Purple was not well received by the African-American community. I took that information with a grain of salt, because as we all know, when speaking of a group, our patriarchal society always asks the opinion of men. Ahem! The Color Purple is a story for WOMEN and the experiences women endure. I was pleased to find out that Black women found the film theraputic. As a teenage “Celie”, I sure as hell did. In fact the film helped me void many traps that I could’ve fallen into and never climbed out of. For example: leave men alone of you are not their ideal.


  • CHICAGO, Jan. 26— Some people say ”The Color Purple” is only a movie. But many black people disagree.”No, it is not just a movie,” said Nate Clay in an interview. ”It is a statement made out of context used as a pretext to take one more lick at society’s rejects.” Mr. Clay is editor of The Chicago Metro News, a weekly black-owned newspaper.In living rooms, in taverns, on radio talk shows, in newspaper columns and at community forums in many parts of the country, black men and black women are arguing about the movie’s depiction of black men and its possible repercussions.At the film’s premiere in Los Angeles Dec. 18, dozens of pickets marched outside the theater. On a chilly Tuesday night in Chicago recently, nearly a thousand blacks crammed into the Progessive Community Church for a heated discussion of the film. And Friday night more than 200 people in New York filled the fellowship hall at St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem for a similar exchange.

    ”No media vehicle since ‘Roots’ has caused this kind of dialogue,” observed Chuck Sutton, host of a program on the subject last week on WLIB radio in New York. ‘One Woman’s Story’

    The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, tells the story of Celie, a black woman who was physically and sexually abused by men most of her life. For her portrayal of Celie the actress Whoopi Goldberg received a Golden Globe Award this weekend.

    Many black women defend the film, saying that it accurately reflects their own experience or the experience of women they know. Many black men, and some black women, contend that it gives a misleading picture of blacks in America and distorts their history.

    Oprah Winfrey, host of a television talk show in Chicago who played Sophia, Celie’s stepdaughter-in-law, in the movie, said: ”This movie is not trying to represent the history of black people in this country any more than ‘The Godfather’ was trying to represent the history of Italian-Americans. In this case, it’s one woman’s story.”

    Many women say it is also their story. Eartis Thomas, a telephone company employee in Chicago, said she knew many Celies when she was growing up in Sunflower County, Mississippi. She, her mother and her aunts were all beaten and otherwise brutalized by their husbands, Miss Thomas said. The movie, she said, ”just lifted a burden.”

    Miss Thomas added: ”Black women should not be sacrificed for black men’s pride. Let the film roll.” Arguments Heard Before

    Some of the arguments being heard now are similar to those heard in 1977 about Ntozake Shange’s play, ”For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” and in 1979 about Michele Wallace’s book, ”Black Macho & the Myth of the Superwoman.”

    These works confront the often uneasy relationship between black men and black women. Eldridge Cleaver, in his book ”Soul on Ice,” described it as a war. Miss Wallace described it as ”a profound distrust, if not hatred.”

    ”It’s a very touchy subject between folks, always has been,” said Haywood E. McDuffie, a Cleveland lawyer who said he recently argued about the movie with several women friends.

    ”The most frightening thing for me as a male was to look into their eyes,” Mr. McDuffie said. ”I wondered, ‘Is that really what they think of us?’ It’s as if there were an element of cruelty implicit in black men that all black women seem to identify.” ‘Never Showed the Good’

    Willis Edward, president of the Beverly Hills chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, argued in an interview that the movie ”never showed the good” about black men.

    But Clarence Page, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, asserted, ”This movie is no more destructive of black men than ‘The Burning Bed’ was destructive of white men.” He referred to a television drama about abuse by spouses.

    Others argue that the movie distorts black history and appears to blame the victims of racism for a host of social problems, including a preponderance of broken families and a high incidence of teen-age pregnancy.

    Lerone Bennett, a historian who is senior editor of Ebony magazine, said, speaking of Mr. Spielberg: ”He doesn’t show us the strong black women who nursed the sick and cared for the orphans and organized clubs and, in general, exercised a leadership role denied white women by white society. What Steven Spielberg doesn’t show us, in short, is the color black.” Actor Defends Film

    Vernon Jarrett, a columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times, contended: ”Mr. Reagan, and his Attorney General, Mr. Meese, have decided that they are going to turn back the clock on us. The purpose of movies like this is to make it acceptable to you.”

    One movie cannot do that, insisted Danny Glover, the actor who played the role of Mister. Mr. Glover, who is appearing in a Chicago production of ”A Lesson from Aloes,” a play by Athol Fugard, said more people probably see ”The Cosby Show” on television each week than will see the film and can just as easily formulate their opinions of blacks on that basis.

    Black men are perhaps no different from other men in their attitudes toward women, he said. But he added, ”Lots of times we sweep our own problems under the rug under the justification of upholding black history and the black man.”

    Lee K. Richardson, the artistic director of the Crossroads Theater Company, in New Brunswick, N.J., said: ”It’s not the artist’s responsibility to right the wrongs. There is not just one side to our black experience.”

    As the debate continued, the movie had grossed nearly $29 million through Jan. 19, drawing audiences that are 72 percent white, and the book, according to a spokesman for the publisher Simon & Shuster, has become ”the fastest-selling paperback in a long time.”

    photo of Whoopi Goldberg


    Yeah, Black women don’t trust Black men. I am not angry,  just wary. It also helps that I’ve never been attracted to Black man to begin with (I prefer men of the Mediterranean).  It is a male tendency to conquer the unknown, whatever is different and when living in someone else’s society as Blacks do, one becomes conditioned by the dominant cultures standards of beauty. Black women are the polar opposite of blond hair and blue eyes, heck long straight hair ( naturally), so Black man go for it. That’s fine. Spread those genes just as every other race has. Black women will move on and we have. Once more of us abandon the princess cancer strain, we won’t breed before we’re educated anymore and hopefully, lift our communities of poverty as a result
    Don’t be victimized Celie, ladies. Be triumphant Celie. You may not be Shug or be a Scandinavian blonde, but you’re talented and have a history to draw upon for strength. Be the Celie who inherits the property her body and tears paid for and run your own businesses. Leave men who don’t want you and don’t feel the need to work for you alone. Don’t fall for the duplicitous words of heat seeking bachelors. The Matriarchal African American community will rise to power, changing our negative fiscal situation one woman at a time, one family at a time to be admirable communities…in time.

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