Here’s what Sidney Poitier said about race and racism

“Racism is painful and we have to be lucid about it, not just the victims of it. And, on the other hand, victims of racism have a responsibility to have the clearest view possible to examine what they perceive to be the source of racism. “the legendary actor told the Vancouver Sun in 2000.

These are some of the late actor’s other reflections on racism and segregation before, during and beyond the era of civil rights.

Racial tensions in the south were initially a shock to Poitier when he came to Florida to live with relatives at the age of 14 in the 1940s. Growing up on Cat Island in the Bahamas, his identity had never been related to color. of the skin and quickly objected to that idea.

“I couldn’t go to certain stores and try on a pair of shoes. I had to ride on the back of a bus and I had never had to do it before. It was a huge disappointment for me,” Poitier said on CNN. Larry King Live in 2008.
“Before I came to Florida, I had the opportunity through my mother and father to establish some kind of a foundation as to who I was,” he told Oprah Winfrey in an interview in 2000.

“It wasn’t what was required of me in Florida. It wasn’t that. It couldn’t be that. They taught me that I had basic rights as a human being. They taught me that I was someone. I knew we had no money, yet they taught me that I was someone. . We had no electricity or running water, even so, they taught me that it was someone. I had very little education; a year and a half, in fact, it was all the education that I was exposed to, even though I knew it was someone, “he added.

On being a black movie star in Hollywood

In a 2000 interview for The Observer, Poitier said that being a Hollywood star did not protect him from the struggles that a black man in America had to face in the 1950s and 1960s.

“I had to think two or three times for every step I took,” Poitier said.

“I was in a culture that denied me my own existence. And I had no strength behind me. When I was walking the streets outside the ‘Barrio’ to which I was confined, I had to be constantly vigilant. What I am talking about was a different place in back then: the dominant culture didn’t care about my survival as a human being. ”

About breaking color barriers in film

For a dark-skinned actor like Poitier, finding complex roles in the 1950s was difficult.

“(Blacks) were so new to Hollywood. There was almost no frame of reference for us, except as stereotypical, one-dimensional characters,” Poitier told Winfrey. “I had in mind what was expected of me, not just what other blacks expected, but what my mother and father expected. And what I expected of myself.”

As he cemented his place in American cinema with films such as “Lilies of the Field,” which earned him an Oscar, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Pointier was fully aware that many people of color, including viewers and fellow artists, they looked up. to the.

“It has been a huge responsibility,” Poitier told Winfrey. “And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how I respected that responsibility. I had to do it. For others to come after me, there were certain things I had to do.”

About his activism

Poitier was also known for his activism and how he embraced the civil rights movement. In 1963, he attended the March on Washington and in 1964, the actor traveled to Mississippi to meet with activists in the days after the infamous murders of three young civil rights workers.

“The nature of my life for the past 36 years has been such that the urgency that was evident today has been bubbling up in me personally for most of these years. At least most of the years that I have reached adulthood. rights fight for a necessity to survive, “Poitier said during a panel discussion with other March on Washington participants and filmed in 1963.

“I found it necessary to protect myself and perpetuate my survival that I engage in any activity that momentarily relieves my burden,” he said of his decision to attend the march.


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