My colleague and Co-Partner, Marilyn Bennett, and I have been involved for 5 years in a multi-media project that strives to promote cross-cultural understanding around issues of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. Our project is named Truth in Progress. Currently, we are involved in completing our documentary film, "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" I have seen for a second time the film SELMA. This last time I led a discussion following the showing with a predominantly white group in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Again, as I saw the film, I was mesmerized by Oprah Winfrey's portrayal in the film of Annie Lee Cooper. I, in the following words, ask this question of the Truth in Progress family and beyond: Oprah Winfrey, in the film, became Annie Lee Cooper, a black woman who was denied the right to vote and was, with others, brutalized by the police as she participated in a protest demonstration. How does gifted, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson view the Civil Rights Movement and what role might he have played in the film SELMA?
Dr. Ben Carson has become a favorite of many conservative Republicans and is being urged by some of them to pursue the presidential nomination of the Republican party. He has been a critic of same sex marriage, and has made comparisons of it to bestiality and pedophilia. He later apologized for making these comparisons.
I have been deeply impressed that Oprah Winfrey, with all of her success, popularity, and power, has not allowed herself, as a black woman, to distance herself from the black justice rights struggle. Although hers is a film portrayal of the verbal and physical violence black persons endured to attain the right to vote, her willingness to play that role is a model of how all of us, regardless of our race or power status, are challenged to identify with the struggles of others because of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Although I do not agree with Dr. Carson's views on marriage equality, nor with the ways he is being embraced by some conservatives, my greater concern is how Dr. Carson identifies with America's greatest protest movement, the Civil Rights Movement. Do those who embrace Dr. Ben Carson because of his conservatism on a host of issues do so as a way of separating him from a movement that was neither liberal or conservative — America's Civil Rights Movement?
Conservatives, in their disagreements with LGBT rights and marriage equality, often have expressed disagreements with the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, regarding affirmative action and voting rights. Some have suggested that as marriage equality has forged ahead, now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, Republicans are expressing their resentment to these gains by whittling away at voting rights, affirmative action, and condoning the police in their abuse and killings of unarmed black men and boys. And in supporting the no-indictment verdicts of Grand Juries.
Truth in Progress, with our commitment to the eradication of racism and heterosexism, believes that the gains made on the gay rights front should not come at the cost of regression on the black rights front.
Dr. Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey has given witness to her long support of black justice by playing the role of Annie Lee Cooper in SELMA. If given the opportunity, what role would you have played in the film?