Disney’s latest remake a window into race in America

Subscribers Only Content

High resolution image downloads are available to subscribers only.

Not a subscriber? Try one of the following options:



Get A Free 30 Day Trial.

No Obligation. No Automatic Rebilling. No Risk.

Witnessing the faces of little Black girls across the nation light up with glee as they saw previews of actress Halle Bailey from the live action version “The Little Mermaid,” was both heartwarming and gratifying.

“Her skin…it looks like mine,” one very observant girl said to her mother in a video that went viral on social media. “She’s Brown like me,” another elated little girl said. Similar comments flooded social media after the trailer was released earlier this month.

While many little girls of all races and ethnicities were enthralled by the previews of the forthcoming Disney movie, not everyone is pleased about such a positive development. Many are deeply resentful of such a cultural transformation, which extends beyond the film. There are a number of people (mostly white) frothing at the mouth over the fact that elves, mermaids and dragon-fighting lords are being portrayed by people of color on Hollywood’s big and small screens.

Similar ire has emerged in certain right-wing quarters as Black performers have been given roles in traditionally all-white casts in the new spinoffs of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. From resentment over Black hobbits to outrage at viewing Black royalty, it has become a bemused spectacle to witness. Who would’ve guessed fire-breathing dragons, sorcery, and witchcraft would rankle the psyches of so many mentally unhinged souls?

Perhaps some of these so-called adults should remind their bigoted selves that mermaids are fictional, and that the world of fantasy are not the sole domain of white people.

One positive development is the vast majority of young people are dismissing such antiquated, regressive thinking, and instead are embracing such forward acts of cultural pluralism.

The truth is there is a segment of white America that is unnerved by the rapidly changing racial demographics in our nation. Some social scientists have predicted that by the late 2040s. Americans will be a majority/minority nation. Such data scares the bejesus out of certain white people, who long for the days of their vision of a Norman Rockwell America. A nation that was largely a myth.

These are the men and women who bristle at the mere thought of diversity, multiculturalism, and interracial mixing, not to mention gay marriage and gender equality. To them, such entities are the epitome of all that is deviant and unacceptable for the sort of America they envision and desire. Their ideal America is one where women are relegated to subservient roles, and people of color are confined to spheres of marginalization, if not outright invisibility.

Such a mindset reminds me of a passage in Ralph Ellison’s early post-cold war award winning novel “Invisible Man.” In one particularly colorful passage, Ellison describe a scene in which the dismissive and at times, hostile and disrespectful behavior that countless numbers of white people exhibit toward him result in him feeling that many of them see him as nothing more than an “animal” or “freak” or “a bad nightmare” from which they will eventually awaken from with great relief. In essence, he is seen as “not fully human.”

Ironically, these are often the very same people who constantly ask people of color, “Why do you have to make everything about race?” The truth is they’re the ones making race the issue, and have always done so.

Regardless if their anger and resentment, this nation will continue to become more diverse and pluralistic as time progresses. There are those who are frantically fighting against such a reality. While they may end up winning battles here and there, they will eventually lose the war.

Copyright 2022 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.