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We Need To Educate Ourselves On Race vs. Ethnicity (And Other Things I Learned From The Ongoing Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Conversation)

We Need To Educate Ourselves On Race vs. Ethnicity (And Other Things I Learned From The Ongoing Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Conversation)

The widespread public reaction to this week’s news that actress Zoe Saldana has replaced singer Mary J. Blige in the planned Nina Simone biopic has been very interesting– if not troubling.

The reaction was swift, blunt, and, seemingly, most critical among black readers who left passionate comments all over the blogosphere.  Simone’s own daughter should be commended for her measured approach in responding to the controversy.

This week I learned a lot about some of the readers of S&A, and other blogs with content geared to readers throughout the African diaspora.  And some of what I learned, I didn’t like too much.

What started off as a fair display of disapproval for a film’s casting, quickly dissolved into a barrage of hateful and hurtful comments, directed at the subject of the film and the star, at the time only rumored to be attached.

There was talk about who should have been cast instead of Saldana; there was debate about whether Saldana was too pretty to play Simone, who some foolhardily labeled as unattractive.

Inevitably, and perhaps with good reason, there was concern that the role of music legend Simone was to be played by an actress of a hue different than her own.  At this point in the conversation, They still had me.  I was still listening, and still learning how people were feeling about the issue.

“She’s too light-skinned to be taken seriously as Nina Simone,” declared many who objected to the casting. 

“And besides– she’s a Latina.  She’s stealing jobs from real black actresses.”

And that’s where they lost me.

I can maybe understand some of the concern expressed; most especially from those who have only identified Saldana as Latina and believe that to be the sole way she self-identifies.  But for those who have viewed or read interviews wherein Saldana has self-identified as both black and Latina, I’m having difficulty understanding the lingering confusion and suspicion.

I think we’ve had this conversation on S&A several times before (the earliest instance I could recall was back in 2009 with Ms. WOO), so I won’t take you on a long trip down memory lane this time.

Race and ethnicity– it’s understandable that some may mistake one for the other.  But we all need to have a better understanding of the difference between race and ethnicity, and how it’s absolutley possible (and normal) for Saldana to be both a black woman and a Latina.  Also, we need to understand why her ethnicity should not be the determining factor in arguing against Saldana being cast in the planned Nina Simone biopic. 

First things first, let’s get some definitions . . .

The word “ethnic” refers to a member of a minority group who retains the customs, language, or social views of the group.  In Saldana’s case, she has self-identified culturally as a Spanish-speaking Latina, from the region of the Americas known as Latin America.  (Not everyone in Latin America speaks Spanish, by the way.)  Her ethnicity is Latina.

The word “race”is defined as a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.  In most regions of the world, this would apply to skin color, hair texture, and facial features.  Saldana’s race is black.  If you think hard enough about it, I’m sure you would be able to name a few people, who you consider black, who look just like her.

And I say all of that, to say this:  It’s perfectly understandable for there to be some opposition to the casting of Zoe Saldana in the role of Nina Simone, but not because she’s Latina.  I think the belief that Saldana is stealing jobs from “real” black actresses is an ignorant one; but one that can be easily remedied with a little bit of education.

So there you have it.  Zoe Saldana– a self-identifying black Latina actress.  And she’s not the only one, either.

Let’s revisit the below short clip from mun2.tv which discusses the realities of being black and Latino, from the perspective of various actors, musicians, and artists in this country who have also struggled with the perception that one must be one or the other.

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Comments

lhdollbaby

I would, like to say, that, Orville ,had some pretty interesting points I agree that Halle Berry piggy back on her blackness/whiteness to get ahead, then whitewashed the black part, of her, as they all, do, Beyonce is no better, Diana, Ross, ( pathetic)

Nelson Hernandez

Utter nonsense. Race is a social construct with no basis in biology. We are homo saipen saipen. That is the human race. Black or white skin is genetic variation. This does nothing to denote a race. Ethnicity maybe.

This is the problem in the West. We use words incorrectly and then fight over nonsense definitions.

As to the black commentary. As a multicultural person (Ethiopian and PuertoRican) I’ve heard the, "you’re not black enough" tirade before. Funny how a people claiming prejudices turn around and are prejudice against their own.

Winston

I’m curious to know why Dominicana Zoe Saldana gets an Essence magazine cover, yet Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco were omitted from this most recent Essence cover that featured the main actresses of African descent? What kind of sense does that make? Just like Saldana, those women self-identify as Afro-Latinos.

K Cruz

For One , Hispanic are mostly Native American and African racially. Get tour facts straight

John

Race

ak

People the Jews talked about in the bible were black people or Hebrews. White Polish ,Russian Jewish named people from Europe are not judians from North Africa. the word Jewish was adopted because they knew they were not the true Hebrews.

sergio

I've been reluctant as far but might as well put in my three cents (It used to be two cents but increased because of inflation) but as I suppose as anyone who;s been reading this site, from my name half of my family is from a Black Latin background (Dominican to be exact just like Zoe) and I think Emmanuel clearly explains that you have to get with the program here folks. African-Americans are not the only "real" black people on the planet. Yes I get it. You want to claim that "No one has suffered like we have suffered" mantle but that's not good enough. Especially considering that most of the slave ships from Africa during the slave trade from Africa went to the West Indies and South America not America. And besides what I suspect here is really jealousy. People who want to claim that Zoe is not black enough are really saying "God I wish I was her. I'm not light enough to pass for white but I wish I could claim I was a Latina" A sort of "easy out" so to speak, but a reflection your own internal self-hatred So you can say "That's not that me. I'm not one of them".

    Me

    Your delusional if you think black people want to be light skin like her.

musiclover3183

There are numerous African American actresses in Hollyowood they could gave chosen who actually "look like" Nina Simone. Hollywood doesn't really want to use African American actresses, specifically dark skinned black American women. Zoe Saldana is Puerto Rican and Dominican. She also said that she identifies as more Latina than black. We all know Latinos can be any racial background, but identity is more just skin color and race; it's also about your sense of home. Since she doesn't really identify as black (or even African American for that matter), I would rather Hollywood use an actress who looks much more like Nina Simone. Apparently, America has a problem with Simone's real physical features. Zoe Saldana just makes money off of African American films because she looks racially ambiguous and people are upset about that. I doubt a mulatto person could ever get a role as a white historical figure, especially an actor that looks "nothing" like the actual person.

Tyrone

Black People Avoid The Truth:

1. Hollywood is Anti-Black Female…The powerbrokers in the industry shove mulatto women down our collective throats. Halle Berry, and Paula Patton are not real blackwomen…Period!

2. Spanish Blacks Hate Black! When did they become Pro-Black? Latin blackwomen are supporters of white male supremacy. They're brainwashed to hate blackmen. Why should Zoe Saldana jump over AA women who have stayed loyal to blackmen and the race in general. I don't care for latin blacks, they have no love for Mama Africa. I'm not giving Saldana one red cent as long as the status quo remains in place.

Wedjat

well we can argue the use of words and definitions all day. the true definition of a word means nothing if a large mass of people believe it means something else. just like the word "racist". its not even in the dictionary but through people misusing the word, now the word exists and has a meaning when the correct word people should be using is "bigot". "racist" stems from the word "racism" to describe a system; a person cannot be a racist if you go by the correct definition of it. the only place you will find the word "racist" are on internet dictionaries which I don't even consider real dictionaries because they aren't even by official English language sources, except Merriam Webster.

the point of words are to get a message across so even if you use the correct word, people aren't going to know what you're referring to and your meaning is lost. just like when I use bigot in its correct terminology instead of racist, the person I'm trying to convey my message to, doesn't even understand what I'm talking about so I have to revert back to using the incorrect word "racist" so they understand.

as far as this article is concerned, they should choose someone else who more correctly matches Nina Simon's features because Hollywood always depicts people as these model-perfect people when in reality these historic people looked more like common people, like us. there is enough Barbie-ism going on as it is. Stop Barbie-fying our black historic people. It has a psychological effect on people that in the end separates us from the hero rather than us becoming one with them and seeing them as realistic as ourselves.

Felipe

Please watch the video "Glass Walls" with a very important message from Paul McCartney

AllPeople

.
An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:
.
groups DOT yahoo DOT com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236
.
facebook DOT com/allpeople.gifts/posts/300777016632181
.

Liz Vasquez

I think I understand the arguments being said, but as a mulatto Hispanic (or Latina), with ambiguous phenotype, from Central America, who grew up here in America, I can only speak for myself.

Culturally, I am not like African Americans. I grew up with the customs and culture of my family, which is close and remain strong with their cultural believes and daily lifestyle. As an immigrant child growing up in America, I wasn't raised with traditional "American" customs. My mother was very adamant on how I was raised…while my American friends had their typical American upbringing, I had to do things differently, and I won't lie that I felt left out much of the time, but now looking back, I'm grateful for that now, because it taught me to be proud of my Latin-Caribbean culture and heritage.

Maybe the issue here is CULTURE more-so than race, or skin color, etc.

Find the truth StrongMan

Blacks and Latinos and whites and everyone in between. You were all black African and after time changed into what you are now. We've all been lied to. Do some serious research and use common since. Attention! WE ARE ALL THE SAME.

1. The Bible Has all the answers
2. Check out "Hidden Colors" Documentary
3. Check out "The Human Family Tree" Documentary
4. Find the truth

xo

Hollywood is racist, period. This conversation should be using a wide angle lens in framing this conversation not a close up shot. People of Color, no matter the color, do not have access in hollywood…and we are in 2013. Just like in our communities we as folks of color are 'pitted' against each other for the far and few between stories of our legacies. Stop blaming 'her' for getting a part – she is an actor afterall and the parts are so scarce why blame the actor. Who put up the sign, No Dog, Negros or Mexicans? Not folks of color for sure. The words Hispanic, Latino, were lazily assigned to folks that didn't fit the white/black paradigm. Calling each other Black, White or Latino doesn't make sense. Forcing us to identify as one or the other (not brown) forces us to fight for scraps. Stand up for one another instead of falling into the fake argument of the Angry 'White' Man. What the F is his ethnicity or race, and Why are we demanding an answer to that question!

ANN

LIGHT SKIN DARK SKIN AS LONG AS THEY ARE OF THE BLACK RACE DOES NOT MATTER TO ME THAT JUST A COMPLEXION I AM TALKING ABOUT RACE MIXING I HATE IT EVEN THOUGH THEIR ARE CERTAIN CASE WHERE IT SEEM OK MOT THE MASSES IT TO MUCH OF IT TODAY IT TURN MY STOMACH BUT IT OK BECAUSE I KNOW NO ONE ELSE CARE LIKE ME,

ann

I AM PROUD OF MY PARENTS, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN BLACK SLAVE AND ALL THE INTERACISL MIXUNG , I STILL DO NOT WANT MY KIDS MARRYING AND BREEDING WITH WHITES . iDO NOT FEEL IT IS RACIST TO NOT WANT MY DNA MIX WITH WHITE DNA I DO NOT WANT BLOND OR BLUE EYES IN MY FAMILY NO MORE THEN THEY WANT KIKY HAIR AND STRONG BLACK/BROWN COMPLEXION IN THEIR. I DO NOT HATE WHIT PEOPLE BUT I DO NOT WANT TO SLEEP WITH ANY I WOULD BE VERY HURT IF MY KIDS BROUGHT HOME THAT RACE IF THEY ARE DATING WHITE KEEP IT FROM ME.

LBM

Black women who dare to excel in spite of daggers coming BECAUSE they are dark, BECAUSE they have wide noses, BECAUSE they choose their natural hair, BECAUSE they have full lips – deserve to be celebrated in as accurate imagery as possible. Just as Lena Horne had certain options BECAUSE of how she looked, Nina Simone's complete course was informed by HOW SHE LOOKED and the fact that she dared to be proud when there was almost no segment of society embracing her beauty. What she achieved, her tenacity to want to LIVE in a world in which most women who looked like her barely survived should not be downplayed. I'm dismayed that so many continue to ignore/dismiss the plight of darker complexioned women of a certain phenotype. Folk bust a gasket every time Jesus is spoken of as not white. So to pretend that we don't understand the power of imagery is just evil. I'd bet my last dollar that if Celia Cruz (RIP) attempted to play Lena Horne, people would have had a problem.

monique

who cares about her race or her ethnicity . she does not look anything like the actress. i am tired of lightskinned actresses playing the parts of woman who are dark skinned. her color is important especially during the time she was a star. also simone was not an advocate for mixed race relationships and saldana embodies that. it is not ok . if u are gonna do a movie on a black person make sure the person is black and something the real artist would of approved of. simple

Lizochka

The ethnicity v race thing has always confused me. I've been told a few times that I'm not white (I'm from Russia and ethnically Russian), but I'm light-skinned and check the "white" box on forms in the US.

Maya

You people just confuse the hell out of me, I live in south-america (I really don't understand where that "Latin America" crap came from because we speak spanish not latin) I'm really piss-off about all the stupid commentaries about how Zoe can't play the part because she is latina, seriously?? 'cause for me she is not latina at all, she was born in US soil, and no matter that she lived a couple of years in Dominican Republic, and her parents are both hispanics, she is an American because the mayority of her live, she was in the US and that's the culture on which she was raised, no matter where her parents come from, I was born in the Argentina but I wasn't race there so I don't now absolutly nothing about that culture, and I don't consider myself argentinian, and I sure no matter Zoe feels very proud of where her parents came from and they thought him a little of their own culture, is just that nothing more, "she is stealing the part of other american black wome" hahahah don't make me laugh that's the most racist thing I ever heard, she is not stealing anything 'cause she is an american with hispanic parents yes, but an american, AND ALSO THE MOVIE IS ALREADY IN POST PRODUCCION SO GET OVER IT, there's nothing we can do or say to change the fact that she had the part.

MichelleToo

Your article is incredibly logical and valid. I am really glad you took the time to make the important distinctions between race and ethnicity, especially since we as Black Americans can stand to remind ourselves that we have a whole diaspora to be proud of and to educate ourselves about.

HOWEVER, and I put that in caps because it is extraordinarily important, we are not talking about an academic distinction. We are talking about reel life. Literally. The world of film and television, where the academic distinctions between race and ethnicity don't really amount to a hill of beans. What does amount to a hill of beans is the fact that Black women, in particular, non racially ambiguous Black American women have been trying since the beginning of Hollywood to gain some sort of foothold in the telling of not just our stories, but hell, the stories of anybody. Non-racially ambiguous Black women have been chipping away at the stereotypes and attitudes that still define and crowd us into these very small pigeon holes, from which it is very hard to been seen as fully human.

In plain English, Latina women have, in comparison, vast amounts of freedom and power in Hollywood. Latina women are not seen as Black nor are they treated as Black. They are treated as serious commodities in film and television. A Latina actress can be seen with any leading man, and they can grace any magazine, be on any show, be in any movie. They have the power in Hollywood to make films, OPEN films and certainly star in a TV show.

People like Dania Ramirez, Jessica Alba (Honey), Zoe Saldana, Christina Milian, Rosario Dawson, Daphne Rubin-Vega, etc all move back and forth seamlessly between being Black, Afro-Latina, and Latina on any given day. They will be seen in auditions to play the daughter of two Black parents or to play a Black American (which, by the way is also an ethnicity) icon. However, Black American actress, those without the extra specialness of being Latina, don't get those opportunities. Those opportunities are only open to Latina women because in Hollywood, being Latina comes with a power that Black actresses are not granted. Being Latina is a privilege in Hollywood. Now, I am not one to get into the race olympics, but in the case of Hollywood, we have to be honest about the hierarchy that exists because that is the only way we can dismantle a system that keeps us all down.

We all know that Zoe Saldana has been allowed to do the things that she is doing because yes, she is beautiful and talented and has been on her grind, BUT, the fact that she is Latina and not just Black gives her an enormous boost. And THAT has to be talked about, ESPECIALLY vis a vis a biopic about Nina Simone who dealt with this kinda ish all her life. In fact she wanted her life to be a hammer that would start to destroy the mentality that says that Black women are not beautifully sexual fully realized human beings.

So we HAVE to talk about Zoe Saldana's ethnicity, her culture, her race and her privilege. We HAVE to talk about the fact that she is Latina. And for the record, I don't think she is light skinned. I think that is the most ridiculous part of the criticism, because to me light skinned is Gina Torres or Lauren Velez or Vanessa L. Williams. They are light. Zoe is not light. And whole other post should be dedicated to why people think she is light. But that is for another time.

Hmmm..Lets C

My only response is can someone Black/African American/African can get a role in Latin American countries

Maeiyah

I totally disagree with your whole premise, this is for the author of this article. It was because of our phenotype,rich carbon melanin ,who we are, the first born, chosen people why we caught so much hell in this country, This also applies for our great Nina Simone, because of her phenotype, her wide nose and large lips how dare you try to justify racist Hollywood rewriting our story. So NO I disagree with Zoe Saldana playing the roll of Nina Simone. No other people on this EARTH has experience the HOLOCAUST that we as DARK CARBON MELANIN have experience and continue to experience we lost everything our Culture, our spirituality, our essence, our Land, and our Nationality. My people suffer greatly from the STOCKHOLM syndrome, then you have Negros who have no knowledge of themselves trying to justify this blatant disrespect to rewrite our story. Those who forget are doomed to repeat. Just like Europeans depicting Jesus as a Europeans when we know the region he was born and what those people look like. The very exact thing is is happening here. 100 years later, our young people see the story and think Nina Simone, look like Zoe Saldana and was a Latino women, this is how rewriting your story starts right in your face. I guarantee you if Nina Simone was alive today, she would not want Zoe Saldana to play her role, I can guarantee you this.Other nationality study us, and know our mindset they know most of our sister's and brother can be bamboozled and suffer deeply from self hatred. Other people from other nationalities including Europeans, can piss in our face and call it rain, and confused Negro cosign it with allegiance SMDH

YILDIRIM, Ferhat

Find me on facebook Im writing a movie in my posts as a draft, its going to be about a human being lightning 'me', enthicity, race and why discrimination exsists. Iv started 2minutes in to writing it already. Im doing it just for the sake of it as I cant find work, every job is taken so incomes has to come in some way or another. Maybe a book first I dont know.

What else strikes earth other then human beings living on land with two foot or atleast one? No one but lightning.

I will sue any other human being who strikes taking my idea/s. Sick of being used as a tool.

Yahya

It is amazing how still toward the end of 2012, we still feel compelled to debate "race", "ethnicity", and all of their relations. Indeed, as "Black" Americans (or "African-Americans"…however some choose to identify), we need to get over the MISconception that we are the ONLY other group of African descent outside of Africa, or the ONLY other group of African descent whose ancestors were victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Just as many native West Africans have to get over the fact that many of us openly choose to identify with pride (and not hide) our ancestral links to the Motherland. Indeed, there are more of our distant "cousins" in Brazil than in the U.S. and I've met many brothers and sisters here in the U.S. who had absolutely NO CLUE that there were so many "black" families in Central and South America, or even in the Caribbean. Now, although I'm sure there are many other talented actresses (or perhaps even a very talented newcomer) who could portray Nina Simone and do her justice on film…Zoe doesn't deserve all of the hate being spewed her way over a role (and over both her culture and familial ancestry). I have only read interviews where she self-identifies with both her African and Latin heritages, and Spanish is her first language. I don't see what all the hoopla is about.

Du Lys

Kathy's comment about being "ethnically half black but racially white" has to be one of the most asinine remarks I've ever come across on this topic. Aside from the fact that there is no such thing as race, the whole idea is based on perception. Someone with light skin and wavy hair may appear to be white to you but they may have other features that make it quite obvious to someone else that they are black.

omar

What makes your Race vs Ethnic argument is not your notion of the former being physical and the latter social, which I generally agree to. It is your "racist" designation of Black as something exclusively physical. As if people of African origin and slave descent in the north America's have not retained common customs, language, or social views stemming from their unique social experience and background. Being black is every much a social thing as being Latino. I think it is very "racist" to think of black being socially speaking, a empty slate, that only corresponding to physical characteristics like hue, texture, nose structure and bone density. This is very unscientific and problematic. Since the concept of race is a social construct the biology of race has no social meaning beyond continental evolution. We have to look at Black as an ethnic category in the same way as Latin. So the real question is ethnicity vs ethnicity. Zoa's Blackness vs her Latinoness in comparison to Nina Simone. Did Zoa share some of the same customs, language, or social views as Nina Simone as did the typical Black woman? Of course her likeness to the looks of the actor she is playing should be a qualifier ( and make up no pun intended can make up for the lack of likeness, but the social experience of being Black the products if that experience, the customs, language, social views, to me is paramount and takes precedence.

AllPeople (AP) Gifts [soaptalk AT hotmail DOT com]

.
There is actually no such thing as a so-called "Light-Skinned
Black" person … but rather … such individuals and groups
are actually people who are of a 'Multi-Generational
Multiracially-Mixed' (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4160
.
People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
'identify' according to any standards other than one's own.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4157
.
The legal -application of the racist-'One-Drop Rule'
(ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4162
.
http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341891410164
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4187
.
http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341281410225
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.
Listed below are related Links of 'the facts' of the histories
of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.
There is no proof that a 'color-based slave hierarchy'
(or that 'color-based social-networks') ever existed
as common entities — within the continental U.S.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153
.
It was the 'Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. 'The Rule of Partus'
(ROP)] — and NOT the racist-'One-Drop Rule' (ODR) — that was
used to 'create more enslaved people' on the continental U.S.
.
This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
was NOT "color-based" (i.e. "racial") — but rather
— it was actually "mother-based" (i.e. 'matrilineal').
.
http://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/309460495741441
.
There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
'white' lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240
.
An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236
.
http://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/300777016632181
.
Other Topics:
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/279223868853420
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/164203590359746
.
http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.

Dee

The comment from AP Gifts about there being no such thing as light skin black people is by far the most ridiculous comment on race I have ever read! Even in Africa and I'm not referring to thse of Arab descent, come in different shades of black! Have you ever seen South Africans? Black is just an overall term to classify a group of people. Remember the opposite of black is whte. Not all white people are one shade either. I am a lighter shade of brown and my sons are ligh complexion. Their father, a dougla (East Indian and black of the west indies) is a darker shade. Coming from a family of people who are very light in color with blue eyes to the blackest shade and even dark with gray eyes, is the most beautiful thing. To see that we as an ethnic group because there is only one race, the human race, are so unique. If you observe the different countries of Africa including the Ethiopians and Somalians and their characteristic features and skin color and hair textures and the rest of us how we should be proud! It doesn't matter what the other mixtures are, it's just a testament that black people can look like several other groups of people, ethnic-wise. But to say there is no such thing as a light skin black person makes me then wonder: What about two black parents who give birth to a veryh light complexion, light eyed light hair child? It happens all the time. And it's not because the parents are biracial. The genetic pool is a very complicated thing. Not all blacks with blue eyes for example is because of a white gene. It's a particular gene that can even happen to pure Asian. It's the OCA2 gene. Read about it. It's really sad that everyone wants to be white. If you take a can of white paint and add a drop of black or brown, you won't get white. People have the right to call themselves what they want, but when it's done because they are ashamed to be of African descent, then I feel sorry for them!

guitargirl1

Why is do you say it's no such thing as a light skinned black person? Tell that to my black friends, any of them. they will all argue that it is such a thing as that. just like it's dark skinned white people, white asians and very deep red indians. That makes no sense to me, your comment on the color of people. There has always been an issue with the dark Blacks and the lighter toned blacks. it seems that the lighter they are, the better the treatment they get, even from their own kind!! In other countries, not just here in the USA. Cuba, is one of the places that makes a difference between colors of people, it's that way everywhere we go. Puerto Ricans used to where make-up to make their faces lighter and their cheekers red, for to be thought of as white, or white like. Yes, light skinned folks do exist, try telling some of them that it's not a race, they will tell you another story all together. We might not like people to be treated better or worse because of the color of their skin…but it still happens to this day. i am afraid it's always gonna be some extent to it. My ex-husbands and his birth family are so ashamed of being black, they call themselves native American, now that's terrible! i had DNA testing done for my son, came back with not a drop of Indian blood in him. So, we are always gonna have to deal with folks and their skin color, whatever color, however light or dark, we will still have our likes and dislikes.

APGifts [soaptalk@hotmail.com]

.
There is actually no such thing as a so-called "Light-Skinned
Black" person … but rather … such individuals and groups
are actually people who are of a 'Multi-Generational
Multiracially-Mixed' (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4160
.
People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
'identify' according to any standards other than one's own.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4157
.
The legal -application of the racist-'One-Drop Rule'
(ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4162
.
http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341891410164
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4187
.
http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341281410225
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.
Listed below are related Links of 'the facts' of the histories
of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.
There is no proof that a 'color-based slave hierarchy'
(or that 'color-based social-networks') ever existed
as common entities — within the continental U.S.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153
.
It was the 'Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. 'The Rule of Partus'
(ROP)] — and NOT the racist-'One-Drop Rule' (ODR) — that was
used to 'create more enslaved people' on the continental U.S.
.
This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
was NOT "color-based" (i.e. "racial") — but rather
— it was actually "mother-based" (i.e. 'matrilineal').
.
http://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/309460495741441
.
There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
'white' lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240
.
An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236
.
http://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/300777016632181
.
Other Topics:
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/279223868853420
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/164203590359746
.
http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
.

Raymond

When did latino become a race. There are to much ignorant black and white Americans out there.
A latino can be white, black, mulatto or mezisto. White people have don a good job of causing conflict among black people. Black latinos think they are better because they speak spannish. Wake up and smell the coffee, white latinos have no use for you. Black americans have to realize that they are not the only black people out there. In fact, most of the slaves that came from Africa ended up in Brazil or the Carribean. One final note. Puerto Rico is a country and not a race.

Byron Wilkes

It is sickening that most of us (black people) know so little about race and ethnicity. This is evidenced by black people adopting the idiotic term African American. Do you know what an African American is? An African American is someone who emigrated from the African continent and now is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Being abducted and forced to come over in chains is not emigration, so I refuse to use the polite term, African American. I prefer black or negro, they are descriptive and less ambiguous. No matter what Zoe Saldana says she is, she looks like a black woman to me. So that is how the world would treat her. I am also of the opinion that a lot of black folks try to "pass" by claiming Latino heritage. There are at least two light skinned women at my job who try to claim Puerto Rican ancestry because of their light skin. When I question them about which ancestor of theirs was from the island I get blank stares. I think most of them do not even know Puerto Rico is an island. What they actually are is descended from raped slaves and rapist slave owners. It does not sound as sexy as saying you are Puerto, but I guess anything is better than being a nigger to these wannabees. Then I hear people talking about having "Puerto Rican" hair. Whenever I hear this I try to gently let the person know that Puerto Rican is not a race but a nationality. Just like other commenters have pointed out the Latino is not a race but a culture. I usually get blank stares in return. It seems that the black community is bathed in ignorance and is comfortable with this smell on them.

no name

That woman is just black, not in any way from Spain , France, Portugal or Italy. Maybe she speaks some dialect of Spanish, maybe not, I don't know, don't care. Spaniards are going to have more than a few words to say about some being tanned because you have decided that it must be due to a mixture of black blood. I guess the slave trade must have gone all over the world without historians knowing this, even before there even was a British, French, Portuguese and Spanish slave trade. Just give it a 5 to 7 year old innocence test from any child anywhere in the world, put her picture up next to a Caucasian female or a Asian and ask the child, why all these games. she's looks successful, pretty, young and happy, why can't we celebrate that just as she is.

AllPeople (AP) Gifts

.
Please feel free to work to inform Americans that ….
the ETHNIC term of "African-American" (AA) is NOT
a 'Synonym' for the RACIAL term of 'Black American'
(BA) — the two (2) terms are actually referring to two
(2) entirely DIFFERENT GROUPS of people — AND that
many of the true AAs find it to be very offensive that
our society works to force them to "carry the statistics"
(particularly the 'negative' ones — ex. AIDS / HIV Rates,
STD Rates; Crime Rates; Out-Of-Wedlock Birthrates;
Higher-Education Drop-Out Rates, STD Rate; etc.) —
for all of the many, many, many diverse BA groups
and communities that are currently living in the U.S.
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/300777016632181
.

shay

Latin/ Hispanic is not a race!!! Hispanic is an ethnicity/ culture!! for example my race is black and my ethnicity/ culture is Caribbean. How do you think there are dark skinned Spanish people? because they are either full African or they are partly mixed with african. It is so sad that they deny their race. People just fail to see that the Dominica, cuba, puerto-rico etc.. are just a countries!! not a race! there are white hispanics, black hispanics, indian hispanics, even some that look asian. I understand other races getting confused, but lorrd the actual black spanish people who dont identify as black really need to educate them selves, like really!!

Offthepink

These are the same idiots confused about how George Zimmerman could be both white and hispanic. As if latin/hispanic was a race or something. Smh.

ladyday

this is not the first time zoe has played the part of a Black actress and there were no complaints so why now. I hope she does a great job. How can you call it
'stealing' a role – the role has to be 'offered' to her by someone else.

Ty87

Well I think that it would only make since to have a full black actress play nina simone. Thats like u wouldnt have La La anthony portraying whitney houston. Cause to me zoey comes off as only identifing with her latina race. Like when she played n the movie Columbia I thought that she was just a dark skinned latina. I say if your black u should embrace it and b proyd. Cause I shore am.

Marques

I appreciate the fact that someone spoke out on this issue and hopefully educated people at the same time. One of the main things I am concerned with on this issue of identity is the apparent African-American belief that there is a monopoly on "blackness" that only slave descendants in the United States can claim. Let me explain one little fact that should clear this up: during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that brought something like 10-12 million Africans to the New World, 96% of those Africans went to the Caribbean and Latin America. Only 4% came to what would become the United States. Nearly 40% of that 96% went to Brazil alone. Yes, the Portuguese shipped nearly 10 times more African slaves to the land that would become Brazil than the British sent to the US. Another note: Many "African-American" families have Caribbean heritage, some more recent, some more distant. Last note: The Americas include North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, thus, in a way, ALL African slave descendants in the Americans could actually claim themselves to be "African-American". In my travels to Brazil, I have met with several members of that country's black civil rights organizations that remind me of this.

Also, racial identity, race, racism and the disregard for black people worked in a similar but also different manner in all of Latin America. Many Latin American countries indoctrinated populations so thoroughly to accept "white as right", that people of color were taught to prefer marriage and procreation with persons of lighter skin so that they could "whiten" or "improve" their family line. Although this "improving the race" ideal also existed in the US, strict segregation put a decrease on racial mixture in the US while it was the norm in Latin America. Thus, many would-be black Latinos throughout the Americas are taught to define themselves as anything but black. Dominicans that US-born blacks would see as black were taught to called themselves "Indians". In Brazil, the term "moreno" can apply to anyone who doesn't have blond or red hair. This has created a clash of identity with US-born blacks when brown-skinned Latinos migrate to the US and identify themselves by their nationality or by one of the color-coded euphemisms I just mentioned.

Thus, US blacks often look down on black Latinos in some ways similar to how they look down on individuals of immediate racial mixture who prefer to identify themselves as "mixed" rather than black. I say "immediate" mixed race because in the US, one is only mixed if they have parents who consider themselves to be of different races, whereas in Latin America, one is mixed regardless of how far this mixture is. US-blacks have a contradictory attitude toward this mixed race thing. There is a preference for lighter-skin and less kinky hair, traits of mixture, but discomfort with a mixed identity. The vast majority of US-born blacks are also "mixed", so this is a ridiculous mentality.

In recent years, there has been a push to encourage more persons of visible African ancestry throughout Latin America to embrace a black identity. In the 2010 census in Latin America, there were campaigns in places like Argentina, Peru, Equador, Brazil and other countries to get people to stand up and be counted as black rather than some term meant to escape blackness. Which brings me to the debate on Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.

I don't think Zoe should play the part, but not because of her Latin ethnicity. Zoe is clearly a black woman! All of us know some US-born black woman who looks like her. I simply believe there is a closer phenotype match for the part of Nina Simone. This issue of light, brown and dark skin has divided African descendants for so long and for me, it can actually be a trap that continues to divide us by 1) denigrating Zoe because she has lighter skin and 2) "othering" her because her family happened to get dropped off in the Caribbean rather than US shores.

More and more black Latinos are claiming their right to blackness and I think this should help bring us closer together rather than increasing our distances and differences. This is not to say this is a simple issue. I also think that magazines such as KING, SMOOTH and SHOW that are promoted to black men are pushing a more "mixed"/Latina black phenotype than "regular" black women. I put quotes around regular on purpose because it seems that looking like Gabrielle Union and Sanaa Lathan (both of whom are also "mixed" to some degree) are no longer good enough for these magazines. I will save that argument for another time. But for now, let us remember, Africans were sent to many Latin American countries in some cases several decades before ancestors arrived in the US. Thus, these Africans faced discrimination because of their color before US-born blacks even arrived. So let us stop all of this "she's Latina" business. If persons from Latin America accept themselves as black, we need to welcome them into the family. In today's Latin America, folks are fighting back against anti-Africanisms in their countries of origin and saying: "blacks have to accept their identity": http://bit.ly/R2vRhU.

In the end, due to the system of white supremacy that "others" everyone who doesn't look European, we are all one people! Recognize!

James Booker

I will NOT NE SPENDING ANY MONEY TO VIEW THE MOVIE. I do not have cable so I will not be doing so extemporaneously neither. I do like Zoe and support her; though I'm starting to think otherwise, as it seems it is only in her movie contracts to date, kiss and have sex with white men in her role. It also does not seem as of she dates Black men. Nor does Halle Berry, nor Kerry Washington. On the flip side, I also think it a disgrace when Black men sports players and rapper only date Mullatos, Latin Americans and white women. BLACK PEOPLE ARE SO CONFUSED ITS SO SAD! We love everybody but our NATURAL SELVES; the sadest part, NOBODY LOVES US UNTIL WE HAVE MONEY & FAME!

Jena

There are many Black men, and women always staring after me even though I am Chinese. I am glad America is an Ethnically Aware Society, and I still know that they stare on me maybe because my jaw is crooked. I wonder if I will return to having an unrefined jaw one day after evolutional changes due to my second nature with this forfeiture that my sister sexually abused me. Whatever the case is: I am not all Asian and I knew all along.

liz

Israel Getty hit the nail on the head!! These women have more European features over African. They are what Western civilization accept and push as pretty nowadays! Emanuel (the author) seems like he is just defending HIS type of woman!!!

bebe

SHE IS NOT BLACK! SHE IS still LATINA SWEETY! THAT IS WHY PEOPLE ARE UPSET. SO PERHAPS you SHOULD EDUCATE yourself!

Israel Getty

The very obvious irony is that the Latino actresses in this documentary complain about being discriminated against because of their darker hues and curly hair; however, it is because these very features )which appear be biracial) that they are chosen to portray black females. Although these physical characteristics prevent them from portraying Latino women, they seem to increase the likelihood that they will be chosen to portray black females. So, they are in fact taking roles from black American actresses whose hues are much darker, physical characteristics are much broader and curs much tighter and shorter, which may be why Mary Blige was replaced by Zoe Saldana. They have nothing to complain about.

dcmoviegirl

There are a lot of bitter black women who were likely bullied by black women of another hue in school who still carry that stupid and divisive "color/hair texture wars" mess around.

Kyna

Thank you so much for this article. Unfortunately, I missed it somehow after you posted, but am glad to catch up. Tomorrow morning, I'm posting my weekly digest of stories about women in film, TV and digital media — I call it "Her.Stories" — on my blog, Her Film. I will definitely link to this article as a not-to-miss story. I'm prefacing my digest of stories about the controversial casting choice, and have already written a short piece about being disturbed by the seemingly ethnocentric language surrounding the discussion of Saldana. In not a few articles on reputable news sites and magazines, has Saldana been referred to as a "Dominican" actress, without a single mention further into the articles of her also being Black. I am happy to see articles like yours (and a recent one on the Monique Blog) which help to define the terms and set parameters for the discussion.

Regina

She is not just black Latina she is a multiracial Latina. You can look at her and tell she is MORE than just black. Her heritage is from the Dominican republic which is majority mixed race white/black people and Puerto Rico who are majority decedents from white males and native American women with a few black ancestors thrown in. Maybe you should learn not to follow such a hateful racist one drop rule when speaking about Latina women.

Kenne

Here's my two cents for what it's worth. My objection to Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone is not based on ethnic terms but we have to admit why couldn't someone like Jennifer Hudson, (who's actually a singer and has proven that she can act, jeez, she did win an Academy Award!) be chosen for the part? I'm just sayin'. When dealing with a "Hollywood" production, we should know by now what to expect.

Urn

Some of y'all on here sound liable to start the "Zoe Saldana Birther Movement"…make homegirl sit down with Skip Gates and submit to a test to see just how africana she is.
Gimme a break! We're not white people–this whole "monoculturalist" ideology neither befits nor benefits us! I'd rather hear suggestions of whom should have been casted instead of refutation from brainwashed pseudo-militants who've never heard of Arturo Schomburg (that Portyrican for whom an important African-American cultural research library is named) or bumped some Ismael Rivera. One's culture is defined by his/her EXPERIENCES not just if her father is from the Dominican Republic or Detroit. And, even then, that's why it's called ACTING. It's such a bigger issues that this biopic is both unauthorized and historically inaccurate.

DL

With all the talk of her being black or not the reality is that hollywood does not SEE zoe as BLACK alot of people see her sucess in hollywood as a trimph for black actressses WRONG hollywood is marketing her as latina pure and simple NOT black and latina BUT LATINA and exotic. She is ideal for hollywood as she fits into 3 markets whereas most actresses only fit into one black or white but zoe has the mainstream (white) latin, AND black very similar situation to vin disel and the rock.
white women are not threatened by her looks and can relate to her, blk women just see her darkish skin and support her as there is noone else to support and of course latin women support her. Same goes for the men. Men of all races fancy her cant really say that about angela bassett/kerry/viola can you? now hollywood knows because of the one drop rule blacks will see her as blk even though they DONT so they can put her in any blk movie as a replacement for a black woman and noone will be none the wiser or so they thought before this controversy.
Will the penny finally drop for black people when they put her in a leo, george, jonny or brad movie as one of their love intrests- a total no go area for black actresses? will that be the point where bp let go and relise she is NOT REPPING YOU? or will they think were in some post racial america like they did with obama eh lol!

Mark Dudley

My issue with a great many people who I have known who self Identify as Black and Latino/Latina is that they don' t seem to recognize the VAST history of racial prejudice( Notice I didn't use the word racism as people often confuse the two) within the Latino community. It seems that as is usually the case the Latino community finds itself as "color struck" as the African American community "If your black stay back, if your light your alright". With the Indian community following the same viewpoint.

My issue with Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone, however, is simply that I haven't seen her do work with any sort of dimension as of yet. I hope she works hard to do the film justice.

anon

@come again i bet you think mariah carey is a light skinned bw too eh? I included hair texture and phenotype in my assement of ms. saldana NOT just skin tone.
People like you are the reason why the bc is so d***m confused about race notice how whites and asians know EXACTLY whos in their community and guess what? they are thriving unlike us! But continue to hate african features and worship european features eventually these biracials will replace blacks altogether anyway based on the stupidity of the bc.

anon

heres a picture of zoes mother she aint black! and she IS puerto rican. http://photos.exposay.com/Zoe_Saldana/photo/869168/
http://www.exposay.com/zoe-saldana-with-mother-women-in-film-los-angeles-presents-the-2010-crystal–lucy-awards—arrivals/p/38038/2/?f=Zoe+Saldana+with+mother

n/a

I could say that Zoe Saldana is wrong for the choice of portraying Nina for many things. I am not going to do that. Here is why she is not the right choice. It's a bad casting choice plain and simple. I know why Hollywood did it. It's stupid and will lessen the value of the film. She could make the performance memorable, they could put her in tons of makeup to give an effect. It's not going to work. I don't see her as Nina. I can(sort of) see Mary as Nina. Or Alfre Woodard but I think that is might be too late in the game for her to play Nina. Even though Ms. Woodard still looks amazing. However Zoe is too young. I don't think she has the same tenacity as Nina. For me growing up hearing Nina for the first time and seeing what she looked like resonated with me since I looked kind of like Nina. But seeing how she had the great confidence on stage was intoxicating. Mary could pull that off. Zoe not so much, she already is a very beautiful girl. I am not saying that Mary isn't. But Mary has been very vocal in regards to building her confidence to and accepting herself. Nina was vocal on celebrating that even though she is not the standard beauty of the western world she is a goddess among men. I think Mary can bring that emotion onto the screen more then Zoe.

Grey Wolf

imho, if they cast any other than someone who would be deemed as an "ugly Black woman" by Hollywood, then they are making a fiction out of her life. Based on the time she lived and the racial environment at the time, had she been a "pretty high-yellow girl" her experiences would have been vastly different. A Latina/ Black would have had an entirely different experience. A pretty Black woman – think Lena Horne — would have had an entirely different experience. Nina Simone lived a tragic life simply because she was a "trapped" inside an "ugly" Black package. (Since she looks so much like my maternal grandmother, I personally don't consider her "ugly" at all.)

We can't change the world's ugly past by whitewashing it. We already have generations of children thinking that Cleopatra looked like Elizabeth Taylor thanks to Hollywood. Do we really need the next generation of people to believe America didn't also discriminate against "ugly" people, that all of Nina's obstacles were due to her race alone? No, we don't. I want to see the movie, but if Zoe (or some other woman who would be considered attractive by today's standard) is cast in the role, I will not. I can appreciate her family wanting to get paid, but they won't get my money by offering lies.

My humble opinion

At the end of the day Zoe Saldana looks nothing like Nina Simone. Not even the slightest resemblance. They have different skin tones and completely different facial features. I mean, Beyonce might as well play Marilyn Monroe in a movie for goodness sake. I understand Zoe Saldana is black and that's cool but what does that mean? That any Black woman can play Nina Simone just because their Black? Knock it off. At least find me a woman that vaguely resembles Nina, not someone that looks absolutely nothing like her.

Said in Los Angeles

To those waving the Black Power flag and saying that Zoe is mixed-race, not 'Black' or even 'Latina'; keep in mind that if your last name is along the lines of 'Washington', 'Taylor', 'Smith', 'Jackson', 'Jones'., etc., then you're of mixed race also. Don't get it twisted. Question the talent, not the race/ethnicity.

LeonRaymond

The Black Klu Kux Klan site in full blown glory, nothing but hate and no support for any body of different ethnic hues.

misha

"Outside of her tremendous voice Aretha represented the everyday woman and eevryday women do not look like Halle Berry." >>> LOL! Just one of many hilariously ridiculous comments in this trainwreck of a thread. OY VEY!

Africameleon

@CP, hi-la-rious! This is a serious issue and that YES – our personal experiences with how others see us and what they see in us regarding complexion, ethnicity, and race affects who we are (in art and everyday life). I DO understand why people are acknowledging that it DOES make a difference what complexion ppl are when they portray a real-life person. But not to the extent that ppl should be excluded from certain roles (regardless of talent) on bases of complexion alone. These comments make me sad… discussing ethnicity and is she or isn't she misses the point that ALL Ma'afa-African descended women (no matter the gradation) have a cross to bare regarding their blackness (seen and unseen). And NO, I'm not suggesting reverse-Shadeism, because again, I think there are some other women out there who deserve this role and namely the Chocolate sisters we've mentioned in particular. But this convo hurts us when we don't keep things in context about the reasons we question who has the right to play what in the first place – and what's at stake in taking sides and policing these casting choices, one way or the other.

libby

The problem is that people forget AFRICAN AMERICANS are an ethnic group too. Sometime people seen to forget that…
Please the SAME issue came up with Jen Lopez playing Selena. From many of these comments I can see many don't know a damn thing about Nina. HOW she looked played a important role in WHO she is and WHAT she means to African American Women. She said she was looked down upon for her full lips, kinky hair and dark skin.

Mark & Darla

Don't know what's the fuss is, people could say whatever or call thyself whatever, however in a database system somewhere in Washington D.C. if you have a spit of black in you, your name is going in the black box. Federal gov ain't got time for all that foolish, to time consuming and costly checking off different boxes. Forget about the pretty choices for race identity on census appls or any other appls it's only for antiseptic and public purpose. Now that's my 25 cent on the whole subject.

brown eyes blue

Zoe Saldana always mentions in interviews about how much she does not like Black people. She always makes some comment about how we are racist or wrong. I am done with this chick and will not see this movie.

anon

I know the difference between rcace and ethnicity dont tar ALL of us with the same brush She is half puerto-rican and half Dominican. (nationality/ethnicity) Her father is i'm assuming a dark-skinned Dominican her mother is a light skinned puerto rican who would be considered WHITE in puerto rico has anyone ACTUALLY SEEN her mother? She is practically white! just because zoe grew up in DR doesn't mean that she is 100% Dominican she ISNT. Zoe Saldana is a mixed race woman her african heritage/dna could possible be very small however her phenotype is what confuses people about her race and heritage. Again, a mixed race woman not a "black woman"

BluTopaz

@EMMANUEL: Did you also learn this week that many lighter skinned and White Latinos and Hispanics have difficulty recognizing there are Blacks from their culture? Maybe you could speak to my Honduran friend who is Gabby Union's complextion with kinky hair. She could tell you how she often addresses lighter skinned Hispanics in Spanish, and they insist on replying back in English because they refuse to accept she shares their ethnicity. Or my very dark skinned ex who is Puerto Rican, and "other" Puerto Ricans have often joked with him 'naw man you are from the DR' (meant as a racial slur against Black people). I know you are referencing the Black blogs you have read (including the what-3 people on this site who don't know slave ships stopped in Latin America?–thanks to everyone who already pointed that very small percentage to you). Maybe your follow up will include the rest of your extensive social research concerning these other points as well.

Africameleon

Not that anyone will bother to read this 90-some-odd comment but…. Thanks @JAIME, and of course no one has/had a problem with Denzel (Toffy Brown) Washington portraying Malcolm X. Why? Because he was the best actor for that role, and he played the hell out of it – period, no debate! My issue is that Viola Davis, or even Kim Wayans or Adepero Oduye, would all do an excellent (Oscar worthy) job in that role. Casting Zoe Saldona (regardless of shade or ethnicity b/c I'm actually her complexion so stop hatin' 'cause that hurts!) would tern the project into a popcorn movie, and Ms. Simone deserves better than that. No disrespect, Zoe is a good actress but this seems out of her lane. And I disagreed with casting MJB in this role as well. Maybe Zoe wants to expand her repertoire? I just think other people deserve a chance at the role and the studio shouldn't be going for $s on this project. The last great bio pic for a music icon was "Ray," which won Jamie Foxx the Oscar and received much praise. So we gotta bring in the heavy hitters for Nina Simone, that's all I'm saying.

Jaime Pretell

What I find hypocritical is that all these people that have a problem with Zoe playing Nina Simone, or before with Jaqueline Fleming portraying Harriet Tubman, never had a problem with Angela Bassett portraying Rosa Parks, Sidney Poitier portraying Thurgood Marshall or Harry Lennix portraying Adam Clayton Powell Jr. So it is alright for more mixed or European looking African Americans to be portrayed by darker and/or other Afro typical phenotypes, but when the shoe goes on the other foot people are whining like crazy. By the way, no such thing as a biological race. Only social constructions. Both Nina Simone and Zoe Saldana identified as Black. As far as ethnicity goes, it is acting, so what culture one comes from is irrelevant. This is a debate about phenotype. And yes, some resemblance to the person portrayed would be nice, especially when speaking about experiences that may have been affected by that appearance. But again, if you are going to whine about it in one direction, don't be a hypocrite and defend when it happens in the other direction. Zoe Saldana and Nina Simone don't look alike. But neither did Angela Bassett and Rosa Parks.

Moe

Afro American (most a melting pot of diverse bloods)
Afro Brit
Afro Latino (typically from the islands)
Afro Hispanic (typically from North, Central or South America)
Afro French
Afro Japanese
Afro Jewish
You get the idea!

The richness of the African Diaspora is something to celebrate. We within this diaspora come in all shades of skin, have different hair textures, nose shapes and etc—and ALL are BEAUTIFUL. Some of us are VERY proud to be black and of a common AFRICAN ancestry, and, it doesn't matter what country we are born into. (We are a people as diverse as white people in this world.) Though sadly, there are those among us who may run from their blackness and add to the prejudices against their own people.

Most folk of African descent aren't stupid. Most of do not need a lecture to understand their sameness and diversity as a people within the diaspora. The great tragedy is that we often certain white folk in to divide and conquer our minds.

sergio

I suppose I have to put my two cents in here (though no one is asking me to) But I come from a Dominican background (Didn't my name give you a clue?) but never once did we consider ourselves anything other than black. Yes, it is a different perspective growing up in what could be considered by some a non African-American home. It is a different "thing" as anyone with West Indian or African parents can tell you. And more complex than the language you heard in the home, the food you ate or the music you listened to But it is still black nevertheless. The black experience is still a common one no matter where you're from. And the idea the Dominicans hate being black is WAAAAAAY overstated and inaccurate. Are there those who do? Of course. But the same goes for Cubans, Colombians, Haitians… Hell a LOT of African-Americans hate being black and you know that's true. Let not fool ourselves and try to pretend that all black people here are saying "I'm black and I'm proud", Very far from it. And let me get off my chest that that PBS series Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates was a travesty. Who did he con to convince them that he was an expert on Black Latin American history and culture? He knows about as much of it as I do about nuclear fusion. His episode on DR and Haiti was a joke, woefully inaccurate, superficial and missing a lot of important details. But having said that, I think Emmanuel's piece is dead on and anyone who has problem with it needs to check themselves on why it upsets them so much. What did he say that wasn't true or blatantly false? And for the record Saldana is the absolute worse choice for the Simone project. But so is Viola Davis as well who, to me. looks nothing like her. People want her in the role because she's the actress d'jour of the moment? My choice would be India Arie and in fact I said that once before back when Mary J. Blige was still attached to the project. Which leads me to ask the question how many people have actually HEARD a Nina Simone song or seen her perform? How many of the people up in arms actually have any of her recordings let alone even knew who she was before all this blew up? I haven't heard her name mentioned so much in the last decade than I have in the past week. Or are people just being politically correct and standing up "for the cause"?

K

I remember when Whoopi Goldberg was mentioned to be playing Celia Cruz people were in an uproar. They were like, "we need a black woman with Latin heritage, not an African American woman!" I think this is just the same issue but reversed. But Zoe is black. To deny her blackness because her parents come from a country that speaks Spanish is not fair. She is an American. She was born here, lived here most of her life, and speaks the language. To say she can't play Nina Simone, is to say Forest Whittaker could not have played Idi Amin. Forest Whittaker is not even African, at least Zoe is American so she's closer to Nina than Forest was to Idi. And for those who are saying she is light skinned she's not even as fair as Beyonce or Rihanna. She's legitimately brown skinned. And did any of you have qualms over Angela Bassett playing Rosa Parks? Was she too dark skinned for you? All in all, I think want to wait to see how well Zoe acts before I decide whether or not she's right for the role. We won't even see this film for probably another year or two or even three.

Gary C.

If Soldana is an actress who solely our only identifies herself as latina while ignorant to our fails to identify her Africaness (a lot of latinos either don't know of their African ancestry or are ashamed of it) I can see the outrage of black folk but honestly, how many black folk themselves know latinos are of black ancestry. Seeing comments of people disliking Zoe as a choice just because she doesn't look exactly like Nina is ridiculous. How much did Beyonce look like Etta James? My sole issue with Zoe I'd as an actress of African ancestry, she always picks roles where she locks lips with a white dude.

About$$$$

It's about money and box-office draw. There are a ton more people going to see Zoe in anything before they would see Mary J. (me included….Mary can't act). And as far as being too light or them needing to cast cosmetically correct…..anybody remember Cicily Tyson playing Coretta Scott King?

ayo

Of course Zoe Saldana is "black", but blackness is a fluid concept where colorism is a more tangible reality. This is tantamount to revisionist history.

People comparing this to Australians playing americans need to open their eyes. Zoe Saldana looks nothing like Nina Simone whereas Mary J blige and Adepero Oduye do look like her. Why even bother with a biopic if we're not going to even try to pull off veracity. of course not every biopic has to be like this; case in point Todd Haynes post-modern take on Bob dylan in "i'm not there", where a black child played Dylan at a point.

But I doubt this movie will be that avant-garde.
Spielberg gets to have Daniel day lewis looking exactly like Lincoln but with Nina any A list black woman will do?

Its a bit tiring having to defend common sense when it comes to the whole complexion issue. I respect the fact that it's a thorny issue and people tend to get really emotional about it, but c'mon. It's a diservice to our intelligence to keep pulling this crap: yes we are all black but that doesn't mean we're all the bloody same.

Stars

If you ask Zoe, wonder how she would identify herself? Not Black!!! If you read her interview in Ebony……it took the likes of pulling teeth to get her to ADMIT she was African-American! She identifies herself as Latina or Dominican!!!! Nina Simone was a proud black woman!!!!! On principle alone, only a woman who doesn't have a black identity problem should play the great music legend. Go ahead….no matter what the arguement….ask Zoe what she is…..black OR latina? We know she both but what would she say? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Akimbo

I can't even believe the foolishness in here! You may think Zoe Saldana is is not right to play Nina Simone (and I might agree), but to try to deny her blackness? In spite of the fact that she, not only states that she's black, but also IS FUCKING BLACK? If you can't accept that, the issue is yours, not hers. I can not even believe it. It's not even a color complex, because she's undeniably brown, it's just a straight inferiority complex. It's sad, disgusting, and I want no parts of it.

Curtis

Y'all do know that Laz Alonso is black Latino right? And he's been straight playing black American men since he got into the game, but I don't remember him getting this much stress.

Nadia

Damn! We really are a divided people. The way I see it, if you feel that Zoe can't play a black American woman, because she's black Latino, then I hope you also feel the same way about White Australians playing white Americans (it's a long list), black Americans playing black Africans/black Europeans/blacks from the Caribbean/etc (also a long list), etc. I don't remember there being this much anger when Morgan Freeman played Nelson Mandela. And when Thandie Newton was cast to play a Nigerian woman, most were ok with it, and were even shouting down those people who opposed it as if they were crazy for doing so. Be consistent in your protests. Hell, next thing we'll be saying that a Protestant can't play a Catholic. This is too much.

the black police

Oh gosh you black people are just the worst! Can anybody show me when Zoe or Halle or Rosario DENIED their blackness? Mr Orville, take a stab at it.

AccidentalVisitor

One other thing….is Zoe lightskinned in the first place? Sure the magazine covers intentionally make her and all black people look lighter but I don't think she falls under that same "light" complexion category as Halle or Zoe Kravitz. She appears to be the same complexion as Joy Bryant whom I don't think is of light complexion either. Is it the hair that makes people think she is too light?

Ladybug

Look Zoe Saldana is no dummy . . . in nearly every role on her resume she is playing an African American . . . so when she's out on her publicity tours what do you think she is going to say. But if you listen closely . . what you hear most is Latina. I remember having this very conversation with someone a few years ago. They told me I was wrong wrong wrong . . . because I said I have never met a Latino person who obviously has African descent not say that they were Latino first and fore most. Maybe a week later Saldana was featured on a podcast and at the end she said "I want to give a shout out to my Latino actors" . . . and the Podcast wasn't specifically for a Latino audience either. This is neither here nor there . . . because the way in which people identify themselves is complicated . . . think about Jews . . . Judaism is a religion. If asked Zoe would likely say I'm Dominican . . . and by using her descriptor I would describe myself as American . . . but I don't identify myself as American I identify myself as Black . . . period. I say all this to say that all black people aren't the same. By definition everyone in this world is a black person because genetics tells us that all of us link back to one woman in Africa. But given the focus on skin color are we saying Indians are black, Filipino's . . . there are dark people in nearly every culture. I think that people are trying to make a different point and the arguments get lost in terminology. What people are trying to say is not all black people are the same . . . that Black Latinos and African Americans are different . . . and I use these two because that is what we are talking about a Black Latino who is constantly playing an African American. While not her fault she gets cast in these roles for a reason . . . her version of black is more acceptable than say Adepero's. People are annoyed when the father looks like Bernie Mac . . . but the portrayal of his daughter is so left of field. But as a whole people get it . . . they may not like it . . . but they just let it slide. But then a role comes along with specific physical needs and they are ignored . . . given how few of these roles come along . . . people are pissed . . . one might understand if Zoe possessed the talent of say a Jeffrey Wright who is fair skinned and played Martin Luther King . . . but IMO and I think the general consensus while she may be a lovely person she has not exhibited great talent . . . for those who say this could be her opportunity . . . not when she is physically wrong for the role and there are so many others who are right. People want the "authenticity" of their specific community within the black diaspora represented on film . . . we saw this with Half of a Yellow Sun and the casting of a Bi-racial Thandie Newton as a Nigerian Igbo woman. . . . Nigerian people were not happy . . . one young woman started a petition. Zoe is an actress caught in the middle of a controversy . . . much like Viola Davis was last year with The Help. But my personal belief is Zoe should have been smart enough to say No . . . like Halle Berry said No to Aretha . . . a look at her imdb page will tell you she's plenty busy and not hurting for work . . . and if you look at the actresses named as the best choices for the role there imdb pages show that they are getting considerable less work with the exception of Viola Davis.

AccidentalVisitor

>> Can we stop with this PC nonsense. It is is as if people can't refer to any black person, particularly any black woman, as being unattractive. Doing so is often followed by charges of being brainswashed by European standards of beauty, blah, blah, blah. Sure, I do believe many are affected because of those reasons. But others may be judging by their own personal standards. Of course it is childish to belittle people's looks and I myself like to stay away from that stuff. But at the same time there is nothing wrong with honesty in regards to casting. Many of us felt Helle Berry was too pretty to play Aretha Franklin. That isn't because I think Franklin was ugly. Nor do I feel that Halle's skintone makes her automatically more beautiful. But truth is Aretha, from what I know, was never viewed as some great beauty which Halle clearly is. Outside of her tremendous voice Aretha represented the everyday woman and eevryday women do not look like Halle Berry. Here's a better example: Blair Underwood would be a bad choice to play Miles Davis. He is too much of a prettyboy to play Miles. Period. Just like Scarlett Johansson is too good-looking to play a young Ayn Rand.

misha

LOL Is it really shocking that some folk don't know the difference between race and ethnicity? I mean, to suggest that this is some kind of revelation that calls for its own separate post on S&A is disingenuous and distracts from the fact that Zoe was only cast in this role because of her perceived "bankability," which is very much connected to the way she looks. How about a post on how Zoe being a black Latina gives her advantages/privileges that other black American actresses don't have? Advantages and privileges that have allowed her to make comments that are equally as ignorant as some of the comments posted on this blog.

AccidentalVisitor

Wow. ANOTHER writeup regarding Zoe Saldana? Look, this is an American issue, not merely one affecting black Americans. Only we Americans seem unable to grasp that just because someone has a Spanish surname doesn't make that person a Latino or Hispanic. In fact these terms like "Latino" and "Hispanic" were basically American made labels to put groups of people under for census purposes during the Nixon administration. There is no such thing as an Hispanic race of people. This has been mentioned plenty of times on this site and on probably millions of sites across the web. However there is a resistance from Americans to grasp this concept. To some extent who could blame them? The media in America keeps reenforcing the belief that there is this racial group of people who can fit anyone of any skintone and complexion under its umbrella. So Antonio Banderas is classified by many (if not most Americans) as Latino because he has a Spanish name and he often gets cast as characters from, say, Mexico (probably because of that Spanish name). In truth he is from Spain….you know…that country from which the Spanish language formed in the first place. Last time I checked Spain is in Europe. Which makes Banderas European. Which makes him white. Same goes for Penelope Cruz and most so-called "Latin" actors/actresses that you can find on daytime soaps. Yet perceptions persist. Of course in an election year these perceptions are further formed or greatly reenforced as the news media keeps stressing stuff such as the Hispanic vote. When we hear "the Jewish vote" we don't think of a group of people who form their own seperate race. But when we hear "the Hispanic vote" we do think that way and politicians even go out of their way to cater to this group as if it is made up of one monolithic people. Nope. Hispanics/Latinos can go from the blackest of skin to the whitest of skin and everything in between. What they share is a culture and a language. But there is not a shared racial component; they all don't share the same racial DNA. Most of the so-called Hispanics in America/South America are Indigenous people of the Americas. That essentially makes them Native Americans (another imperfect classification) or at least cousins to Native Americans. But you see for one reason or another the Indigenous people outside of what is now the USA and Canada were never classified as Native Americans. People like the Aztecs and the Mayans for example. The Aztecs would end up eventually being called Mexicans instead of Native American long after Mexico was "created" by Spanish colonists. It is these Indigenous people that make up much if not most of Hispanics. Then there are those of Spanish descent who are thus European/white. There is also the mestizo which is a combination of Indigenous and Spanish/European racial heritage. People like Jennifer Lopez likely fall under this group. And then there are the ones of African descent who can be classified as mulatto if they are mixed. Most people in America do not realize that the vast majority of African slaves were sent to South America aand the Carribean, NOT North America. Heck, our former President GW Bush proved that point when he openly stated his surprise at the high number of black people he had seen when taking a state visit to Brazil. Sigh. Is there any better proof of the "quality" of American education than that? But getting back on track….there are millions upon millions of African people who fall under the Hispanic umbrella and in part it is the result of the Spanish surnames and the Spanish language that they speak. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are neighbors, they share the same large island in the Carribean. The black people of Haiti speak French and have French names. We don't call them French though. We refer to them as black. But the blacks of the Dominican Republic however are more likely to be identified as Latino. In fact the problem is that many black Dominicans have made a mad dash to the safety of the Hispanic label. One can go as far to say that the classification of "Latino/Hispanic" has been the get-out-of-jail-free card for countless black individuals. That should be no surprise. Unfortunately being "black" is considered worldwide to be the lowest rung of the totem pole. We can argue the reasons why for these prejudicial beliefs but that is for another discussion. The main point to take away is that many black Dominicans have been very quick to deny black/African heritage; they consider themselves simply darkskinned, not black. Considering the majority of them in the USA have lived in the more poor parts of urban areas and thus have lived in close proximity to African Americans, African Americans for decades have gotten the message from many of them that they are not like them, they are not black. So is there any surprise that far too many African Americans don't truly grasp the racial heritage of black people from the Dominican Republic or of black Hispanics in general? Zoe is Dominican. And while she may not be one of those types who deny her black heritage, many of the people of her ethnic group have done that and continue to do that. So I think some of the "she's not black" backlash comes from African Americans who are pissed that Dominicans who have taken that stance and from African Americans who simply have no idea about the true racial heritage of black Dominicans. But, again, this is just not a African American problem. Most Americans probably need to "educate" themselves and to be honest some black Latinos probably need some education themselves so they can stop living in denial. And can I point out that Zoe's ethnic distinction from African Americans have led her to be perceived differently eevn from the mainstream media as well? My pet peeve btw is when we Americans refer to anyone who speaks Spanish as being "Spanish". To me that's like calling a white guy from Toronto "English" just because that is the language he uses.

BeautyIAM

Thank you Emmanuel for trying to reason with people. Many of the comments I have been reading from the biopic about Nina are just embarrassing. Whats even more embarrassing is that people are still defending their ignorance. I understand where people like Orville are coming from, but can't you been a little more reasonable instead of hateful in your objection. This is why I get so put off by many of the comments on here. Some of you are just @ssholes and don't care. Its hard to take any of your criticisms seriously. I am a darker complected girl and I would love to see more representation of my hue in movies and elsewhere. But this is NOT the way to have this conversation.

Karen Seneferu

The issue above is being presented by women within the black community who are expressing hurt over being denied value in and outside of it rooted in and before Nina Simone's time; there requires some level of compassion in addressing that historical pain still present.

It is not, however, the overall expression I have read about Zoe being chosen. It is rooted in the comment of Nina Simone's daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud and interviews by Nina Simone herself, bound in Simone's African presence, dark skin large facial features. Simone embracing her physical presence engaged partly by the Black Power Movement and Black Arts Movement fueled her artistry, political beliefs and practices expressed in this quote that Shadow and Act presented earlier:

"As a child, my mother was told her nose was too big and she was too dark yet she graduated valedictorian of her high school class – The Allen School for Girls – AND, skipped two grades. Nina was one of the most outspoken, prolifically gifted artists using the stage to speak out against racism during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. Her friends included Betty Shabazz, Lorraine Hansberry (my godmother), Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Miriam Makeba, Stokely Carmichael, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens worldwide."

Saldana could be use but only to cut the body politic of Nina Simone out and create some faulty romance that never happened, thus, Hollywood at its best: "That's Entertainment." Try to make a black actor a white super hero, and see what complaints you get from comic book fans, and the hero is not a real character.

So what does it means to get someone who looks nothing like Simone-a person who has historical, political, and social meaning? What does it mean to get someone who does not look like Simone in skin complexion and features to play Simone? Obviously, it would require omitting the very best part of Simone's challenging of the racist, sexist system that attempted to exploit her for the very nature of who she was, which was in part how she looked.

saadiyah

Good try, but it won't make a difference with the ignorant fools who believe that there's only one way to be Black.

I've never heard Zoe say that she isn't Black, yet in EVERY post about Zoe on Black sites, a number of Black (women) always make that claim. Black and Latina are NOT mutually exclusive but they refuse to hear it. Some claim that you have to been a descendant of American slavery to be able to call yourself Black. These fools don't seem to know that many African-descended people in the Caribbean and South America (and even IN Africa) had ancestors that were also enslaved at one time. Of course American slavery was more speshul than slavery anywhere else, so those descendants of slaves outside of the US still can't claim Black.

Zoe looks less mixed than many women that the African-American community embraces as Black such as Mariah Carey. Kim Kardashian has been made an honorary Negro for simply sleeping with Black men, yet venom is spewed at Zoe for allegedly not "claiming" Black. I mean does she really have to? Isn't it obvious that she has African features?

I guess I answered my own question. Zoe has been known for only sleeping with White men so that invalidates her Blackness, while Kim being a sperm receptacle for Black men has endowed her with Black genes!!! Silly me!

shawn taylor

The race/ethnicity thing is secondary to Saldana being about as compelling to watch as a candy wrapper. There is not way that she has the gravity to pull this off.

Orville

You know people try to be politically correct but race matters in Hollywood and especially for black actresses so does skin tone. I despise Saldana because she's playing the same game Halle Berry played ten years ago. This woman doesn't mind taking roles like the female lead in Star Trek and now the Nina Simone biopic. And where are the roles for the darker skinned black women? Zoe Saldana is just taking the same blueprint from the Halle Berry play book and running with it. When Berry was rising she was a black woman when she won the Oscar she tried to crossover and suddenly the black audience wasn't good enough for her. Berry as everyone knows is half white.

Saldana is wrong for the part of Nina Simone she doesn't look like Simone and she's not that good an actress either. There are so many black actresses in Hollywood around Saldana's age who would perfect for the part. India Arie can sing and act I think she's a good choice and so is Anika Noni Rose.

Yes, I know Saldana is technically a black latina BUT when Colombiana came out last year all this woman talked about was Latin this and Latin that. Rosario Dawson is the same way, the advantage these multi ethnic/ mixed race women have over dark skinned black actresses is they can play with race to their advantage. Saldana's cultural group is Latino but for some black Hispanics they don't want to be associated with African Americans they consider themselves distinct. The USA has a stupid racial classification system where latinos are the largest minority group in America even though the majority of the Hispanics in America are actually the white Hispanics.

Sickofthebull

I'm not sure why this comment-baiting semantics exercise was published at all. Just b/c some random wrote Zoe "isn't black enough" in the comment section of some blog, it doesn't mean the blog audience at-large doesn't know the difference between race and ethnicity. We're talking about sometimes unthoughtful reactionary blog comments not NYTimes letters to the editor. Get over yourself. It also doesn't invalidate people's concerns about Zoe's potential casting in a role where a depiction of racial AND ethnic authenticity is integral to the character-story.

JMac

Lost cause. If the Black in Latin America series didn't educate these people, this blog entry surely won't. Appreciate the effort, though.

THE BLACK POLICE

TELL THEM! HOPEFULLY THEYLL FINALLY LEARN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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