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William Jackson Harper: Trump Executive Order Scared Military Groups from Screening ‘Malcolm X’

An intended screening of Spike Lee's epic got thrown a curveball because of Trump's "Executive Order Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping."

MALCOLM X, Denzel Washington, 1992

“Malcolm X”

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

William Jackson Harper, the Emmy-nominated actor from NBC’s “The Good Place,” took to social media October 5 to reveal that a screening of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” for military service members that he was set to take part in hit a roadblock because of Donald Trump’s “Executive Order Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” Harper called the incident “a disturbing experience” and condemned Trump’s order for “denying the very real experiences of so many minorities in this country.”

Signed into a effect by Trump on September 22, the “Executive Order Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” notes that “it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services. In addition, Federal contractors will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees.”

As Harper put it in his Twitter thread: “Trump’s order requires that federal and military institutions refrain from training material that promote a ‘pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors…'”

Harper is involved with Arts In The Armed Forces (AITAF), a non-profit organization co-founded by Adam Driver that brings free arts programming to active-duty service members, veterans, and military support staff and their families. The actor and AITAF set up a screening of “Malcolm X” for military academies, but two days before the event he was told that students at two academies were worried that showing Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s epic would “run afoul” of Trump’s executive order.

“I don’t disagree with the idea of combating race and sex stereotyping,” Harper wrote. “But that is not what this order is about. This is censorship. This executive order is an attempt to censor certain difficult truths that still haunt our society…This executive order is rooted in the fictitious idea that the scourges of racism and sexism are essentially over, and that the poisonous fallout from centuries [of] discrimination isn’t real.”

Harper continued, “The film ‘Malcolm X’ is history. American History. This film is not propaganda meant to teach one to favor one race or sex over the other. It’s History. It’s an admittedly thorny history, but it is history. I believe that the selective censorship of certain chapters of our country’s [history] because we find it disquieting, or because it disrupts our narrative and tarnishes our self-image, is cowardly at best, dangerous at worst, and dishonest either way.”

Three of the four academies scheduled for the “Malcolm X” event took part in the screening, but one academy did not “for fear of potential consequences of stemming from an Executive Order from the White House.” Harper concluded, “The fact that the film ‘Malcolm X’ could be considered ‘anti-American’ by this administration is very frightening to me.”

Read Harper’s full Twitter thread on the “Malcolm” screening in the posts below.

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