Here’s what Sidney Poitier said about race and racism

“Racism is painful and we have to be clear-sighted about it, not just the victims. And, on the other hand, the victims of racism are charged with the responsibility of having as clear an eye as possible to examine what is happening. they perceive to be the sources of racism, “the legendary actor told the Vancouver Sun in 2000.

Here are some of the late actor’s other thoughts on racism and segregation before, during and beyond the Civil Rights Era.

Racial tensions in the South were first of all a shock to Poitier when he arrived in Florida to live with parents at the age of 14 in the 1940s. Growing up on Cat Island in the Bahamas, his identity was born. ‘had never been linked to skin color and he quickly objected to the idea.

“I couldn’t go to some stores and try on a pair of shoes. I had to travel in the back of a bus and had never had to do that before. It was a big disappointment for me,” he said. Poitier said on CNN. Larry King Live in 2008.
“Before arriving in Florida, I had the opportunity, thanks to my mother and father, to define who I was,” he told Oprah Winfrey in an interview in 2000.

“I wasn’t what I needed to be in Florida. I wasn’t that. I couldn’t be that. I was taught that I have fundamental rights as a human being. learned that I was someone. I knew we had no money, again, I was taught that I was someone. We had no electricity and no running water, again, I was taught that I was someone. I had very little education – a year and a half, in fact, that was all the schooling I was exposed to, I knew when even that I was someone, ”he added.

About being a black movie star in Hollywood

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

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

“I was in a culture that denied me very existence. And I had no strength behind me. I’m talking about was a different place back then: the mainstream culture didn’t care about my survival as a human being. ”

About breaking down the color barriers in the movie

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

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

As he solidified his place in American cinema with films like Oscar-winning “Lilies of the Field” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Pointier was fully aware that many people of color, including viewers and other performers looked up at him.

“It’s been a huge responsibility,” Poitier told Winfrey. “And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how much I respected that responsibility. I had to do it. In order for others to come behind me, there were certain things I had to do. . ”

About his activism

Poitier was also known for its activism and membership in the civil rights movement. In 1963 he attended the March on Washington and in 1964 the actor traveled to Mississippi to meet with activists in the days following the infamous murder of three young civil rights activists.

“The nature of my life over the past 36 years has been such that the urgency that was evident today has bubbled up within me personally for most of those years. At least most of the years that I came of adulthood. rights struggle out of necessity to survive, ”Poitier said during a roundtable with other March participants on Washington and filmed in 1963.

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


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