A Picture of Black Entrepreneurship?

Article excerpt

Nashawn Wade, the protagonist played by actor Kevin Hart in the MGM/United Artists film Soul Plane, says, "I'm an entrepreneur. I'm going to do something I can be proud off."

Unfortunately, that sentiment is the only thing in the film that is true to the legacy of black entrepreneurship. The remaining hour and 25 minutes of the film--a comedy about what happens when a black man uses a $100 million civil judgement to start an airline--goes on to present some of the worst, most racist depictions of African Americans in recent memory. The film runs the gamut of stereotypes, presenting black people as foul-mouthed, fried chicken-loving, sex-obsessed, shuckin' and jivin' hoochies, hustlers, and buffoons.

It's a sign of the persistence of racism in the film industry that, in 2004, studios continue to resist investing money in quality films about black life. Instead, they finance movies, such as Soul Plane, that perpetuate the same false, damaging, and dangerous stereotypes of African Americans promoted by the notorious Ku Klux Klan propaganda film Birth of A Nation nearly a century ago. In fact, there is not one positive portrayal of a black person in the entire movie. And perhaps the most damaging stereotype of all is that of Wade himself, who, as the CEO of the airline (he allows an unqualified, drug-abusing ex-convict to pilot, his plane), portrays black entrepreneurs and black-owned businesses in the worst possible light.

"What's the problem?" you may ask. "It's a comedy. Everybody knows that the characters in the film don't represent all black people." The problem is that too many people learn most of what they know about black people from images promoted in film, television, music videos, and even video games. Those distorted and often racist images are then exported to countries around the globe to be consumed by people who become convinced that the images they see are completely accurate representations of African American people and culture. …