Race row flares over slav­ery drama

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NEW YORK — What if the South had won the US Civil War?

That is the premise be­hind a newly an­nounced show on ca­ble net­work HBO that has sparked a heated back­lash in a coun­try still grap­pling with the legacy of slav­ery and its gen­er­a­tional im­pacts on African Amer­i­cans.

Un­veiled in mid-July, Con­fed­er­ate will be led by Game of Thrones cre­ators David Be­nioff and D.B. Weiss, no strangers to crit­i­cism over the over­whelm­ingly white cast in their epic fan­tasy se­ries that is cur­rently in its sev­enth sea­son.

It takes place in a world where South­ern states suc­cess­fully se­ceded dur­ing the Civil War (1861-65) and slav­ery con­tin­ues to be prac­ticed, as the Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica gears up for a fresh war against the Union.

Ex­cept it’s pro­gres­sives who are up in arms.

“The same guys who have gra­tu­itous de­pic­tions of rape & no sig­nif­i­cant POC char­ac­ters are go­ing to han­dle the en­slave­ment of Blacks w/ nu­ance,” tweeted ac­tivist April Reign, who cre­ated the #Os­carsSoWhite hash­tag to protest the lack of di­ver­sity among the 2016 Os­car nom­i­nees.

Weiss and Be­nioff are work­ing with hus­ban­dand-wife ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Mal­colm Spell­man and Nichelle Tram­ble Spell­man (known for Em­pire and The Good Wife, re­spec­tively), who are them­selves black and have vig­or­ously de­fended the project that is set to air in 2018 or 2019.

That hasn’t de­terred a so­cial me­dia cam­paign aimed at can­cel­ing the show, with the hash­tag #NoCon­fed­er­ate be­com­ing the top trend on Twit­ter dur­ing Sun­day night’s broad­cast of the third episode of Game of Thrones.

Ques­tioned by a Twit­ter user on whether he could see him­self tak­ing a role in the se­ries, black ac­tor Don Chea­dle replied: “Would de­pend on the part. As al­ways. But I’m beyond skep­ti­cal about the project in gen­eral.”

Stephane Dunn, a pro­fes­sor at More­house Col­lege, ques­tioned the premise “given the fact that we still live in a so­ci­ety that still has a white su­prem­a­cist ori­en­ta­tion rooted in it­self.

“And there’s the other ques­tion: Is it go­ing to be so re­vi­sion­ist that we don’t rec­og­nize the Amer­i­can slav­ery. There might be a sort of ... glam­or­iza­tion un­in­ten­tion­ally or not,” she added.

Asked to com­ment on the con­tro­versy, HBO in­di­cated they had no in­ten­tion of can­cel­ing the show.

“We have great re­spect for the di­a­logue and con­cern be­ing ex­pressed around Con­fed­er­ate,” the chan­nel said.

“We have faith that Nichelle, Dan, David and Mal­colm will ap­proach the sub­ject with care and sen­si­tiv­ity. The project is cur­rently in its in­fancy so we hope that peo­ple will re­serve judg­ment un­til there is some­thing to see.”

I’m beyond skep­ti­cal about the project in gen­eral.” Don Chea­dle, ac­tor

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