It’s been 75 years since God’s Stepchildren by Oscar Micheaux was first publicly screened. Even now, this film causes a bit of a stir among certain audiences, especially those of color. Why? It’s largely because of it’s protagonist, Naomi, who rejects dark-skinned African-Americans and eventually tries to pass for white. There’s also a bit of dialogue between actors Carman Newsome and Ethel Moses regarding the industriousness of African-Americans that many find objectionable. 75 years later, it is still risky for African-Americans to publicly criticize members of their own communities for self-destructive behaviors like gang-banging, drug dealing, drug abuse, teenage parenthood, high school and college drop-out rates, and STDs.
Oscar Micheaux was one of the first film makers of color to publicly say something to the effect “Hey! Look at what we’re doing to ourselves. Stop fulfilling racists’ stereotypes.” Colorism arguments aside, the characters of Jimmie and Eva are suggesting that people of color need to master economics and planning instead of looking for easy money, often through illicit means. BIll Cosby got into a bit of trouble for saying much the same thing over 65 years later See -http://www.captainscomments.com/comment/90 and – http://mattoid.ca/data/EconomicStraits/Cosby/cosby_criticism_of_american_africans.htm).
It’s amazing to me how relevant Mr. Micheaux’s observations are to this day. Let us hope they are less so in another 75 years.