Lee Daniels’ highly-anticipated film “The Butler,” upset some people when a photograph of Mariah Carey playing the role of a field slave went viral. Daniels’ movie also features the character Eugene Allen (Forest Whitaker).
The picture caught a barrage of flak from those on social media who felt that anyone with a complexion like Mariah’s wouldn’t actually have to work in the field, therefore deeming the illustration inaccurate. Those with fair skin like hers were usually used as house slaves. Fans took to Twitter to express a desire to see a more dark-skinned woman in the place of Mariah Carey in the movie.
One critic tweeted “She wouldn’t even be a house slave, she could pass as white,” and another posted “Zoe Saldana is Nina Simone and Mariah Carey is in the fields taking good slave acting jobs from dark-skinned people.”
Daniels’ choice to cast Mariah Carey in this particular role raises the question in some folks’ mind about whether he took the time to gather historical facts. Others believe that the media has brain washed us into believing that slaves were always separated by the tone of their skin which wasn’t always the case. Slaves with light skin weren’t always granted immunity from picking in the field just the same as all dark-skinned slaves weren’t banned from working in the house. Yes there were many cases where a slave bearing lighter skin was a result of a slave owner having his way sexually with one of the female slaves. In this case more often than not the children were still confined to slavery but were used as house slaves because of their blood relation with their owner.
Even in today’s society where we have an African-American president, we still find ourselves having the debate on colorism. From Zoe Saldana’s playing Nino Simone or Mariah casted as a field slave, it’s doubtful we will ever really stop this never-ending argument.