WHAT A TANGELD WEB WE WEAVE: HOW WHITE CRITICISM OF THE WIZ IS TRULY IRONIC

It has been commonly said that “Karma is a bitch.” This popular saying is an efficientwizard of oz way of stating that what we put out into the
universe will invariably make its way back to us in some of the most unexpected and unusual ways; many within the white community are learning this lesson the hard way.

In the wake of NBC’s live showing of The Wiz, the African-American version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz many segments of white America has taken to Twitter to issue what they consider a significant protest. What follows are a few of the tweets that were issued in protest of The Wiz.

I just learned there is a black version of The Wizard of Oz called “The Wiz” – how is this not racist?

— Evan (@MJTM) November 23, 2015

Can you imagine the outrage if a show advertised an “All White Cast”?! But #TheWizLive is getting praised for having an “All Black Cast”…

— Melly (@4princessmel) November 27, 2015

Want to point out that #TheWizLive has changed cast to all black actors yet there’s no outrage from the whites. #BlackLivesMatter Just sayin

— Jeff Kelso (@boottapper) December 1, 2015

Although there is much that can be stated about the cultural literacy being displayed by huge swaths of the white community in their admission that NBC’s recent airing of The Wiz was their initial exposure to the classic play; however, I am trying to not digress. I find it the wiz1interesting that the outcries of whites’ regarding the remake of The Wizard of Oz with a nearly all-Black cast, there was one white dancer in the production, is truly ironic for two reasons: (1) there was no outcry from this same source when nary an African-American was included in either the stage or cinematic productions of The Wizard of Oz and (2) whites’ are failing to realize that cultural events and entities such as (a) The Wiz, (b) Miss Black America, and (c) Historically Black Colleges and Universities were generated to serve as an alternative to (a) The Wizard of Oz, (b) Miss America, (c) any Southern college or University — University of Alabama, Clemson University, University of Oklahoma (I must add that these three universities are now heavily relying upon African-American athletes as they pursue a College Football Championship). The impetus behind the generation of each of these Black entities must be attributed to whites who refused to allow our participation in their cultural events.

It is in many ways hilarious that whites have chosen The Wiz as a means of issuing commentary regarding race in America as it makes their collective ignorance regarding American cultural matters unmistakable.

The alluded to segment of white America that is aghast at what they erroneously refer to as “reverse racism” are in desperate need of a serious course over American racial matters. Such a course would highlight for them that it was their ancestors’ repudiation of all things Black, at least when they were in the public sphere, which left a segregated Black community with no recourse other than to begin their own cultural traditions.

Ironically, one of the clearest examples is found in the fact that every performance (stage and screen) of L. Frank Baum’s, The Wizard of Oz was performed by an all-white cast. Now it goes without saying that Baum’s fictional story did not include African-Americans. Black artists responded to this omission by creating their own version that not only served an audience that The Wizard of Oz omitted, but also provided employment opportunities for Black artists while helping Black theater companies stay financially solvent.

It always amazes me when the arrogance of whites causes them to demand that other groups agree that their experience is the only authentic one in America. Non-whites are expected to even identify with white ‘fairy tales’ and fictional stories, even in cases where they do not appear in the story. Yet at the same time, they refuse to do the same. The vociferous denunciation of The Wiz is an obvious example of whites neither desiring nor being capable of identifying with inter-racial cultural expressions.

Whites have every right to demand the presence of people who look like them on both the stage and screen, particularly when they are exposing their children to theatrical the wizproductions. I just ask that they give others that same right. Unfortunately for those who are issuing vociferous criticism regarding The Wiz, their attempts to attribute such productions as an obvious case of ‘reverse racism’ fails miserably.

The irony of this particular situation is that the impetus behind the production of The Wiz, not to mention the vast majority of African-American cultural events and expressions were born out of white prejudice, discrimination, segregation, and racism from white cultural institutions that refused to even consider African-Americans for inclusion into their theater productions, movies, or for a time sporting events. We must not forget that the Negro leagues were created because of white baseball players and owners refusal to allow Black players to participate.

So for those who are currently crying racism because of African-American cultural events and productions such as The Wiz, I must share with them that such productions were mandated by your ancestors, yet created by brilliant Black artists who chose to ‘ease on down the road’ versus the only option whites offered which was sitting on the sidelines.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.

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