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'The Human Stain' ­ This Generation's Race Film? -
November 6, 2003

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

In the new film "The Human Stain," Anthony Hopkins plays Coleman Silk, a highly respected college professor whose career is snuffed out with the choke collar of political correctness.

The movie is an adaptation of Philip Roth's best seller. Gary Sinise of "Forrest Gump" fame plays Silk's confidant, and Nicole Kidman co-stars as Silk's love interest. The film doesn't quite fully explore Roth's journey into the dark P.C. cosmos. It moves too quickly past the subplot, where the esteemed academic is forced off the campus for his innocent use of a conversational word.

Silk is accused of being a racist and refuses to claim his assigned sin. Unfortunately, the P.C. issue in the movie is overshadowed by the hackneyed, decades-old plotline of a light-skinned black person passing for white.

Beyond the question of whether the film is good or bad, though, lies one of the critical issues of our times. The New York Daily News' Lloyd Grove points out that Miramax's co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, a liberal white Democrat who supports affirmative action, and Ward Connerly, a black Republican who advocates an end to racial preferences, have found common ground. The two concur on the significance of this piece of cinema.

Weinstein actually arranged to have a private screening of the film for Connerly. "I welcome Ward's opinion, and I agree with what he's getting at ­ that we've got to be color-blind in this society," Weinstein said.

After viewing the movie, Connerly evidently was so moved by the role of the young Coleman Silk, played by Wentworth Miller, that he telephoned the actor.

"Ward called me up and we basically had a discussion about whether we would ever be a society in which we didn't have to check the boxes," Miller told the New York Daily News. Miller is of a background that includes African-American, Jamaican, Russian, Syrian and Lebanese.

Connerly summed up his feelings about the film in this way: "I think that every generation has its race movie ­ from 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' ­ and I believe that 'The Human Stain' is the race movie for this generation."

I look to the day when generations no longer need race movies.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2003
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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