Morgan Freeman Has it Right, Almost

Steve Anchell
3 min readJun 20, 2020

There is a video on YouTube that is a compilation of entitled African Americans speaking about why racism doesn’t exist. The video was produced by The Media Research Center.

One of the interviewees is actor Morgan Freeman. Mr. Freeman states that racism does not exist and it will go away if people would just “Stop talking about it.” He’s almost right, but he misses the historical picture and why racism won’t just go away anytime soon.

In the 19th century the concept of geographical identity was adopted in the U.S. This concept “emphasized people and places, delineating identities by establishing a Eurocentric, middle-class, masculinist, Protestant norm, and then specifying variance and deficiencies from and to that norm.” [excerpt from a doctoral dissertation by Lisa Lynn Zagumny, Trace University].

At the time, this was not considered racism, it was considered good science and accepted as fact, at least in the U.S. For nearly one hundred years, 1802 to 1897, geographical identity was taught in American schools shaping the way our not-so-distant Euro American ancestors viewed other people.

There were several variations on the original theme, but as taught in the 1800s, those with African ancestry were considered less intelligent, less industrious, less imaginative, less human than Euro Americans. People from Asia were considered highly industrious, but also less intelligent, devious and untrustworthy, and less human as well. Europeans were considered inferior to Euro Americans because they continued to live under the tyranny of kings and emperors. Jews were believed inferior because they had not embraced Jesus as their Savior.

The concept was particularly useful to Euro Americans in the antebellum South allowing them to justify their treatment of and behavior towards not only Africans, but Asians, American Indians, and native Spanish speaking people.

The concept of skin color as a racial identifier replaced geographic identity when the theory was discredited and largely abandoned. This occurred as recently as the 1920s, perhaps earlier, and has continued to the present day.

Race determined by skin color has become a perception of superiority by Euro Americans along with fear of physical contact, both handed down through at least three, perhaps four, generations. This perception has become the basis upon which many Euro Americans form their opinion of people of African and Asian descent. Integration and the Civil Rights Movement has done little to change this deep-rooted prejudice prevalent in many parts of the U.S. As a result, racism, racial inequality, and racial discrimination have become the terms and concepts by which the real issue, class inequality is avoided.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated one year to the day (April 4, 1968) after he gave a speech against the Vietnam War (April 4, 1967). In that speech he said he had finally come to realize that civil rights was not a race issue; it was a class issue. He said the wealthy and the powerful used race to divide poor whites against poor blacks to make it easier to control both factions.

Reverend King called for people to unite in a class, not a race, struggle (Bernie Sanders is his natural successor in this). The first move King advocated in that struggle was to boycott the Vietnam War. He “believed that the Vietnam War diverted money and attention from domestic programs created to aid the black poor.” [Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks Out Against the War] Many believe it was for this he was assassinated.

“If you talk about it, it exists,” Mr. Freeman says. Talking about racism fuels the fire. But racism exists not because we talk about it, but because the majority of people believe it exists and act based upon that belief. Silence allows the fire to spread.

Mr. Freeman goes on to say, “I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and ask you to stop calling me a black man.” If only it were that easy, Mr. Freeman.

Steve Anchell is a photographer and former faculty member of Oregon State University. He teaches photography workshops in Cuba, France, and online.