Ken Berwitz

My wife and I saw “Eclipsed” last night, during its limited run at Manhattan\’s Golden Theater.  

“Eclipsed” is a play about how a small group of women try to live their lives, under impossibly awful circumstances, during the second Liberian civil war – which ended, more or less, in 2003, when charles taylor, who had intimidated himself into the presidency and then ran Liberia without regard to the safety or well being of his people, was forced to resign. (taylor is currently spending his life in jail).

The play itself is excellent (though the Liberian accent makes some of the dialogue a bit difficult to follow).  The cast, starring academy award-winner Lupita Nyong\’o, is just terrific.  Great acting benefits any show, and this show is a major beneficiary.

But there is another reason we enjoyed Eclipsed so much.  It relates to the fact that, presumably because of the subject matter, and its all-Black cast, an unusually large percentage of the audience was Black.  

How I wish I could have brought every person who stereotypes Black people into the theater with us…because this audience provided such a great lesson for them.  And, if we\’re going to be honest, that takes in a ton of people, including a great many who -erroneously – do not think of themselves that way.

I have spent most of my business career as a qualitative marketing researcher. In that capacity, I spent over 40 years conducting focus group sessions and one-on-one interviews around the country and have interviewed literally tens of thousands of people, either in small groups or individually.

And if there is one thing I learned from all those interviews over all those years, it is that every group, regardless of color or race, is comprised of a full range of personalities, attitudes, intelligence levels, etc.  

That is why it is no surprise at all to me that the Black theatergoers in this audience looked, dressed, and comported themselves no differently than the White theatergoers.  If you had changed every Black member of the audience\’s face to White and every White member\’s face to Black, you would not have noticed any difference between them.

An audience like this puts the lie to anyone\’s idea that Black people are nothing but ______________(I decline to fill in the pejoratives, many of which are ugly and distasteful.  You know them and can do that yourself).  

People are people..  Stereotypical assumptions made about any group based on color or ethnicity are inherently ignorant.

It is an excellent likelihood that some who read this will think “Yeah, sure, that\’s true if all you see are the kind of Black people who would attend a Broadway play.  But what about the others?”.  

My answer? “The point is that there ARE others.”  

Simply stated, being Black, White, or any of the various other shades of skin typically associated with a particular group, defines skin color and nothing else.  It doesn\’t mean a person with that skin color is smart or dumb, fat or thin, patient or impatient, outgoing or shy, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.  

Being Black makes a person Black.  Nothing else.  Being White makes a person White.  Nothing else.  

If you want to find out about the rest, pay attention to that person as an individual, not as a component of a group defined only by melanin content.

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