“The Good Place” star William Jackson Harper said that cadets at one of four U.S. military academies pulled out of a recent virtual screening of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” because they were afraid of violating an executive order by President Trump banning training sessions on issues of racism and sexism.
In a lengthy statement on Instagram Monday night, Harper said he participated in a virtual Q&A with the organization Arts in the Armed Forces and chose to screen “Malcolm X” for the group. But two days before the event, he was told that students at one military academy — which he did not identify — had dropped out, saying they were concerned about potential violation of Trump’s Sept. 22 executive order.
The order, which you can read here, bans federal contractors and military institutions from holding training sessions on bias or stereotyping based on race or sex, arguing that there is a “pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”
“I don’t disagree with the idea of combating race and sex stereotyping. But that is not what this order is about. This is censorship. This executive order is an attempt to censor certain difficult truths that still haunt our society,” Harper said. “This executive order denies the very real experiences of so many minorities in this country. This executive order is rooted in the fictitious idea that the scourges of racism and sexism are essentially over, and that the poisonous fallout from centuries discrimination is not real.”
Harper said that one military academy then felt they couldn’t screen Lee’s 1992 biopic “Malcolm X” — although cadets at three other academies did participate. Lee’s biopic on the civil rights leader is American history, Harper argued, “not propaganda meant to teach one to favor one race or sex over the other.”
A rep for Arts in the Armed Forces did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I feel we have a collective duty to engage in self-reflection, and to hold ourselves accountable when we don’t live up to our professed American ideals,” Harper added. “However, I feel we cannot do that without a thorough, unflinching, unpleasant dialogue with our past. A dialogue that so many brave educators and activists are attempting to have right now. A dialogue that this President and his administration are trying their damnedest to silence.”
Read Harper’s full statement below: