Eric Deggans and Shirley Lim attend legacies debut

Maximus Bean, News Co-Editor

NPR author Eric Deggans and SUNY professor Shirley Jennifer Lim came to Bucknell on Feb. 15 for the first event in a series by The Griot Institute. The series, called “Legacies: Bridging Centuries, Unearthing what carries Forward” began with the event and will continue on until March 22. 

The description of the central idea of legacies is that “Legacies are loaded with contradictions. At once full of privilege, possibility, challenge and the weight of the past, legacies make demands of us in the contemporary world. Carried by each of us, legacies shape how we experience the present day as well as the future.” The event occurred from 7-8:30 p.m.

On his profile, Eric Deggans is an author, journalist and television critic for NPR who has covered the intersections of media, pop culture, race and social justice for more than 25 years.

Shirley Jennifer Lim is a Professor of History and affiliate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, and Africana Studies at SUNY Stony Brook.

 “Shirley Lim and Eric Deggans will be in conversation with each other about the legacies of race in Hollywood,” Dr. Carol Wayne White, the Interim Director of the Griot Institute, said in a statement to The Bucknellian that. “Because legacies are associated with what has come before, and what gets passed on to the next generation, this dialogue will inspire the campus community to think further about Hollywood’s role in presenting and preserving certain images of American life and its diverse cultures while neglecting others.”

 White continued, “given their areas of specialization and published works, we anticipate Lim and Deggans will shed light on provocative questions that emerge from studying Hollywood’s legacies of race: Which “racialized” stories and images on the movie and television screen are promoted, and why?  How diverse and inclusive are these images and stories?”

At the event, both Lim and Deggans spoke on separate topics, both centered on ideas of historical discrimination in Hollywood.

Lim spoke about Anna May Wong, an actress who starred in films across the first half of the 20th century, and her experiences with racism, prejudice, and her involvement with the well-known actor Paul Robeson. She mentioned that they were “excellent friends” and that Robeson “was famous for being bisexual and having affairs.”

When recounting an experience in 1940’s LA, Lim mentioned how Wong, as a famous Asian actress, couldn’t find housing  due to racial restrictions. In Lim’s words, Wong had “incredible resilience” and “she still tried to find a way to do her work as an actress” despite her limitations.

Eric Deggans spoke on racism in the media, and touched most on the “four types of racism.” 

  1. Bigotry Denial Syndrome is the idea that since one thinks they are not a bigot, then therefore they are not. 
  2. Situational Racism is the use of prejudice and stereotypes against selected people of color, often those you dislike, or elevating people of color you like out of stereotypes for a group.
  3. Strategic Racism is the usage of stereotypes of marginalized groups used for political, material goals
  4. White Privilege is the benefits in society which are extended to white people, and are often taken for granted or unspoken.

Both of them answered questions afterwards, mainly focused on contemporary Hollywood and the success of films such as “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Deggans said that “Hollywood has recognized that there is great acting talent in China, Hong Kong, Koreas, and they need to be harnessed,” along with recognizing the lucrative markets of foreign cinema.

The event was cosponsored by the Department of Women’s & Gender Studies, the Department of History, The China Institute, the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, and the Bucknell Institute for Lifelong Learning. 

Other guests for the “Legacies” Series include Joy James, a political theorist and Professor of the Humanities at Williams College; Terri Lyne Carrington, American Jazz Drummer and composer; and lastly Vernese Edghill-Walden, a Bucknell alumnus who was just brought in as the current Vice president of Equity & Inclusive Excellence.

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