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A debate raged on social media about colorism after the announcement on Tuesday about whether Will Smith should portray the Richard Williams, the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, on the big screen.

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“King Richard” focuses on Williams overcoming the many challenges he faced in helping his daughters to rise above the violence in their hometown of Compton, California, to become top players in tennis, one of the most lily-white and historically racist sports in the world.

Smith, whose skin color is lighter than Williams’ is light-skinned, was set to play the lead role in the movie “King Richard,” which he is also producing, Variety reported on Monday. Social media users argued that the role should go to someone who shares Williams’ complexion.

“Colorism will Smith but there are other black actors for this role” tweeted Clarence Hill Jr., a sports writer for the Star-Telegram newspaper in Texas.

Others agreed that color matters—but not in this case. One Twitter user raised the example of the Nina Simone movie.

In the 2016 biopic, “Nina,” that chronicled the life of the legendary singer and civil rights activist, Dominican/Puerto Rican actress Zoe Saldana was trashed by some critics when she appeared in what some considered “blackface” and a prosthetic nose to look like the dark-skinned Simone.

When it was announced that Saldana was going to play Simone, many protested the decision, saying she was too light and cited her remarks from an interview with BET in which she said, “There is no such thing as people of color.”

But others took to Twitter to support the search for a dark-skinned actor to portray Williams.

Other people suggested alternatives to Smith.

This debate crops up more often than one might think, given the few numbers of major Black films that are released. Last year, a colorism debate raged over Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

Some folks said that all the movie’s melanin magic excludes lighter-skinned Blacks, with the film showing an abundance of darker-skinned characters.

Nevertheless, “Black Panther” found a loving embrace and received props from the spectrum of light, brown and dark-skinned folks around the world. It was considered a great victory for all Black folks.


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