Actor Giancarlo Esposito, best known for playing the role of Buggin' Out in Do the Right Thing, discussed racism Friday, bringing peals of laughter from his audience while speaking on a subject that often evokes tension. In the speech, which lasted over two hours, Esposito spoke of how racism has affected his acting career and his life. Esposito -- who appeared in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, School Daze and Mo' Better Blues -- said he began acting at the age of nine in an off-Broadway play. Esposito spoke of his lifelong problem with getting roles that were compatible with his personality. His mixed black and Italian heritage, Esposito said, conflicted with stereotypical black traits, forcing him to adapt to the expectations of the directors. Esposito recalled his first professional experience, a modeling job he did in 1960 for Sears. "The first thing they wanted to do was cut my hair off," Esposito said. "The people who were doing the spot just felt that, 'Well, you know, his hair is not a black person's hair, it's not and we just have to cut his hair' . . . and I remember feeling awful about that, because it was my hair and I dug it." Esposito also cited experiences from his youth when people told him, "You're not really what we consider black enough." He also discussed the perceptions people had of him after his guest appearances on Miami Vice, and The Equalizer, where he portrayed a gun runner and a drug dealer. He said he spoke to a group of black teenagers who saw his roles as real and not fictional, and he said that the experience awakened him to the impact of the media in the perpetuation of violence and racism in the U.S. He said that he felt obligated not to play these types of roles again. "If there is one less black person showing our youth this, that's good," he said. Esposito said that America's have become addicted to violent entertainment, especially conflict between minorities. Citing news coverage of the war in the Persian Gulf as an example, Esposito said that the media concentrates on conflicts at the expense of topics such as drugs, AIDS and homelessness. College senior Franklyn Arthur, chair of program planning for the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which sponsored the event, said she was impressed with Esposito's speech. "I enjoyed it, he didn't really tell us what to do," Arthur said. "He presented us with a lot of things to think about -- things we don't really look at." Other students in attendance said they enjoyed the event. "The speech was lively and entertaining," said Wharton senior Dawn Sutton.Comments powered by Disqus
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