Dwayne Johnson – “Race Shifter” in a “Post-Racial” World?

Dwayne Johnson – “Race Shifter” in a “Post-Racial” World?

Shadow and Act: On Film, Television and Web Content of Africa and Its Diaspora

Sergio Mims

Dwayne Johnson

With “Central Intelligence” hitting theaters this weekend, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, a conversation worth having…

I’m sure we’ve all privy to all the chatter about how we’re now living in a so-called “post-racial” society. Though I think most of us would respond to that with a “Yeah right!” But things are changing, albeit slowly. And it dawned on me, with Johnson becoming one of Hollywood’s most dependable actors today, starring in blockbuster after blockbuster, and carrying some of them almost alone, that he’s the one person who could be an example of this “post-racial” utopia we’re supposed to be living in.

It should be very obvious by now that Johnson has been positioning himself to become a major movie star. He easily could have gone on to be a B-movie actor, content with taking supporting roles in action/exploitation films, and starring in direct-to-video movies, like some of his former WWE cohorts. But Johnson has much higher aspirations. And it’s not just the film projects that he’s attached himself to; either by design or by happenstance, it’s also how he’s been perceived racially by the public. He has become a “race shifter” for lack of a better word.

Through his obviously ethnic, but not clearly defined looks (he’s black Canadian/Samoan), he has managed to become “identified” as it were, by different audiences, as different things, and has used that to his advantage, whether intentionally or not. I should say that, of course, we identify him as a black actor here on S&A, or else we wouldn’t be covering him at all. And Johnson has never obscured, or refused to acknowledge his bi-racial heritage, unlike let’s say Vin Diesel, who has seemingly gone out of his way to not publicly acknowledge his mixed heritage, preferring to instead let people think he’s, perhaps, Italian…

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