It's about our community and our spirituality!

Eartha Kitt Has Died


Years ago when I was in college I woke up one morning to the news that the actor John Wayne had died the night before.  The news was the hot topic on the all black campus I attended.  Every other person I met that morning was asking did I hear the news.  Frankly, I was as nonchalant about the news over John Wayne passing as I could be.  I had no more interest in Mr. Wayne’s death as I would any other local yokel who I never met appearing in the local newspaper obituary list.  Mr. Wayne and I had about as much interaction as a member of the Klingon high command and one of those little furry tribbles on Star Trek.

While I can remember watching a few of Mr. Wayne’s movies as a kid, by the time I started college I had taken notice that out of all the movies Mr. Wayne did, he never did anything with any black actors.  Or, if he had a black person in one of his movies, the role was so miniscule that it is not worth mentioning.  When John Wayne died the black community lost absolutely nothing.

Eartha Kitt passed away on Christmas Day.  I really couldn’t care any less.  Since Ms. Kitt’s death was announced the news has played Santa Baby over and over again as if it was the only thing the woman ever did.  Maybe it is.  But if I have to hear one more rendition of that song with Ms. Kitt’s somewhat shrill, slightly helium elevated, Alvin and the Chipmunks-ish voice, I would’ve killed someone.  Honestly, the only thing I knew of Ms. Kitt was her role on the campy Batman series as Cat Woman and her role as the has been queen of cosmetics that appeared in the movie Boomerang with Eddie Murphy and Robin Givens.  Where was Ms. Kitt when certain social issues were negatively impacting the black community?  More than likely Ms. Kitt was walking around with a microphone up to her lips singing Santa Baby, oblivious to what others were going through.

Like many famous black people Ms. Kitt used her notoriety solely for the welfare of Ms. Kitt.  Black people need a voice to bring national attention to black community issues?  Good luck finding a black celebrity that can relate and be so inclined to take up the cause.  Ms. Kitt found out how fragile her good standing with the racially generic dominant community that is predominantly white can be when she made a rather trivial anti war comment during a White House luncheon with Lady Bird Johnson.  Quite frankly, I was amazed to see Ms. Kitt had an opinion that didn’t toe the line of her White House hostess.  In response, Ms. Kitt was unofficially exiled from working in the United States and, for a while at least, had to continue her career in Europe.  It wasn’t until a few years later did she make a return to work in the United States in the late seventies in the play Timbuktu.  Ms. Kitt learned from that mistake.

All too often black entertainers of Ms. Kitt’s ilk will capitalize on their blackness when it is convenient and suits them but act like being black is only a matter of happenstance and not a significant contributing factor to who they are as a person.  And this is a person whose life I want to celebrate as a fellow black American of notable significance to the black community?  I don’t think so.  The impact of Ms. Kitt’s death to the black community is minimal.  These days, black celebrities are more likely to protest for the Amazon rain forest than protest in any significant manner on the issues central to the black community.  Why?  Black celebrities who reach admirable levels of popularity have way too much to lose by doing anything that can be perceived as being against the establishment.

So instead of being remembered for something of some real significance to the community, Ms. Kitt’s greatest gift is that she sang a song pleading with some jolly, oversized, white man that has become the epitome of material consumption by corporate retailers.  Ms. Kitt sings a sultry song to secure favor for a mink sable and a snazzy convertible car among other material things, but nothing of any real substance.  How many black people really have the luxury to be thinking about such things these days?  I can relate more to that pilgrim John Wayne.

I have a request for Santa that I’d like to sing.  Why doesn’t Santa give the black community black celebrity role models who can better relate to the black community condition?  Yes it is true that there are black people who have the luxury of living large the way Ms. Kitt was all about.  But what percentage of the black community can relate?  And even if they could, why would any conscious black person think about such self serving materialism when others in the black community are losing jobs, homes, and hope?

If Santa can’t give the black community more appropriate role models, the least he can do is get rid of the inappropriate role models who continue to perpetuate ideas of self indulgence when there is so much needed in the black community.  Ms. Kitt died.  So what?  Would Ms. Kitt care if it was somebody else who died in the black community?  More than likely the answer would be no.  Sadly, the only real impact is that there is one less mink coat her Santa has to worry about carrying around next year.

Friday, December 26, 2008 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Thoughts


  1. I remember her as being the very elegant Catwoman. Julie Newmar was a favorite role of mine as a kid — a woman! With power! A villain, granted, but a villain on her own, not some stupid sidekick. (Okay, sometimes a sidekick, but that was sort of the Batman universe — every villain was, at one point or another, someone else’s sidekick.)

    Eartha Kitt, though, she was even better.

    So, for me, Eartha Kitt represented a woman of power, and a black woman of power. She had more power than Lt. Uhura did. She could act on her own and fool the men, especially those who fell prey to her charms.

    That’s how I saw her as a kid, so I miss that. We still haven’t grown out of those stereotypes either.

    Comment by Deirdre Saoirse Moen | Friday, December 26, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Deirdre Saoirse Moen,

      But Lieutenant Uhura can kick Cat Woman’s butt!

      I have to admit I enjoyed Cat Woman as a kid. I enjoyed all of the women who played the role: Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether. Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry were okay I guess. But being a little older and a lot more critical they really didn’t have much of a chance of competing fairly with the Cat Women of days past!


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, December 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. i finally caught up to your current post so as they say in talk radio long time reader first time commenter I agree with you about Ms Kitt how could i not but from what i’ve been reading on the net isn’t how she dissed that first lady comparable to Rap Brown tellin the president i forgot which one that he didn’t give a hell about his daughters sleep or lack there of when the pres compained about protesters in front of the white house cause thats what that made me think of. Don’t get me wrong i know she was no Rap Brown but the acts to go on their turf and speak up. I think she should get a little credit (of course i know you noted it in the post) for that because she didn’t have to do that and a lot of people probly wouldn’t have. But this is the first of many comments to come now that i’m with you. i will be signin off Keith ENY

    Comment by keith | Friday, December 26, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback keith,

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for your support. I hope you continue to come back often and share your opinion on things.

      But getting back to Ms. Kitt…

      Five minutes of protest against the Vietnam War doesn’t make for a black activist. Ms. Kitt lived eighty one years and that’s the best she could do for the black community? Any benefit to the black community during those five minutes was accidental at best. Even a racist can inadvertently help the black community. A racist who protest against unemployment might help bring jobs to the entire community but that doesn’t make him or her a black activist.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. As a fan of the Duke, I hqave to say he did do some movies that included black actors. Granted, back in his days of filming it was rare to find a black person as anything but an extra…but a small portion of his last film, The Shootist, had a couple nice exchanges between him and a black actor as an integral part of the flick.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Reply

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