Disney’s record on racism is less than stellar, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be improving anytime soon with the furor surrounding the company’s announcement that a new film, The Princess of North Sudan, is in development. Last Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Stephany Folsom, a well respected screenwriter would be on board to pen the movie, which also boasts Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock as a producer. Following the announcement, Black Twitter got its claws out to shine a light on the awfulness of the film’s premise.
The film is based on the true life story of Virginia man named Jeremiah Heaton, and his quest to fulfill a promise to his daughter, after she asked whether or not she would one day be a real princess. Heaton did some research and found what he thought was the perfect solution: a stretch of disputed and unclaimed desert land named Bir Tawil situated between Egypt and Sudan. In June 2014, he decided to fly there, plant his flag (designed by his three children) and stake claim to a brand new “country” that he named The Kingdom of North Sudan, thus making his daughter a “princess.”
Yeah, you read that right. This film will center around a white American man taking his ass to Africa and essentially calling dibs on a piece of land. Does this story ring any bells? The Scramble for Africa, anyone? Heaton has said that he intends to use “his” new kingdom as a “testbed” for cutting edge science to help alleviate the negative effects of climate change. His website calls for donations to go towards setting up what he terms “the best scientific research” for “revolutionary change.”
Heaton’s intentions may be honourable, after all the world sure does need to take serious and immediate action on climate change, but this is sure as hell not the way to do it. In an interview with The Guardian, Heaton said, “I don’t see race, color or creed, and neither do my children.” And herein lies the problem. Heaton’s actions reek of entitlement, and his skin color is very much an important part of why this whole mess is so infuriating and insensitive. White people have been carving up and taking parts of Africa to claim as “their own” for years. Heaton’s actions did not take place in a vacuum. They exist in a world that still bears the scars of colonization and the legacy of white people’s unfettered greed and selfishness.