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Harry Belafonte: Race Relations Are a ‘Reversal’ From the 1960s

Harry Belafonte says the Oscar controversy is a symptom of the troubling race relations in the country, which are in a “retrogression” since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.

On Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday-morning CNN interview show, airing Feb. 14, the host asks Belafonte if the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations is simply a matter of two bad years, since Hollywood is said to be full of liberals.

“I don’t think it’s just two bad years,” says Belafonte. “If you look at the spectrum of race relations in this country, on a lot of fronts, there is a retrogression, there is a reversal,” he says, citing gerrymandering in voting districts and employment records as two examples of a new wave “of racist practices.”

Belafonte adds, “I think what we achieved in the Civil Rights movement to what we’re now practicing as a nation — there is a reversal.”

Asked if the election of President Obama has been a factor, Belafonte answers, “I think a black man in the White House has awakened a lot of dichotomies.” He says the rest of the world sometimes saw America as powerful but reactionary, and the election sent a different signal. However, the election “also awakened a right-wing energy. Nobody expected that we would ever elect a black man to be president. When that reality was established, it shocked a lot of racist forces in this country … There is a force in this country that says ‘no black man should ever be at the helm of this country.'”

Belafonte received a Governors Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in November 2014, electrifying the crowd with a hard-hitting acceptance speech.

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