Charlton Heston: Racist?

Mods: I put this here because it’s about an actor; it may well belong (or wind up!) in GD, GQ, or The Pit. Do as you see fit.

I’ve seen this allegation a few times over the years, most recently over here.

Rather than hijack a thread-in-progress, I’m starting this one to ask fellow Dopers from whence this impression (or fact) comes?


Charlton Heston campaigned for Adlai Stevenson in '56, and Kennedy in '60.

He accompanied Dr. M. L. King in the '63 march on Washington, D.C.

He was also an opponent of McCarthyism and racial segregation, which he saw as only helping the cause of Communism worldwide. He was opposed to the Vietnam War and considered Richard Nixon a disaster for America.

True, his views became more conservative/libertarian starting in the '80s. Yes, he opposed affirmative action. That doesn’t necessarily make him a racist.

So, Dopers? What’s the scoop on the “Heston is a racist” position?

If what you say about him is true, then that makes what he said in “Bowling For Columbine” all the more confusing. Did you happen to see that movie? In it, he blamed racial/ethnic diversity for the high incidence of violence in America. Maybe it was just the Alzheimer’s talking?

I don’t believe everything in that movie, but I do believe Heston actually said what he did in it.

But it is good to know he has some progressive views.

In Bowling for Columbine, Heston blamed “racial diversity” for gun violence in America and praised the “wise, old, dead white guys” who gave us the Constitution. He’s also made remarks in piblic speeches that lapped just at the fringes of being overtly racist, including stuff like lamenting the fact that it’s politically unacceptable to talk about “white power.”

I think you should look more at his actions before he had a fatal mind-altering disease rather than after.

I don’t see how saying racial diversity causes violence is racist. When people of different backgrounds come together, isn’t there a higher likelihood of conflict and/or violence? He didn’t actually say that any particular race is more likely to cause violence, did he? That would be racist, certainly. But just pointing out that different races often don’t get along, that’s a simple fact, isn’t it?

I think it’s bullshit that gun violence has anything to do with racial diversity. Most violence is not interracial.

for the record, I think it should be mentioned that at the time Michael Moore interviewed Charlton Heston, Heston had not yet publicly told anyone that he had Alzheimer’s. Moore often gets accused of taking advantage of Heston’s mental state but in fairness, Moore didn’t know about it at the time.

Not that this is a debate, or anything, but could you provide some specific examples?

Charlton Heston is not a racist. People who would label him so have a political axe to grind and have, IMHO, no credibility whatsoever.

Here are some examples of statements that are a little questionable. These excerpts also include some dubious declarations about women and homosexuals.

All of these examples stop short of overt bigotry and the racial stuff can probably be defended as innocent, but it’s still stuff that gets your attention and makes you wonder.

I personally doubt that Heston is a racist (at least not consciously), but he hasn’t always been very smart about how he couches his rhetoric when trying to rally the gun nuts. He gives his critics ammunition in the same way that John Kerry did. You can interpret him however you want.

Thanks, Diogenes.

Fair enough. But is saying that it does cause violence (gun or otherwise), racist? Or just wrong?

I still don’t see how what he said is racist. Perhaps wrong, but not racist.

It’s unproven at the very least. I didn’t say it was necessarily racist, but that statement is one of the reasons those accusations exist. Ex-Tank seemed to be asking where the allegations came from. That’s where they came from. I’m not saying I agree that it can be concluded from Heston’s statements that he’s definitely a racist. As I said above, I doubt that he is.

If Heston was racist he sure had an odd way of showing it. The following are two quotes from his autobiography, concerning the civil rights movement and King’s March on Washington:

*Many men who knew him better than I have written about Martin Luther King. I can’t match their eloquence; I can confrm what they’ve written: he was a special man, put on earth, I do believe, to be a twentieth-century Moses for his people. Over coffee and toast in his hotel, he was very quiet. Passionately quiet.

“You tell me, Mr Heston, that there are no black on Holloywood film crews… As president of the Screen Actors Guild, what can you do about that?”

“I’m afraid no much, sir,” I said. “Our guild has always welcomed black actors, but I must tell you the technical unions not onlywon’t accept black members, they wouldn’t accept me, or anyon who isn’t the son of a member. I’m glad to speak for SAG at the interguild conference you’ve called with the studios, but I don’t believe you have much of a chance with IATSE.”

I was dead wron. At the conference that afternoon, D. King talked them around . They agreed to eliminate the family rule and accept black apprentices. Amazingly they also began to take in non-family whites and women, which waasn’t even on Dr. King’s agenda. He was an awesomely persuasive man, even unintentionally.*

Would a racist speak with that kind of respect? And then there’s the second quote. After speaking about organizing the support of prominent actors to particpate in the march(during which he speaks of a lot of liberals that wouldn’t show) he talked about standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

For the rest of that shining time, we walked behind Dr. King, and stood on the steps of the Lincol Memorial to hear him say, yet again, “I have a dream…” We were essentially extras in the event that validated that dream, but we were there. In a long life of activisn in support of some good cause, I’m proudest of having stood in the sun behind that man, that morning.

He held pretty strong anti-ape views.

Bolding mine.

I sat om a grand jury for 3 months in my jurisdiction. The violence was almost universally black-on-black. Can we just blame “those people”?

Y’all know that former Doper december also accompanied Dr. King to Washington?

Just saying.

Heh. He was probably there with his black cousin-in-law.

If it’s black-on-black, it’s not interracial, so I don’t see how that contradicts my point.

He had an interracial relationship with Rosalind Cash in * The Omega Man*, a 1971 film.

Sure, that was just acting, but I doubt a dyed in the wool racist would have kissed a black women on screen in 1971.

How could Chuck be racist? He played Ben Hur