(CNN)A lot of people seem to be mad at Clint Eastwood these days, and for good reason. His recent defense of Donald Trump and his racially charged comments — that the Republican presidential nominee “says a lot of dumb things” but that people should “get over it” — have not exactly made Eastwood look like a paragon of racial equality.
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But human beings are complex creatures, which means that Eastwood is a set of contradictions. His defense of Trump’s comments about Hispanics and Muslims is no doubt reprehensible, and has caused many people to label him as a hardcore racist. But in excoriating him, those same critics have forgotten that for years Eastwood has, in his own way, been one of the most racially sensitive people in Hollywood.
Years ago, a friend pointed out to me that Woody Allen, darling of film critics and urban intellectuals, never seemed to cast any minorities in his films, even in the background.
Yet Clint Eastwood, often reviled for his conservative/libertarian politics, has consistently cast, and acted with, black performers, many of them in key roles — not just in the “Dirty Harry” films, where for example, Felton Perry played his partner in “Magnum Force,” but also in pictures like “Bronco Billy” (Scatman Crothers) and “The Eiger Sanction” (Vonetta McGee). I wrote a piece about this for the Los Angeles Daily News, and to this date, no one has contradicted my findings.
So I ask you:
Does a racist make a film like “Gran Torino,” in which a grumpy old racist learns compassion for others when a Hmong family moves in next door?
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