Military Academy Students Refused to Attend 'Malcolm X' Screening Over Fear of Violating Trump Executive Order

In a lengthy Twitter thread, actor William Jackson Harper criticized an executive order by President Donald Trump. He planned screenings of the 1992 biopic Malcolm X for military academy students. However, concerned they would be violating the president's order, they opted not to attend.

The Good Place star wrote that he'd teamed up with Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF) to work on all-academy screenings at four military academies, where he would select a movie and then participate in a virtual talkback session. He said after offering three films, Malcolm X was selected, much to Harper's excitement.

Additionally, I was happy to discuss the themes of this movie, the historical significance of the man, and hoping to have a wider discussion about how we view our past, and how those we venerate or revile were just people, complex, flawed people who were full of contradictions.

— William Jackson Harper (@dubjackharper) October 5, 2020

He continued, saying that days before the event two of the academies reached out and said they wouldn't take part in it due to a September 22 "Executive Order on Combattng Race and Sex Stereotyping." While saying that government entities should foster work environments that don't discriminate on the basis of race and sex, the order also criticizes certain training material. "[O]ur Uniformed Services should not teach our heroic men and women in uniform the lie that the country for which they are willing to die is fundamentally racist. Such teachings could directly threaten the cohesion and effectiveness of our Uniformed Services," the order says after describing various forms of training that spoke about aspects of racism that are underlying in American society.

which requires that federal and military institutions refrain from training material that promote a “pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors…”

— William Jackson Harper (@dubjackharper) October 5, 2020

Before getting into specifics, the order states: "Therefore, it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services, and not to allow grant funds to be used for these purposes. In addition, Federal contractors will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees."

It's unclear which military academies the film was being presented to, and if showing the movie would actually qualify as a violation of the executive order.

Harper proceeded to criticize the order, saying that it promoted censorship, especially in the context of the screening. While Malcolm X portrays "an admittedly thorny history," Harper said that not portraying different parts of the country's history was"cowardly" and had potential to be "dangerous."

I believe that the selective censorship of certain chapters of our country’s because we find it disquieting, or because it disrupts our narrative and tarnishes our self-image, is cowardly at best, dangerous at worst, and dishonest either way.

— William Jackson Harper (@dubjackharper) October 5, 2020

The actor said that at the end of the day, three of the four academies chose to participate in a "lively discussion" about the film, but still criticized the Trump administration for the order. "The fact that the film that the film Malcolm X could be considered 'Anti-American' by this administration is very frightening to me," he wrote. "I would encourage us all to stay vigilant, to question every single decision this administration makes, and every single word out of their mouths. Most importantly, WE HAVE TO VOTE. If we don't, we are whistling past the graveyard."

Harper's publicist declined Newsweek's request for comment. The White House and AITAF did not respond to Newsweek's emailed requests for comment in time for publication.

Malcolm X
Former Nation Of Islam leader and civil rights activist El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X and Malcolm Little) poses for a portrait on February 16, 1965, in Rochester, New York. A military academy refused to screen a Malcolm X biopic over fear of violating a Trump executive order. Getty/Michael Ochs Archives