Jackson's rant highlights enduring issue of racial misinformation

Being chased or attacked. Being nude in public. Dying. Drowning. Falling. Flunking a test.

These calamities star in the classic nightmares that haunt our sleepy time under the sheets.

I bet Sam Rubin gladly would have traded any of those nocturnal nerve-rackers for his nightmarish day at the office last week.

Rubin — an entertainment reporter for KTLA-TV, you might recall from the viral video — is the poor soul who committed the cardinal sin of confusing actor Samuel L. Jackson with fellow African-American actor Laurence Fishburne.

Shooting the breeze in the opening moments of an interview to promote Jackson's new action flick, "RoboCop," Rubin asked one of the highest-grossing actors of all time about the reaction he'd received from "that Super Bowl commercial."

Except Jackson wasn't in a Super Bowl ad.

Fishburne was, reviving his Morpheus role from "The Matrix" trilogy in a Kia spot.

"What Super Bowl commercial?" Jackson asked.

"Oh" — Rubin responded after an awkward pause — "you know what, my mistake."

Perhaps — as Conan O'Brien tweeted — the poor schlub assumed the "L" in Samuel L. Jackson stood for "Laurence Fishburne." As several minutes of live, cringe-worthy TV unfolded, we learned one thing: The "L" certainly doesn't stand for leniency.

"You're as crazy as the people on Twitter. I'm not Laurence Fishburne," Jackson blasted.

He brushed off Rubin's repeated mea culpas, perhaps recalling the wisdom of Trip, his character in the movie "Juice" ("Just 'cause you pour syrup on something doesn't make it pancakes!").

So Jackson unloaded again: "We may be all black and famous, but we all don't look alike!"

And on it went.

Talk about a nightmare. One shared recently by the E! channel, which mixed up actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, and George Stephanopoulos, who confused basketball icon Bill Russell with ... Morgan Freeman.

I don't know if Rubin's faux pas was a slip of the tongue, an innocent gaffe or whether he, as Jackson implied, is afflicted with what psychologists call "cross-race recognition deficit" — aka all-blacks-look-alike syndrome.

I do know Jackson couldn't have whacked the poor guy any harder had he wielded a Louisville Slugger — as he did playing bat-wielding Principal Joe Louis Clark in "Lean on Me."

And like Clark …

Beg pardon?

That wasn't Jackson? It was … Morgan Freeman?





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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