This is by far one of the best movies I have seen in awhile. Not only was the acting quite good but I have a secret crush on the Marnie character (from Girls) who plays Rose-the non racist white chick who lures handsome black men into her plantation-like home. Red flags yet?
Spoiler Alert….if you have not seen this movie, I kinda ruined it for you in the first paragraph. Sorta….but not really.
This movie is dripping in privilege but not necessarily from the “look how cool and good and white we are” side of things, but more so from the “look how far we have come” mentality.
The thought that we have come “far” is in itself a kind of privilege. Because it begs the question of “who” has come far?
Have we really come as far as we would like to think? This movie describes to the viewers/audience how in reality, we really have not come that far.
Because appropriation is one more way to keep the minority down, the white man in the lead, and the “in-between” barely making it.
So let me break it down for you a bit.
As I watched the movie, I was absolutely drawn in by the nuances of racism that I as a black woman experience daily. I experience it from family, friends and even coworkers.
I as a black woman also took note of the demographics of the theater in which I was seated while watching the movie. It was easy to see and count the number of white people because….well, dark theater, …white people. Ya’ll kinda stand out. The only time really that ya’ll stand out and interestingly enough, it didn’t seem to bother you one bit.
Because again, many of you feel you belong in any and every space.
But I couldn’t really see my brothers and sisters…unless of course we open our eyes super wide or smile. Yes…our pearly white teeth, so beautiful, so clean….so perfect! Because we have something that many white people envy. Skin,-so soft and flawless, ageless-black don’t crack! Some of us do crack, but we don’t crack. We are truly a gift from above. All of us. Every single last one of us. We, as a team, built many of the countries we long to visit today. We, together, created a system that many white people envy, and instead of working alongside us, you had to become the superior, the better. The more intelligent.
Something the minority race never ever got credit for back then, and strangely enough rarely get credit for now.
“Wow, you are so well spoken, so articulate”…..white people—THAT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. It is not a compliment because you would NEVER say that to a person of your own caliber. Because black people, we were of a lower caliber and to many, including the police then and now, we are still at the bottom.
But in fact, it was our intelligence that allowed us to free ourselves from the French rule in Haiti. Did you know we created our own language to revolt in 1804. Yes….we created our OWN language. The slave owners, what did they fear? They feared our strength and envied our physical appearance. Impregnated us out of control and power, and also out of the desire to have a child who could possess a bit of what we have.
See, I believe that secretly, you wanted to be us. Part of us at least. If you could produce a child who could bare our lighter (still black though) complexion, and still keep us from learning how to read, you would and could essentially have it all. You have the brains, we have the looks. And so appropriation began.
Appropriation continued and one of the ways to appropriate was to rape us and our mothers and our grandmothers. So that we as a people could produce something that you wanted. We would essentially, after enough time become mini yous. Mini versions of hate and greed, and lust, and aspects of Satan.
But again, our intelligence prevailed. Because we as a minority group are indeed the majority in all the world.
As the main character begins to realize the many faults of the white people, he is awakened to a new kind of revolution. The one like the Civil War-a battle that had nothing to do with being polite. A revolution like in Haiti in 1804. A revolution that took the supreme court to decide whether black people could be counted as more than just property.
And in this movie…they were. In this world, we are. Let’s talk about a couple ways in which we are property.
When Rosie and Chris arrive at the plantation (a very comfortable white people home), they are both greeted in a very friendly manner. Immediately Rosie’s parents begin to size Chris up. They begin to ask questions and toss out phrases that are very typical for white people to say in order for us black people to think that they are really “on” our side. They explore Chris’ brain. But Chris is intelligent enough and responds in short one-liners. Understanding that white people just do that. They were raised in a way to not see color and yet to hold themselves (as a white society) at a higher level than everyone else.
He is felt up, his eyes are checked, his intelligence is “tested”, and his strength is measured.
Chris saw this and stayed quiet. A couple times he tried to speak his truth and was essentially shut down by his girlfriend. Several times he spoke with his buddy over the phone but was hoping that what his buddy was saying was not the truth because…#notallwhitepeople are like this. And yet EVERYTHING about his experience was proving to be more and more dangerous by the minute.
Rosie/Marnie from Girls plays the innocent white woman who loves to date everyone and she is not racist. But let’s take a second to think about this. How can one in good conscience bring home (to an all white family) a person of color for the “first” time. This should have been a red flag for Chris but he gives her the benefit of the doubt. By knowing who her family is, and what they may or may not say to him because of his color, she is complicit…even if she does not use racist slurs.
The police scene is epic white savior situation because she “stands up” for her boyfriend who is black. Chris knows the drill. He knows what the protocol is. He has spent his entire life being black and being treated as such, and then his white girlfriend decides she is going to show him that she gets it and that “equality” belongs to everyone. The police back down, not because they have to, but because they see what she is doing. The police gives Chris a kind of “false hope” that because he is with a white girl, he is safe. And yet Chris is aware at the back of his mind that had he NOT been with a white person, he would be cooked.
The premise of the entire movie is appropriation because this particular family wants the good and not the bad. They know what parts of black people are “good” but they don’t want the other part. They don’t want to talk about the struggle. They don’t want to talk about how black men are being shot on the road by police. They don’t want to talk about how people of color are being treated in stores, at malls, in movie theaters. They don’t want to hear about the suffering, the pain, the angst, the fear, the confusion. They don’t want the bad, not because they don’t want to know….but because they are afraid of how it will make them feel and how their guilt can possibly make them more angry instead of mobilizing to fight for injustice….which is the entire system.
The movie premise is actually the modern day. It IS today. I have white friends who want to touch my hair. They want to feel my skin. They are amazed that one day my hair can be short as my bitten finger nails and the very next day be as long as I want it to be. They want to hear me sing, watch me dance, and are amazed that I have several degrees. They want to ask me questions about race-assuming I speak for everyone of my hue-as if I represent everyone who has ever been oppressed. They want so much from me but what do I get in return?
White people absolutely exhaust me. They exhaust me because they see me as some kind of object. Some kind of virtual ATM where they insert a question and I am supposed to spit out an answer.
The movie is a perfect example of being seen as an object. They….you….want us. We have something to give to you, but what do we get in return?
We lose our souls.
Because it is not enough to not be just non racist.
If you want to really make a difference, you need to be anti-racism.
And this does not mean being colorblind.
It does not mean appropriating people, cultures and things (there is a short scene where the father gives Chris a tour of the house).
It does not mean pretending to understand oppression…
It does not mean doing peaceful protests.
It does not mean wearing pussies on your head (though that would actually be very funny!)
It does not mean wearing a pin.
It does not mean being ok with getting credit for something someone else did/invented/created A LONG TIME AGO.
It means walking beside us-not in front, not behind, and be ok with us walking one step ahead of you whenever necessary.
Being ok with not knowing it all.
Being ok with not being THE BEST.
Being ok with not being the smartest.
Being ok with giving us our dignity back….
And keep in mind that our intelligence was, is and always will be our strongest and most beautiful quality.
And you can’t take that from us because like at the end of the movie (spoiler alert), you will be left behind, and we will rise!
You have given me a great deal to think about…I have had several reactions while reading your writing. You are a powerful writer–you evoked strong emotion in me—tears—and I am NOT just complimenting you because of anything other than, that is what I feel from your writing, from one writer to another. I have been thinking a great deal about whether I am a racist or not. I have been thinking about “white privilege” and what it means. I dared to discuss it with my White friends…they think I think too much…but, I, finally, came to the conclusion, there is “White privilege.” However, many of the things that you write about experiencing from the White person, I have felt also! And, I am White (close to that color, in any case…LOL) I have felt the same things from the WHITE men in this world. I feel women suffer much of what you write—women of every color in every country in this world! I was born in the countryside–eleven children–and my parents also had my Great Aunt and Grandparents living with us. My older sister, Barbara, brought home Terry, a Black American–he said he prefers that over Black American. My younger brother, Bill, brought home Harriette, also Black American and Native American heritage. I found this sentence of yours interesting: “By knowing who her family is, and what they may or may not say to him because of his color, she is complicit…even if she does not use racist slurs.” I am not quite sure I understand your intent. And for the record, I do see racial profiling going on in the country area where I live, only it is the Hispanic people who are pulled over. I think racial profiling is horrible and wrong! I can also honestly say that if I were a Black American Mother, I would fear every time my sons would leave our home! I do not know what I can do about it—-but I sign every petition I can against racial profiling. I fear for the Black person. It is an outrage! I think another problem with our country is that in our schools, little is still being done to educate our children about the acceptance of other cultures and people. When reflecting upon my own education as a child, attending Catholic grade schools for 11 years straight—-never once did anyone give a thought to telling us about the racial injustices that were occurring in this country in our Social Studies classes. Perhaps you have heard of the present push in Arizona and Wisconsin, to stop the teaching of cultural diversity? I think we ALL have a lot to fear in our country this day——-but we can walk together—-and learn from each other. In your closing remarks, you write: “It means walking beside us—not in front, not behind, and be ok with us walking one step ahead of you whenever necessary.” I think, regardless of race, as individuals, we need to accept your idea about “walking”—walking beside each other and open to either one of us walking ahead when necessary. As a famous astronaut once said something like this: “It will be a great day when we do not have to identify race when there is an accomplishment…” I think what he meant was that we can just accept each other as human beings working together doing great things.
Looking forward to your response!
I love what you have to say here. I think the astraunat is correct. Unfortunately, when there is an accomplishment by a minority, the race is usually mentioned because it is not “normal”. But when there is an accomplishment by a non minority, it is assumed, expected, and even more welcomed. I think what you say at the beginning is interesting “I have felt some of the things you describe”….Feeling and experiencing are two different things. I hear you. I am listening!
Talking together and learning from each other is very important. Have you read The Invisible backpack? I recommend it great!
thank you for your response…perhaps it was my choice of words…true “feeling and experiencing are two different things”—what I meant to say was that the feelings that are conveyed by your writing, are the same feelings I felt when surrounded by the male factor in my countryside…so I did “experience” it…I am quite certain what you experience is not the same experience as mine….but there are similarities. I think whenever someone dutifully intends to make another feel inferior, useless, and of no worth—it is wrong—and, I definitely felt that growing up…I felt I had to fight for every step I took for freedom…
YESSS…absolutely! There were times when being a female was considered a minority. And I believe even now, it is considered a minority. Less pay, treated poorly…yep, women are often treated like 2nd class citizens…..and yet, white women in particular, though they have experienced hardships, still have a leg up. Unfortunately racism, classissm, and all the other isms are results of the visual component. People can see race, color, and often times gender and this becomes the target. I understand you have been there and have experienced and I am sure, continue to experience hardships as a woman. But keep in mind, if you as a white woman are experiencing hardships, imagine what women of color are experiencing…..walking together side by side is what is needed…..not necessarily allyship, but someone to fight with those who continue to be oppressed!
Did you read The Invisible Backpack?
Also, I was thinking…it is not that any one person or individual is “Racist”, it is whether they recognize how they participate in the system and structure that keeps certain people groups down while elevating others.
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This is, by far, the best and most meaningful thing for me to read of all your writings! You write so many different things, which are all personal, or profound, or painful, or powerful in some way, but THIS one was really important, I think, for “well-meaning” White folk to read. I will read it again. I hope others read it and spread it around – if that is ok with you?
Yes, please share and thank you so much!