Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Angry Black Man: Beyond Overcoming

Okay something has been needling me. Mainly me and my father have a race based division. Oh we're both Black. No shit Sherlock, but more and more I am becoming disinterested in the sort of the movies he likes.

I made mention of this in my Night Catches Us review, but I feel it's a big enough and interesting enough topic to deserve a post in it's own right.

I know how stupid it would be of me to say that racism doesn't exist. I'm know how stupid that claim is but we as a society are in a place where at least the idea of racism is morally reprehensible. We're in a place where even almost saying the N-Word is a bomb to a political campaign and advertisers will walk if it's uttered on television.

These are not the days of George Wallace.

While I will fight that battle if I have to I think as a society at this moment what's more important is asking ourselves the tough questions. What is racism. How have I benefited from institutionalized racism? And yes that all too hard one, am I racist.  As well as if any of those are true how do we fix it. Can we even?

When I was growing up there were a lot of people who would be disgusted by the idea of a teacher showing a film in class, thinking of it as a lazy cop out, but I don't. I have a fundamental belief in the power of narrative, the power of a story to convey abstract, but paramount ideas, to change not just our minds but the fabric of our souls.

And that power transcends the medium of the story.

Brief Aside: Cat's Don't Dance is a great, kid friendly, toe tapping allegory about discrimination in Hollywood.

But but just pointing at overt mustash twirling villainy, no matter how historically accurate we're able to distance ourselves from that and avoid asking those questions. We instinctively know that things have changed and need the context to connect that world to this one and analyze how the two relate.

How do the struggles of my parents relate to mine.

I've seen Men of Honor, Something the Lord Made, and The Tuskegee Airmen. Not to diminish what the people these films are based on did but most of them are the same movie. Don't get me wrong I like at least those three, but they are the same movie. They have the same characters and the same beats.

Despite my generation gap fist waving, I'm becoming a bit of an old goat, struggling to fight the growing cynicism of my heart.  I'm starting to believe that these movies are being released less and less as a tribute and remembrance of our past but more and more because there is an older audience justifiably so enamored with any film that would paint racism in a negative context that they'll see it no, love it regardless of it's qualities as a film.

These are people who had to endure those times when the idea of racism didn't exist in popular consciousness let alone the idea it was a bad thing.

But that's not me. I was born after the civil rights movement. My experiences, and mindset are different.  I can not change the color of my skin nor do I want to but the construct of my race has a different meaning to me than it did to those who marched with King.

Thus far in my life nobody has told me to my face I am a lesser man just because I'm a bit mocha. And because as a child nobody said that of me as a man I view the idea so ludicrous that deserves not even a thought let alone a fist even a metaphorical one. I am a free man born in a free country of laws due to the struggles of my parents, grand parents, and great-grandparents to be treated equally and fairly under those laws. As long as we mind and mine the law to make it righteous no one can take that from me, for the struggle for equality is in my eyes mostly the struggle for equality under the law as well as equality of opportunity. That's my struggle.

It shouldn't matter if you're Black, White, Gay, Straight, Latino, whatever. The law should treat you the same and you should get the same shot. And part of my beef is that by framing racism as merely a few loud knuckleheads we're ignoring that. I don't care if someone calls me the N-Word. I do on the other hand care if my kid's school doesn't get as much money as the whiter school down the road. I don't so much care if a lady crosses the street when I walk by but I do care if a cop pulls me over.  I don't care of the big wigs don't like me because I'm black but I do care if they think I'm too "urban" to give me a job. Law and money. Law and money.

Hell, my narrative of The Civil Rights Movement is it started because trains were refusing service, juries were refusing justice, and school districts were refusing books.  Bathrooms and water fountains were just the symbolic icing on the cake.

Anyway, a movie brokers no credit with me for reaffirming a belief I held not in question my entire life.

I must continually ask myself how racism affects my life knowing that it unquestionably does.

I've seen Night Catches Us, Ghosts of Mississippi,  Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Boys in the Hood, Raisin in the Sun, (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Django Unchained, and 12 Years a Slave are on my List)

Not to mention documentaries like 4 Little Girls, Murder on a Sunday Morning, The Pruitt Igoe Myth and The Black Power Mixtap.

Movies that examine the ramifications and nature of race and racism exist and have for a while. Films that delve deeper than saying it's bad and try to reveal something about it and ourselves. Regardless of the race of the audience. The lives of me and of every generation after me are depending on us to be smarter and tougher. To demand and fight for not just our shot but theirs and right now that's not about yelling about the slights of the past but building bridges to tomorrow's dawn.  I don't know how we do that but we need to have the stone cold courage to ask,  how do we fix it. How do we make it fair?

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