Hollywood’s Hypocrisy Spoils Oscars’ Message.

Hollywood had a clear message that they wanted to express during the Oscars. They beat every viewer over the head with it for three hours.

Diversity emboldens us. Empathy and tolerance bring us together. Fear only serves to divide us. And that we must resist.

Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the rise of President Trump set the stage for tonight’s award choices.  A  concerted effort was made to nominate diverse people and films. A record-setting number of black people won an Academy Award. The winner of Best Picture was not the heavily-favored and heavily-white La La Land, but the queer and black, Moonlight.

The same message was echoed in the speeches made by the Academy Award winners.

“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves, we are trying to show you, you and us, so thank you, thank you, this is for you.” said Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of Moonlight.

The director of The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, chose not to attend the Oscars due to the travel ban but left a statement to be read from him:

“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.”

Strong words that no reasonable person could find fault with. Not could they find fault with the message. But in some brief moments last night, Hollywood’s true smug elitist nature bubbled to the surface.

The first such moment came during actor Mark Rylance’s introduction for the Best Supporting Actress category.

“Opposition is really good in society… Sometimes, the most supportive thing is to oppose. Something women seem to be better at than men, is opposing without hatred.”

This was a sexist blanket statement. If the roles were reversed, people would be up in arms. The purpose here was to empower women which made it a good lead for the award, but he bashed men too. This statement was contrary to the message of the night.

Another brief lapse came during Viola Davis’s acceptance speech.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say,’“Exhume those bodies.’ Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. ”

The speech was impassioned, raw, and inspirational. But she also essentially that only she and her artist friends celebrated the human condition. She set herself above the common person. Struck me the wrong way.

And finally, during a long horrendously unfunny bit, Jimmy Kimmel brought out unsuspecting tourists to meet celebrities sitting in the front row. All the stars were laughing at the normal people showing up during their big award show.  As if the average person was something worth laughing at. The skit had no punchline to it other than that.

As the tourists awkwardly made their way past the celebrities,  Kimmel asked a young Asian tourist what her name was. She had to tell him twice as he struggled to pronounce it.

He then joked that it wasn’t a real name like her husband’s name, Patrick.

On a night when diversity was being celebrated.

 

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Back in Florida

Bang.

It’s Black History Month. I’ve opted to revisit a still healing wound that will surely be discussed as a part of Black History Month in the future.

The Shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Here are the first pictures that were released of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Neither of these pictures were them on the night of the shooting. These weren’t the most recent pictures. They had no bearing on the nature of either man’s actions the night of the shooting, but they had a tremendous impact on the public perception.

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zimmerman_mugshot

Initial new stories reported this as a shooting of a young black kid by a white man. I took one look at these pictures and did not believe for a second that Zimmerman was white. News outlets would go back and forth on Zimmerman’s race. It was here I became skeptical of all the information on every news station. If they couldn’t get Zimmerman’s race right, why would I believe anything else.

I didn’t want to jump the gun and make a judgement based on the first details. That did not stop other people. This story was and still is very divisive. New stations were split by party lines. Left-leaning stations leaned towards a conviction for Zimmerman whereas the right wanted to see him walk.

The way the story was playing it seemed to be this. Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin after a police operator told him to stop because he suspected him of being a burglar. He proceeded, there was a scuffle and then he shot the boy dead.

I still remained neutral for months while that narrative played.I knew how I was supposed to feel; vehemently enraged like all my friends on social media. Anger . I was indifferent. Might be because I’m a strange fellow who reads crime statistics and watches police training videos in his spare time. It was hard for this one death to emotionally disturb me when so many people get shot and die in Chicago on a random weekend. What was there to be enraged about? The racial element seemed forced to me. The justice system is most certainly racist. Just look at the differences in prison sentences between crack cocaine and regular cocaine. But I couldn’t see it here.

Something didn’t seem right. Why would a would-be murderer call the police? Why would he wait for the police to get there? How did the boy and he end up fighting? If he was But then Until this picture came out.

WQDwSF3

What do political affiliations have to do with his

Then I started to ask myself different questions.
What this kid got scared? Teens make brash decisions. Maybe he thought he could take this guy. Then he attacked him brutally. And the man turned his gun on him. What if he was justified? What if it had been self defense? I wanted more information. I was dying for it. It was almost like waiting for the next book in a long- running fantasy series.

You didn’t have to wait long. This was a national story for months. New developments came out daily. Every little bit of information was scrutinized and delivered to the public. I watched at least five different pundits analyze whether Zimmerman said “fucking coons” or “fucking cold”. Ratings were through the roof for this saga. The cynic in me wonders if news stations covered this so extensively for the money rather than to fulfill their purpose of bringing out the truth.

There was a trial. That gave us this picture.

Zimmerman

Where you are for or against Zimmerman you have to admit, he has a great smile.

So Zimmerman was acquitted. I expected him to be. There was so much controversy surrounding the events, that I knew the burden of proof was too much for the prosecution. They had to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Zimmerman committed second-degree murder. And that couldn’t be done. Witness testimonies changed. Zimmerman couldn’t keep his story completely straight. The other half of the story was gone with Trayvon.

I was indifferent like earlier. I saw on CNN and MSNBC, people being interviewed. Lots of people crying and saying justice wasn’t served today. Why did this trial mean so much to them?

It was as if people projected all of the hopes and dreams of all black children unto Trayvon Martin. Like when Zimmerman shot him, he shot every black child. And when Zimmerman walked, he got away with killing that potential.

I still do not see the race here other than what was tossed in by the media on both sides. This was a simple case. Two people made mistakes. One was paranoid. One was young. They both should have walked away. But one didn’t. All that noise about skittles, hoodies, and iced tea was just that. Noise.

I was made furious by the coverage after the acquittal. The injustice of Trayvon Martin’s shooting was compared to Emmett Till.

Emmett Till was dragged out of a house, beaten to death, wrapped in barbed wire and then weighed down with a cotton gin to keep him from floating. All for a whistle at one white woman. To compare the two is unacceptable.

What fascinates me now is the martyrdom of Trayvon Martin. A mother spoke about her son’s killer being convicted. She said this was a victory for all black children like Trayvon Martin who didn’t get justice. That’s what he’s going to be now.

It reminds me of the case of Rodney King.

In school, Rodney King was portrayed as this hero. He was attacked by these cops and it led to L.A. Riots. I found out the truth behind Rodney King after leaving college. He was a scumbag. He sped away from the police while drunk-driving all to avoid violating his parole. That didn’t justify that beating, the cops were pieces of shit too. Rodney King was no hero. But he’s painted like one in history books. Trayvon Martin will be too.

Why are we so quick to create heroes and villains? To put things into black and white? Why does grey scare us so?

Race Swap

“Kingpin isn’t black! Man! They screwed it up! I ain’t watching that crap!
-my cousin twelve years ago upon seeing Daredevil‘s first trailer.

Movie adaptations can’t be wholly accurate representations of the source work. Everything cannot go in. Your favorite passage will not make it into the script. It’s the nature of adaptation to the screen. But once things like races start changing, you raise your eyebrow.

If you’re a diehard fan, you might have the same reaction my cousin did upon seeing a character’s race swapped.

No! They can’t even get the character’s races, right?! This movie is doomed! They’ve soiled it!

The casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four had a small backlash. I see why someone would be skeptical of those in charge when characters’ history is being messed with.

something completely different.bmp

I’m ambivalent towards race swapping.

I try to wait and see the performance before making a rash judgement.

I wasn’t a fan of the changing of Johnny Storm but keeping Sue white. They’re blood brother and sister. The cynic in me thought the powers that be wanted their blonde love interest while still being able to reach the “urban” demographic. But I’ve since decided to give him a chance rather than root against him.

I’m peculiar about race swapping. I had no gripes with making Samuel L. Jackson into Nick Fury. There was a basis in the comics for it. But I hated when the races from Avatar: The Last Airbender were changed in Last Airbender. I refused to see it.

That’s the odd thing about race swapping. It’s a violation of a minority character when you turn them white, but swapping white people for minorities is okay. Why is that?

Black Enough

“For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person. It’s a dirty, dark secret in the black community.”

-Charles Barkley

Last week Charles Barkley dropped this little tirade on the black community. He responded to a rumor that supposedly Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, was considered not black enough by his fellow teammates and that had led to a rift between him and his teammates. Though that rumor was later confirmed to be false by Russell Wilson, I believe Charles Barkley is right on the money with his comments. I’ve been through what he’s talking about.

You speak properly. You do your homework. You don’t make any trouble. And then you get slammed with

“You want to be like them!”

“Think you’re better than the rest of us.”

“You’re not black.”

It got to a point where I would shrug my shoulders in response. I didn’t get what these black people wanted from me. What did I need to prove to them to be really black? What was being “black enough”? I just accepted it. Guess I’m not black then. Guess I’m an Oreo whatever that is.

It took me a long time to realize that those black people didn’t own the black identity nor did they have the right to decide who was black and who wasn’t. They didn’t get to tell me what I am. I defined me.

Barkley’s comments reminded me of Rob Parker’s inquisition into RGIII’s blackness from a few years ago.

For those of you who don’t know Rob Parker, he was a sports analyst on ESPN. One day he went after the quarterback on the Washington Redskins, questioning his blackness. You can see his very ignorant comments in the video below.

Is this only a black thing? Do white people deal with other whites saying they aren’t white enough? Or Latinos? Asians?

Who are these blackness investigators? Where do they come from? Who appointed them to check out and measure blackness? Is there a committee I don’t know about that deals with this? Where do they get their criteria for blackness from?

These investigators always seem to go after any black person having success. Like achieving in life is a sign that you’re likely to stop being black. They never evaluate the blackness of criminals and thugs.

I never heard anything like,

“You just got out of jail for the same shit you went in for? I’m not sure you’re really black then.”

or

“You failed class because you skipped? That’s not very black of you.”

A black man who’s a criminal is accepted. He’s fine. The black community accepts you.

A black man with a white fiance busting his ass everyday trying to live his dream? They’re going to start looking into your blackness. You might not be black enough. You might just be an “Uncle Tom” or “Oreo”. Maybe you’ll be deemed an “honorary white”.

Interesting double standard.

Why do some black people need to make another person’s racial integrity their business? It’s not helping anyone. They’re creating a bigger problem. Smart black children could be dissuaded from higher education because of this sentiment. I’ve overheard children teasing one another about doing homework and studying. Is that what we want?

Why is there this belief that if you don’t fit a certain mold, you’re not black? Is it because certain blacks equate success with selling out their race? Do they think that to be black means you have to suffer? You have to be poor? You have to be married to a black woman?

In the video, Rob Parker gives a vague definition of what being black is. Not having a white fiance, not voting Republican, being down with the “cause” and having dreads.

If some black dude wants to vote republican, then he should be able to without being bothered. If some black guy doesn’t want to have dreads, he shouldn’t have to worry about losing black points. If some black woman wants to marry a white man, there should be no problem. The thing that these blackness investigators forget to realize is that the black experience can’t be ripped away from someone.

You can question their racial integrity but you can’t change how that person feels when they’re pulled over by the police. You can’t take away the eyes staring at their every move when they walk into a 7/11 at night. You can’t make them feel any more comfortable when someone says “you’re better than those other blacks”. You can’t kick them out of the race just because they live their life different than yours.

You can’t.

They’ll always be black and you can’t do anything about it.

The Black Identity.

Is it a desirable thing to be “black”? Should it be? Should people be proud of their skin tone?

Then again, being black is a lot more than just a skin tone. People care a lot more about a particular complexion more than they care about the color of your shirt. There’s people with dark skin who aren’t considered black. As it stand now, It’s a form of identifying yourself. It’s a subculture.  It’s not an identity you can get rid of. (unless you happen to have light skin and never tell anyone about your ethnicity). For the most part, You can’t wake up and say, I don’t want to be black anymore. It’s not like your clothes which you can change. It’s a permanent status even beyond the grave when your skin is long gone. You’ll still be black then.

What does “black” actually mean?

It used to mean that you were three-fifths of  a human and happy to be enslaved. It was to your benefit.

It also used to mean that you were a violent,white woman raping, subhuman or if you were a woman you were a promiscuous sex desiring subhuman whore.

That’s not the meaning given to blacks these days.  It’s hard to describe it. Before just being black meant you couldn’t have a lot of things. Today you can have most things. America has tried to make being not as much as inconvenience as it used to be in the past. Now blacks can intermingle with all the races.

You would think after integration, skin tone wouldn’t matter. Isn’t that what we’re aiming for? We don’t want people to be discriminated against because they look a certain way.

But that’s not the case. Blacks still very much have a black identity.

Now close your eyes for a minute. (After reading the next sentence.)

I want you to picture in your head, the average American.

Now I want you to do the same and imagine the average black person.

Compare and contrast this.

There’s a certain way that people think black people act despite our integration. In high school, whenever I would eat chicken, somebody always made a “funny” joke.

I think those kind of jokes are fine. I’m not offended by them , but they made me notice something. I had a friend who would eat chicken everyday and nobody every made jokes about him. The difference between us? Skin tone. If I wasn’t black, I would have been treated differently. They saw me as a black man first and a person second.

I’m not saying that they thought I was inferior or that they hated black people. They didn’t. However I was treated differently. I’d have friends who’d make the comment that I wasn’t like other black people. Or that I acted “white”.

They had an idea of what black people were.  Black people acted a certain way. They dressed a certain way and they did certain things. If you step out of line of these assumptions, then you’re different.

I was told by some people in high school that I was their only black friend. I could never tell how to take this statement. Is that a good thing? Should they get more black friends?

Another example.

When I walk around my college campus, random black people I have never met, say hello to me if I make eye contact. Why do they do this? I would never have done the same to a stranger. Students of other skin tones don’t do the same.

Here’s another.

I frequent a wrestling discussion board. One of the prominent posters put up a picture of himself. Some of the posters were shocked that he was black. Why were they shocked? Why did they think that he wasn’t black beforehand?

This idea of being black has always bothered me. My mother tells me that I need to get more black friends. She tells me that it would be a good thing for me. Am I missing out on something by not completely embracing my black identity? I’ve never taken much pride in it. It’s just there.  I’d include it on a top ten list of things I can identify myself by, but that’s only because it’s hard to come up with ten things.

If I had to join a club and the options were black or wrestling fan, I’d pick wrestling fan over black.

Am I missing out on some great thing?