Those Interracial Right Wingers

Part two of the interracial Cheerios commercial was released for the Super Bowl, and of course, it’s adorable.

Of course, this was seen as yet another opportunity to pointlessly race-bait by MSNBC, which released this now deleted tweet.

Eventually, MSNBC apologized which is a minor victory in itself.

But they didn’t apologize before they had pissed off a lot of interracial conservative families, prompting this twitter hashtag # MyRightWingBiracialFamilyThat brings us round to the Volokh Conspiracy law blog, now run by the Washington Post.  In the post, New Evidence on the political views of mixed-race adopted and step-families, they break down the data on mixed race families using the GSS data, one of the largest social science surveys on the US population.  In fact some bloggers do nothing but mine the GSS data for interesting tidbits, so just about any sort of social science query on Americans can be teased out if you have patience and a familiarity with statistical methods.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.  The gist is that there is virtually no statistical difference between liberal and conservative mixed race families.

“Thus, there is no evidence in the GSS data that Republican, conservative, or conservative Republicans who were living with step-children or adopted children were less likely to live in mixed-race households than Democrats, liberals, liberal Democrats, or moderate Democrats in adopted or step-families.  Indeed, in each instance the point estimates for living in a mixed-race household were insignificantly higher for the right side of the spectrum than for the left side.

This is not really a surprise, unless of course you work at MSNBC.

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The Real White Privilege

Representative Charlie Rangel, joined noted Zimmerman trial witness Rachel “Dee-Dee” Jeantel, in bringing racial slurs to the forefront of American consciousness once again.  Of course they’re not the only ones, but the term “Cracker” is getting quite the workout lately in the American media.  In discussing the Tea Party, Rangel said:

Rangel

Rangel (Photo credit: Georgetown Voice)

“It is the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police. They didn’t care about how they looked,” 

Leaving the Tea Party aspect of it aside, I’m fascinated that the word cracker is getting so much of a recent work out in recent public statements.  It’s generated a great deal of online commentary, revolving around is it a racial slur, is it a good racial slur, and should white people be offended by that racial slur?

When it comes to racial slurs, there is still a disparate impact between the use of what is now euphemistically referred to as the “N Word,” and virtually every other attempted racial slur.  For Paula Deen, the use of the N Word 30 years ago effectively ended her career.  For Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, he’s removed himself from the team and is now seeking counseling.  Yes that’s right, counseling.

Of course there are a few outliers.  Tim Allen recently gave an interview in which he argued that as a comedian, he should be allowed to say the N Word.  At least so far, there seem to be little major reaction.  Allen’s TV show, Last Man Standing, was renewed for another season.  No Michael Richards treatment for him.

Rangel or anyone using the term cracker is just something I cannot seem to get worked up about.  The truth is, there are not any good racial insults for white people.  Oh there is quite a list of different terms, but they have all of the effectiveness of a wet firecracker.  Oops, there’s that word cracker again.  I was born in Georgia, and that was practically a State nickname.  My father called me a Georgia Cracker when I was growing up there, and has yet to appear on the Today Show to give a sobbing an incoherent apology for it.

I think when it comes to derogatory racial slurs for whites; this is an area in which black people just cannot compete on an even playing field. As a white person, I just can’t be racially insulted. Cracker? Sorry Charlie (Rangel). I remember during the 1970′s TV sitcoms tried to tell us that honky was a racial slur, but I laughed and laughed whenever George Jefferson would call a white person honky. So call me an Ofay honky cracker if you want, I’ll just laugh.  It just sounds funny.

Rangel could have spewed the term with all the ugliness, hate and vitriol of any KKK’er, and it still would have been more funny than insulting. Calling him the N-word however, would have probably been an emotional kick in the gut to him. So it’s not a fair fight. There isn’t a racial slur from his arsenal of hate that would affect me in the slightest, other than amuse me, but he’s a powerful Congressman, and the lowliest white guy, even a hobo or prisoner in lock-up, could emotionally wreck him with a few slurs.

That’s the real white privilege.

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What hath Trayvon Wrought?

I was not planning on writing about the Martin-Zimmerman saga again.  For one thing, I just wasn’t that into it.  I had the normal amount of public interest in the story, and since it was a local one, it’s always interesting to watch your local area mischaracterized by the national press.  But it wasn’t an obsession for me and I thought my previous post would be my last take on the subject.

Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But post verdict, the issue refused to die.  My twitter feed, my Facebook news feed, my web forums, and my television news are all filled with the results of the post verdict world, and it is not pretty.  The MSM is insisting that this is racial issue, with Trayvon now elevated into the exalted ranks of civil rights martyrs such as Emmitt Till and James Chaney.  The New York Times, which basically functions as the editor to every newspaper and TV newsroom in the country, has declared it a racial issue.  So by the preponderance of noise, if not reason or evidence; it’s a racial issue.

And what made George Zimmerman the 21st Century Bull Connor and George Wallace combined?

He mentored black children in the neighborhood;

He tried to raise awareness of police ignoring the beating of a black man;

He took a black girl to the prom;

He had a black business partner;

He was a registered Democrat and Obama supporter;

and was part black himself.

So George Zimmerman, who told family members he supported Obama for President because he wanted to end the Presidency as a club for white men, found himself declared a white man, and a racist one to boot, even being slandered by innuendo by the very President he supported.  Of course, someone could have an item or two off of that check list and still be a racist, but all of them, with no actual proof otherwise?

Considering that there are actual racial crimes that occur on a regular basis, what made the press champion this phony racial issue?

I think it’s all due to Al Sharpton, the most powerful media influence in America.  The fact that he is so powerful is fairly amazing.  He hosts a low rated show on a low rated network, but was able to galvanize a nation into following his racial witch hunt all the way to Sanford, Florida.  And why did Sharpton pick that case, when there is an abundance of real racial cases to choose from?

That requires knowing a little something of Sharpton’s history, and as someone who has been a Sharpton follower since the Tawana Brawley debacle, Sharpton has created quite a reputation as a fraud and huckster, and an anti Semitic one as well.

So I think, and let me emphasize that this is just speculation, that Sharpton’s interest was piqued when he heard the name Zimmerman.  I think Sharpton intended to create Crown Heights all over again. Of course, even though Zimmerman turned out not to be Jewish, he apparently could still stand in for white, and he was presented as such, leading the New York Times to include the term “White Hispanic” in its style book;  apparently with a picture of George Zimmerman by the phrase.

So Sharpton, along with MSM, set up a fake racial issue, and have promulgated it fairly successfully for the past year, with really no effective counter narrative.  They’ve managed to increase racial division in this country and seem to intend on continuing it as long as possible. For liberal whites, it serves as a vehicle to drive their agenda, which is increased gun control and elimination of legal protections for self defense.  And what do Black people get out of this?  Anger, hurt, and distrust of their fellow Americans.

Not a great bargain in my opinion.

And the biggest outrage of them all?  The Justice Department is setting up an email address to receive tips to assist in the George Zimmerman investigation.  Now, given that the criminal trial is already over, what “tips” could the Justice Department be seeking?  Why, to charge Zimmerman with Federal Civil Rights violations. And to do that,  they need evidence that Zimmerman is racist.  So if Zimmerman used the N-word in Middle School, he could find himself indicted for felony charges.

So the entire weight of the Federal government is going after one guy to see if he told a racist joke at any point in his life.  If he did, it better be one about gringos.

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L’affaire Zimmerman

Now that the verdict is in, I feel I need to take responsibility and admit I was wrong.  When the name Zimmerman first became a household word in March of last year, I correctly predicted that Zimmerman would be indicted, however I also felt, up until last night, that he would be convicted.  So I was surprised to  see “Not Guilty” on Drudge.  Given that I’ve had a pretty good track record in outguessing the experts, I have to concede that even a stopped expert can be right twice a day.  Although the “system” seemed to work in a judicial sense, justice was never the purpose of the trial; it was intended to be a revolutionary court that would find Zimmerman guilty of racism in the first degree.

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

The ironic thing is that like most revolutionary courts, eventually they turn on, and eat, their own.  Zimmerman was an Obama supporter, and was as much a wanna-be community organizer as a wanna-be cop.  Just like Paula Deen, an Obama supporter, found herself voted most buttery racist in America.  So now, Deen is the symbol of genteel Southern racism and Zimmerman is now the number one creepy ass racist cracker in the country.

This was never a case about doughy neighborhood watchman who shot a teenager in the heart and claimed self defense, this has always been a case a Black kid shot by Hispanic guy who was standing in for White.  Race has been the only aspect of this case that made it a national story.  It’s colored (yes, pun intended of course) the view of the two actors in our little racial drama.  There was St. Skittles, the honor student who was viciously attacked by a cop wanna-be, who was angry that these “assholes, they always get away.”  Or, there was Community Activist George Zimmerman, who cared about his community and tried to get justice from the Sanford Police Department after they tried to cover up the beating of a black man who found himself threatened one rainy night by no_limit_nigga, a thug wanna-be who jumped Zimmerman, knocked him down, and told him that, you’re gonna die tonight.”

At this point in the narrative, it’s customary to ask rhetorically, which is true?  Both?  Neither?  Actually it doesn’t matter.  Since this is strictly a racial issue, you pick a side and adopt their arguments.   You don’t need to worry about the truth, that’s already been picked out for you.  And if revolutionary courts don’t do the job, then on to Holder’s Justice Department to once again inflict double jeopardy on a new defendant.  Between a Justice Department civil rights investigation, and civil suit, Zimmerman’s trial isn’t over, the trials of George Zimmerman are just beginning.

To you, Tom Wolfe, who correctly predicted the template of racial “justice!”

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Obama Wins; the Republic Loses

On the one hand, I should be happy that I called it right once again.  Months ago I predicted that Obama would win and I was right.  But on the other hand…Obama won.

The practical effects of that election are that Obamacare, with all of the costs and “unintended” consequences, is here to stay.  To me, this election was a referendum on Obamacare, so I am disappointed in what I see will be the declining state of healthcare in the country. So over the course of the next few years the cost of health care will go up and its quality will decline.  That’s the perfect mixture to lead to Obamacare Part II: Single payer.

But that’s for the future.  For now, the biggest take away is that not that this was just a win for a Democratic incumbent by a rather large margin, but it was the first of what will be the new normal in American national elections:  The triumph of identify politics.

Of course identity politics are nothing new.  That’s been around a long time, but we are entering a new era.  President Obama’s campaign strategy, as leaked by Thomas Edsall on the pages of the New York Times last year.

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

Considering that working class whites have been the mainstay of the Democratic Party since the New Deal, this was quite a startling change in campaign strategy.  But the results speak for themselves.  You can win the White House without working class whites.  This isn’t really about demography though.  That is an issue, and I’ve already heard it discussed on the post election babble on TV this morning.  As Chuck Todd said on Morning Joe this morning, “The demographic time bomb went off.” But that’s not what I’m talking about; it’s really about how we identify ourselves.

That lesson will revolutionize American politics for the future.  But I may have been among the last to pick up on the idea of whites as “the other” so I’m playing a bit of catch up.  I didn’t even know that white was now being used as a pejorative; at least culturally.  Politically it’s been going on for a while. That’s clear to the most casual viewer of MSNBC. Slate took the position that white men were out of step with the rest of America, with a 23 point gap between Romney and Obama among whites.   What’s up with those white people?  Why can’t they get with the program?

As the lamest, majority/minority in America, white people continue to both fascinate and repel the “normal” people of the country.  As a San Francisco Chronicle columnist put it, … older white males remain the most terrified, lopsided, confused demographic in all of America, perhaps even more acutely – and more embarrassingly –  in this election than any other in modern history.

It’s clear that since Obama carried only 39% of white voters, they are no longer necessary for a win.

Four years from now, as the demography of the United States changes, these trends will become more pronounced.  In the political process at least, whites will be just another minority vying for power among a coalition of other groups. Single white women are already their own tribe.  So what does that mean for our politics?   Even if Romney had won, it would have been the last gasp of an archaic idea in US politics; political parties that are more or less based on policy decisions and ideas and to a lesser degree, ideology and the left/right continuum   Eventually, I suspect that we will be voting according to our ethnic, gender, and sexual preferences.  In other words, our politics will become more tribal.

This has been Democratic standard operating procedures for decades, but the Republican Party has mostly (not entirely) managed to avoid direct appeal to ethnic loyalties.  But it was a doomed policy.  General appeals to all Americans left out those who identified by ethnicity first.  Decades of multiculturalism have taught the country that ethnicity was first.  Eventually leaving a Republican party left with those who didn’t think of themselves as having an identity beyond their American national identity.

So the Republicans became the political party of white people.

That’s fairly standard outside of the first world nations that have representative governments.  Political parties are drawn along tribal lines and politics is a game of acquiring wealth, status, and patronage through the political process for the winning political party; which is really a surrogate for a tribal or ethnic group or a coalition of ethnic groups.  But that’s the lowest level of the political process, and our politics is reverting to it.  Our democracy is becoming less advanced, not more.

There will be lots of Republican weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth for the upcoming weeks, with the usual cast of “experts” giving their opinions that the Republican Party is too far right, and needs to change.  But we had in Mitt Romney one of the most moderate Republican candidates in decades, and in him a candidate who was competent and qualified.  He was just in the wrong tribe.

So for the long term big picture, Identity politics will have more to with who supports what party then any public policies, programs, or ideology.  Anyone who has studied anything about post colonial third world democracies knows what that looks like, and it’s not pretty.

We are all hyphens now.

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Blood Will Tell

Columnist Mark Steyn has had a lot of fun with the latest Elizabeth Warren mini-scandal, dubbing her Fauxcahontas.”  So with that, most of the good lines have already been taken on the story about Warren identifying herself as Native American for affirmative action purposes on supposed 1/32nd Native ancestry based on “family lore.”  So I can’t top Fauxcahontas, but I can relate how this is a deeply personal story for me.  Like Elizabeth Warren, I too am Native American.  In fact, based on my family’s lore, I’m twice the Indian Elizabeth Warren is, since I supposedly have 1/16th Indian ancestry.

And before anyone says anything about my use of the word Indian, remember that’s our word.  I’m taking it back.  You palefaces can continue to refer to us based on the previously approved PC list.

Elizabeth Warren, Chairman of the Congressiona...

Elizabeth Warren, Chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel; Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Cherokee Indian Princess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to my family’s lore, my great-great grandmother on my mother’s side was a Cherokee Indian Princess.  I’ve been astonished with the amount of royalty the various Indian tribes got away with in those days.  Practically everyone I’ve met who has claimed Native ancestry has claimed it through an “Indian Princess.”  Three fourths of the Native population east of the Mississippi prior to the Trail of Tears must have been an Indian Princess. With so much of the population as female royalty, no wonder my people were pushed out of the East.  Too few warriors and too many princesses.  And those Indian Princesses must have really had a thing for Scot-Irish mountain hillbilly types.  I guess they were the bad boys of the 1800’s.

However, unlike Elizabeth Warren, I’ve never tried to exploit the suffering of my people to procure employment, as Warren apparently did as she professor shopped from one diversity starved University to another.  In fact, this story neatly ties in to the Derrick Bell story of two months ago.  Not that it was a new story, only the knowledge of the depth of President Obama’s previous relationship with Bell was new.  But as the Harvard Crimson related in 1998:

Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American. The racial makeup of the HLS Faculty has been an issue before as well: in 1989, Harvard dismissed Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell after 18 years of teaching because the noted expert on race and law refused to end his leave in protest of the absence of minority women on HLS faculty.

So Professor Bell did get his wish, more minority women on staff.  Or at least woman. That woman was Native American Elizabeth Warren.

But unlike Warren, I’ve never tried to exploit my people and culture to get a job that wouldn’t have otherwise has been offered.  Instead, I’ve played the Peter Principle to navigate the job market.  But Warren, or as she is known by her Indian name, She-who-fakes-bankruptcy-studies, has tried to have it both ways.  Indian when moving up the academic ladder, then white when she reached the top of her field.

What’s astounding to me is that Harvard doesn’t seem to be the least bit embarrassed about its blond affirmative action hire.   What a world we live in.  Elizabeth Warren is  Indian enough to get jobs because of 1/32nd blood ties, but George Zimmerman, who is 1/8th black, is a White Neo Nazi killing machine.

Unfortunately, these race differences really matter to our society.  If George Zimmerman had looked like the son Obama never had, we most likely would never had heard of him.  And Elizabeth Warren, who looked as much (or as little) Indian as I do, parleys herself a minority hire.  As the old Jim Crow one drop rule comes back into vogue, in a new, weird way, “content of our character” seems to becoming less and less a goal and more of a distraction from counting tiny droplets of blood.  Maybe someday we’ll all need to have our DNA encoded on our ID cards, not for health reasons, but to make sure we qualify for every discount and set aside we’re eligible for.

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Policing the Racists

The political blogosphere was both atwitter and Twitter over the firing of John Derbyshire from National Review this weekend.  Not for nothing though.  Derbyshire posted a column last Thursday on the Taki’s Magazine website called, “The Talk: Nonblack version.”  Due to the Trayvon Martin shooting hysteria, much has been made of The Talk in the national media.  The Talk, as defined by the New York Times (where I go to find out what being black in America is like) is, “the one that has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with what it means to be a black teenager in a country with a history of regarding young black men as a threat. The talk about standing up straight, dressing the part, keeping your hands in sight at all times and never, ever letting your anger get the best of you.

That’s not bad advice for anyone, particularly when dealing with law enforcement, but that sort of talking to is totally unlike Derbyshire’s version; which consists of “guidance” to his children.  A sample of such advice consists of:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

If you want to read the whole thing, you can go to the website, but I think you get the idea, but the one that particularly bothered me was this:

Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black.

By the most standard definitions of racism, that’s racist.

On the face of it, Derbyshire was probably conflating IQ with intelligence, a mistake that is its own whole area of social commentary.  Although the IQ/Intelligence topic is worth reviewing, it’s not necessary to read Derbyshire’s mean spiritedness in this piece.  This wasn’t meant as a joke or parody, Derbyshire was being serious.  In probably the only bit of actual reporting ever done by the website Think Progress, they actually contacted Derbyshire to check if he meant it as some kind of parody.  Rather than taking the opportunity to back off of his harsh column, he double downed on it, “I’d call it social commentary.”  More to the point, Derbyshire wasn’t hiding from the accusation of being a racist, he admitted it.

Given that, I would say National Review had no choice.  NR editor Rich Lowery posted a comment disavowing Derbyshire’s piece Friday night and by Saturday posted another comment letting him go from the magazine staff.  Lowery gave a pretty clear eyed reason:

“His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways.”

This wasn’t about political correctness, but about letting one writer’s racism contaminate the reputation of the National Review, and by extension, the conservative movement.  I think National Review did the right thing in letting Derbyshire go. One of the ways that William F. Buckley, founder of the magazine and probably the godfather of modern American conservatism, helped make conservatism a legitimate force in American politics again was by pushing out the conspiracy nuts and other cranks that contributed nothing to the movement but bad press.

Without Buckley and his cleaning up of conservatism, there would have been no Reagan, and Obama’s current (public) views would now be considered center right.

The left had a field day with Derbyshire’s appearance at CPAC. How much more of that crap does the right need to allow? It’s not as though the right controls the message, the left does since they control the media.   That’s why the left not only doesn’t need, but just doesn’t’ police their own.  They are immune from the kookiness of their fringe nuts.  It’s why the media will drumbeat their coverage of Republican birthers, even though birtherism originated with the pro-Hillary Democrats.  Meanwhile, during the Bush administration more than half of Democrats believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, but since they also control the media, it never taints them.

Unfair or not, it’s the way it is so it falls on the right to be diligent in making sure that we police our racists and conspiracy theorists.  So Derbyshire can continue to write what he wants, where he wants, but just not under the banner of the National Review.

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There’s a Lynch Mob Down South…

…and by down south, I mean Sanford Florida, which is south of me, about 10 minutes away.  So the Trayvon Martin issue was a local news item several weeks before it became an international one.  But the character of the tragedy has changed over time:

SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Investigators with the Sanford Police Department are still trying to figure out exactly what happened during an altercation which resulted in a fatal shooting in the Twin Lakes area.   The shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday evening on Twin Trees Lane.  A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted authorities.

“The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911,” said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

John said he locked his patio door ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.

“And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point.”

So in this eyewitness version, the attacker was the one who ended up dead, and Zimmerman was the one crying for help.  That leads me to think there is ample reason for the police to at least take seriously a possible self defense angle and it makes sense that the police would investigate this thoroughly before either making an arrest or closing the case. But as far as the mass media is concerned, there has only ever been one issue in this case: race.  Of course, this incident occurred almost a month ago.  And apparently it’s not nearly as good a story as the one that the media decided to run with. The news coverage this week has had quite a different flavor.  Over the top is more like it.

The big tent of this particular circus is MSNBC, (Leaning Leftward!).  Today hosting on the Martin Bashir Show, Karen Finney, frequent MSNBC guest, went into what seemed to be a prepared monologue in which she blamed both Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for the climate that lead to Trayvon’s death. Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski went out of her way to blame the shooting on Rush Limbaugh.  Also on Thursday she stated that that if Zimmerman was bloodied and disheveled, he probably did it to himself.  Great police work there Mika!

The entire coverage of this incident has resembled much more peasants lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks than actual coverage.  Of course, there are motives.  Hysteria is a good sell, but the racial issue warps our attention away from facts to make this issue only about race.  For some on the MSNBC payroll, like Al Sharpton, racial rabble rousing is his career.  Even though he is responsible for more dead bodies than George Zimmerman, Sharpton can be expected to ride this to even more influence.

The basic facts of the case don’t seem to make this a racial issue, but everyone wants it to be.  However the basic facts no longer matter. Usually, the US has a fairly adequate, if by no means perfect, justice system.  However when it comes to race, everything goes out the window.  Race makes us lose our damn minds.  That’s why Casey Anthony can get a fair trial and get acquitted (even though we all know she did it), but the police who beat Rodney King were given a second trial in violation of constitutional protections against double jeopardy to make sure the second trial gave the “right” verdict.

This isn’t an attempt to excuse Zimmerman.  The minute he decided to follow Martin after the 911 dispatcher told him not to, he was in the wrong.  The problem with police wannabes like Zimmerman is that they do tend to attract police attention one way or the other.  Even if Martin later turned around and attacked Zimmerman for some unknown reason, the whole thing could have been avoided if Zimmerman had just sat in his car.  He didn’t and now a teenage boy is dead.

It would be easy to get on the bandwagon and demand Zimmerman’s head on a pike.  That is what all the cool kids are doing.  However I’m perfectly content to see what the investigation uncovers.  I’ve no desire to join the other villagers in burning down the windmill until we have more facts, instead of inaccurate ranting from MSNBC hosts.  Ultimately though, it may not matter what facts are uncovered.  We’ve moved beyond mere facts now.

Meanwhile, as Sanford has its own bonfire of the vanities, I expect Tim Wolfe will write the nonfiction version of this story. Another thing I’m sure of is that Zimmerman will be indicted for something; anything.

The mob demands it.

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Avatar in Black and White (and Blue)

Avatar_Neytiri
Image by gunthert via Flickr

Christmas Day found my mother in law insisting that we all go to the movies to see Avatar; specifically the IMAX 3D version, but the IMAX Theater was all the way across town… whahh….  I was not averse to seeing the movie, far from it.  It was a movie I was waiting for.  But I would have been happy to see just the regular movie version much closer to where I live.

But… I would have been wrong.  Seeing that movie, in IMAX and 3D, is the only way to see it.  The movie’s raison d’etre is after all, visuals.  That’s the big selling point; something that looks fantastic on screen that you’ve never seen before.  On that basis, the movie fulfilled the hype.  The visuals are lush, fantastic, and certainly something much beyond what I’m used to seeing on the screen. It provides the perfect beauty of a painting with the realism of … well real life.  The visuals of the movie are art, in and of itself.

As for the story… well if you’ve already seen the movie, you know it.  In fact, if you haven’t seen the movie, you still know it.  It’s pulled intact from Hollywood’s grab bag of twenty or thirty standard movie plots.  If you’ve seen any Hollywood movies in your life time, then you’ve already seen this one.  Dances with Aliens is a pretty succinct description.  But good story telling is good story telling.  I enjoyed the movie immensely even knowing how the story would play out.  Knowing the formula doesn’t necessarily ruin a movie for me.  The fun is the journey.

But I didn’t see much more than that.  Good popcorn type fun, but others saw much more into the movie than I did.  Science Fiction author Steven Barnes, who wrote about the movie at the author’s website, had a more unique viewof the movie, If Spike Lee had directed Avatar?  Although that seems to be a subject ripe for a Mad Magazine satire, to Barnes it brought up issues of light skinned Na’vi lording over the darker blue skinned ones.  I didn’t even notice if there were various shades of blue among the alien Na’vi.  My view of a Spike Lee directed Avatar would have included the Na’vi calling each other “motherfucker” a lot and including an ending that would be totally incomprehensible to me.

But what really struck me was a finally throw away line at the end of the piece:

Oh…and if Spike had directed Avatar, there would have been at least one black male character to identify with. Say…the other Avatar scientist? Maybe one of the support staff?

What made me marvel a bit at this line is that after watching the movie, I never realized nor had it occurred to me that there were no black characters in the film.  True Zoe Saldana was one of the major characters of the film, but she was in blueface for the entire film so her film character was that of the alien Neytiri.  Anyway, she’s Dominican so it’s unclear to me if she regards herself as Hispanic or as Black.  That’s a whole nuther kettle of fish.

But Barnes comment was a reminder to me of how on a day to day basis that white people are isolated from race.  In America, we live in a white world.  If you’re white in the US, you just don’t have to think about race that much.  If I turn on the TV, I don’t worry about finding someone on the screen to identify with.  Firstly, because there is no one like me, and secondly, being able to live so removed from race and racial issues, the odds are against me not finding a “character to identify with.”  For Barnes, the issue is probably in his face on an almost daily basis.

Thanks to the television of Norman Lear, I grew up watching shows with predominately black casts, such as The Jefferson’s, Sanford and Son, and Good Times.  At least as a child, I had no problem identifying with the characters.  But television, like me, grew up.  Television expanded from 4 or 5 channels in a metropolitan area to 30, 40, then 70 or more channels on cable television, not counting digital channels.  Thirty or forty years ago, everyone, black and white, watched the same shows.  Now both the television and movie audience is much more segregated.  There is a channel for every taste, and ethnic and racial group.  We are gaining in choice, but we are clearly losing something else.  Perhaps a common popular culture?

But maybe, just maybe, there was more to James Cameron’s vision than a casting oversight.  Among the “human” cast, actors Dileep Rao (Dr. Max Patel), Sigourney Weaver (Grace Augustine), and Michelle Rodriguez (Judy Chacon) were the only “good guys” in the film.  Other than Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully, all of the “white” males were bad guys.  Women and Asians were the good guys.  Given Cameron’s politics, that was probably intentional.  It rather fits into the story and Cameron’s worldview.  Maybe Barnes should be glad that black males were left off this list, although in a broader sense, he may have brought up a good point.  One that I would never have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.

Most stories, but particularly in science fiction, require a sympathetic character that we need to identify with in order to be drawn into the story and to introduce whatever strange world we are being introduced to.  But how much does that sympathetic character need to be like us in order for us to really empathize with him or her?  Do they have to have the same skin tone, the same sex?  And if the movie doesn’t provide that, is it a slap in the face to the viewers who don’t look like our protagonist?

But I didn’t notice those things watching the film, but I’m pretty sure that if I had walked into that theater and every character had been black, I would have noticed.  The question I can’t answer is, would I have felt as excluded by that theoretical movie as Steven Barnes did from Avatar?

Maybe Spike Lee should take a crack at a remake…

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