Starbucks and Racism

This is yet another racist incident that I nearly avoided writing about. I read about the Starbucks incident that took place on April 12. Two black men had the police called on them by an employee. Once the police arrived, the black men were arrested for the crime of sitting in Starbucks without ordering anything.

The two men were waiting to meet another, and had the police called on them two minutes after arriving.

As always, any incident like this brings its fair share of outrage, but also the apologists. These are either the naive “colour-blind” people, who say they don’t see colour and think that no one else does. This naivete isn’t a harmless one, it is one that uses racist stereotypes and assumptions to defend pretty much any act of racism in today’s society etc. How were they dressed? If they just obeyed the law there’d be no issues…why is everybody so obsessed with race…

None of these excuses actually help to explain the incident, but they allow people who think they are enlightened to use the sweet crutch of denial to derail any conversation on lingering racism. If people can deny that the Unite the Right rally was racist, then they can definitely deny that this incident was due to racism.

Firstly, neither of the men were dressed in any threatening way. No gold teeth, low-hanging pants or hoodies.

So that’s one set of racist assumptions out of the way.

Next, people are pointing to the fact that the men didn’t pay anything. You can check this YouTube video for one comment after another saying that the men escalated the issue and brought it upon themselves for not paying for anything and asking to use the restroom. A company spokesperson said Starbucks doesn’t have a general policy of disallowing bathroom use if customers don’t pay, the company allows individual stores to set their rules on the matter. This can hopefully clear up the online debate from people like myself, who have been able to sit in a Starbucks for 30+ minutes reading and not buying anything without hassle, and the white people who say they have also been kicked out for not buying anything.

The specific store in question had a rule prohibiting bathroom use if you are not purchasing anything. Fair enough. If someone wants to use the bathroom and you say no, and then they advise they are waiting on someone, do you need to call the police? I heard a lot of people online saying the black men obviously escalated the situation, but if you watch the video you can’t hear much of the dialogue clearly and their body language doesn’t indicate they were trying to put up any serious fight with the police. It’s as if people tried to read lips or fill in the blanks with what they wanted to hear.

Also, the man that the two men were supposed to meet is present at the end of this video (another angle), so it’s not like they were lying about meeting someone.

This could have been avoided if the barista didn’t feel the need to call the tops 2 minutes into their entrance.

I notice that a fair amount of “black” (who knows with online comments) people are also jumping to defend Starbucks. This may be due to being Uncle Toms or just a less malicious desire not to be lumped with all the “libtards” or “race-baiters” getting bent out of shape. They want to be the cool black people, not the ones who get “offended by everything”. I can understand this desire. I had it before I went through quite a few racist experiences that slapped the naivete of out of me.

I don’t assume that because a particular racist incident didn’t happen to me, it can’t happen to anyone else. I used to think that being followed while I shop was something that couldn’t happen in Canada, until I went to SAQ in Hull. I have never been kicked out of a Starbucks for not buying anything, whether it was busy or not. Maybe my Starbucks’ locations had different rules, or maybe I was fortunate enough not to come across a racist barista.

In this day and age of people who defend racism and frame their hatred as an attack on “political correctness” it wouldn’t surprise me if people found a way to defend someone caught on video saying racist things to a person of colour. Then again, I don’t have to look far for proof.

What Racism Looks Like

Racism, unprovoked – but caught on camera.

Posted by AJ+ on Friday, January 1, 2016

Read the comments and see how far people go to deny, downplay or outright defend racism. One of the top ones at the moment is someone posting a link to a video asking “Why are we still talking about racism?” The answer: Because it is still alive and well. It is not as blatant as it once was. We have people like those who marched in the Unite the Right rally, but we also have people with “black friends” whose heads are filled with racist assumptions and stereotypes. These people become cops, teachers, jurors and employers.

Eli Roth and Inglorious Basterds

I watched Inglorious Basterds again last night. It was probably my third time seeing the film, while it was my friend’s first, and their first time seeing a Tarantino film. I figured I would get them started with the film that is still my favourite Tarantino epic.

Like the first viewing, Brad Pitt’s accent is almost campy but I am still able to tolerate it.

What I couldn’t tolerate was Eli Roth’s performance as Donny Donowitz a.k.a. “The Bear Jew”. Roth’s performance is just a object lesson on overacting. He doesn’t have that many lines but manages to make you cringe with most of them. There are literally two lines out of twelve that are actually delivered well. Roth doesn’t have the excuse of being hampered by an accent or any other affectation that makes his job harder.

Roth’s performance is even more of a conundrum since Tarantino has a reputation for getting good performances out of actors. Some of the few Samuel L. Jackson performances I have generally loved in a long time, came from Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. The Hateful Eight even made Channing Tatum a good actor for a minutes at a time. Why didn’t Tarantino rein in Roth? I have to think it has something to do with their creative partnership.

Tarantino was the executive producer of Roth’s Hostel (2005) and called Roth “the future of horror.” It seems like nepotism not only played a part in Roth’s casting, but also the direction he received from one of the greatest directors in Hollywood.

MLK Wasn’t Colour-Blind

Edit: Blogging might be slowed down this week due to some computer issues.

In The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Taleb veers from his analysis of financial systems to argue that the words of dead men can be manipulated to support any argument. When I read these words I couldn’t help but think of one of the favoured tactics for derailing any conversations about racism, “Martin Luther King Jr. fought for a man not being judged by the colour of his skin.” Yes, MLK said those words. The issue is what people interpret from those words.

Based on the context of MLK’s words, he probably meant that black people should be allowed to use the same bathrooms, sit anywhere on a bus, go to the same schools, live in the same neighbourhoods etc. Did he mean that we should never talk about racism and pretend like ignoring it makes it go away? Did MLK mean we should resent any excitement stirred up over a black-led blockbuster? That’s up for debate, but some people are already convinced this is the correct interpretation.

MLK’s words are an anthem for the new colour-blind racists, the ones who refuse to acknowledge racism’s persisting legacy and use “colour-blindness” to derail any conversation on racism. Unarmed black person gets shot- “Why do we have to bring up race? I’m colour-blind.” Black Panther becomes one of the highest-grossing films of all time, led by a mostly black cast- “Why do we have to bring up race? I’m colour-blind. You wouldn’t see me celebrating a film with a mostly white cast.” You get the point I’m making. The colour-blind approach ignores all the ways racism persists and pretends like gaps in things such as employment are all simply due to skill, which ignores evidence of lingering racial preferences.

Yet people who claim to be big fans of MLK and that whole equality thing tend to overlook this point. They also tend to assume MLK was colour-blind, but if they paid attention to any other lines in his speech they would know he wasn’t.

“I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”

Notice that MLK says “black boys…white boys”. He doesn’t say colourless boys. A key part of equality, that a lot of people seem to have forgotten, is that equality requires us to acknowledge differences. A society can’t brag about its racial equality if everyone is of the same race. Equality comes from recognizing someone is different (different skin colour) but not thinking less of them. Noticing someone is black is not racist. Thinking someone is a criminal because they are black is racist.

It is also racist to use the excuse, “I’m colour-blind,” to derail all conversations about racism, whether it is about racist casting in Hollywood, racial profiling by store employees or a story of yet another unarmed black man getting gunned down by a cop who thought his skin colour made him more suspicious.

It is a fact that institutional racism and personal prejudice are still rampant in the world, and especially in the US. To say that we should ignore any black achievement or remove policies meant to help minorities, since it is what MLK would have wanted, is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst. It’s what leads to people walking down the streets with swastika flags and white hoods, thinking that their pride in their whiteness is no different than a black person’s excitement about seeing a black superhero on screen.

Factinate Articles

As I previously mentioned I returned to writing articles for Factinate for a brief period, and have one of my latest ones posted below. I have done eight in total if I am not mistaken, but some of the ones submitted can take a bit of time to be posted. I am not sure if I will continue with the endeavour for that much longer, but I will share the pieces I do.

While I find some of the facts interesting and definitely like making some money on the side, the site does have an emphasis on humour in its articles, which is not my strong suit. I’ll be back to editing Alive: Part II soon, but I will likely start writing Hazard before then.

Factinate articles before (will add more in as they are published):

24 Precious Facts About Gollum

25 Sarcastic Facts About Ryan Reynolds

 

Debate Me

I was scrolling through Twitter the other day and decided to check in on Talib Kweli’s feed. I have previously discussed the racists who continuously flock to his feed to accuse him of “race-baiting”. Although Kweli has a busy touring schedule he engages racists in debate, shutting down the incorrect assumptions, or straight out incorrect data that they use to justify their views. Seeing all of the foolish things they say, such as “racism isn’t racist” can be infuriating, but I believe it is also a window into the souls of the new breed of racists. People always love to call these people “trolls”, which implies they aren’t actually racist and are just saying racist things for attention. However, this mindset is downright dangerous in this day and age. Steve Bannon, former chairman of far-right site, Breitbart, has even said that online hate “is an army” that politicians can mobilize.

So, when I look at all the hate directed to Kweli’s profile, I don’t disregard it all as unimportant trolling. I can see the thought process of the people who cling to the idea that the straight, Christian, white man is now the real persecuted minority. One thing that pops up time after time, is the “debate me” gimmick. Racists flock to Kweli’s profile, asking him to debate them on their world view. He cuts their arguments apart, and when he shows them statistics or arguments that they disagree with, they focus on more trivial things to avoid admitting they were wrong e.g. “You called me racist, you’re just a name caller…freedom of speech.”

Kweli has said it better than me, but there seems to be a collective misunderstanding of what freedom of speech means. Freedom of speech does not mean everything you say is right, or that everyone myst agree with what you say. In the simplest terms, it means you can’t get arrested for speaking out. If you say something racist, it is legal to do so in America. If someone decides to ridicule you for what you said, that is their freedom of speech, and it is not violating yours. Freedom of speech does not only apply to what you want to say or hear, so don’t use it as a crutch when people disagree with what you say.

Aside from the misunderstanding of free speech, is the desire to be spoon fed information. I can’t count the amount of times some Trump supporter on Twitter says, “Show me one example of Trump being racist.” If these people really wanted to find this information, they could just Google it. The fact that they are on Twitter means they have internet access for some portion of their day. The information is there if they wanted to search for it. Instead, they will likely use Google to search “Reasons Trump is not racist” and ignore all of the information to the contrary. We are all guilty of this selective exposure to some extent. However, the information I seek out can often contradict the information someone from the alt-right will seek out. One source will likely be more reputable, not because of the name, but because of how they collect their info e.g. Ben Shapiro can give stats about police shootings, and information I find can demonstrate that the stats are skewed because they don’t factor in nearly half the police agencies in the US. This is how the internet works. You can use it to find info.

So instead of Googling “Trump racist”, some people will just post on Twitter and wait for someone else to drudge up all of the information they actively ignore everyday. When someone actually presents the info, the Trump supporter will derail the conversation with straw man arguments, ad hominem or statements that have absolutely nothing to do with the facts. Who knows, the Trump supporter might not even read the info before calling the presenter the real racist for caring so much. This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario, this is something that is played out again and again on Talib Kweli’s feed and many others.

Westworld Season 2 Trailer Thoughts

Note: Obvious spoilers for season one. I don’t underestimate people’s stupidity.

Jonathan Nolan might be another sibling who lives in the shadow of their older brother. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own impressive wealth of talent and achievements. Prior to adapting Westworld (based on the 1973 film). Jonathan created the short story that led to Memento. He also co-wrote most of Christopher Nolan’s films, including The Prestige, The Dark Knight trilogy and Interstellar. Alongside his wife, Lisa Joy, Jonathan also brought us one of the best series of 2016. The second season is set to premiere in less than a month and this trailer will make that month pass by slowly.

Side note, I always found it interesting that the author of Jurassic World, Michael Chrichton previously created another work about a theme park where the guests end up threatened by the attractions. Both Westworld and Jurassic Park analyze the hubris of humans and the consequences of meddling with technology beyond our understanding.

The music from Westworld’s first season was actually one of my highlights. The opening credits are one of the few ones I always watch. While the visuals are arresting, the music is what I remember better. Ramin Djawadi helps to bring the show to life, just like he did with his score for Game of Thrones. The music in this trailer ended up being the highlight for me as well, with Djawadi’s orchestral version of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”.

Last season ended on what many people might call a cliffhanger, with the hosts apparently primed for war. This second trailer shows us that wasn’t a bait and switch. Most of the footage we see are the hosts fighting against military forces trying to threaten their sanctuary. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) appears to have a key role in the revolution, along with Teddy (James Marsden). Meanwhile, Maeve (Thandie Newton) is still deadset on finding her daughter. Am I the only one that thought she should have just stayed on the train last season? Anyway, last season ended with her getting a map to other worlds hidden within the park, including Shogun world. It will be interesting to get some deviation from the Western-themed park that dominated the first season. Maeve’s story also brings back Hector, who was one of my favourite characters from the first season.

In this trailer, and some promotional pictures, we actually see a host-in-progress attacking someone. By host-in-progress I mean the hosts who have not yet had skin dye grafted on. They are just the white shells that all the extra features are molded over.

I am interested most in seeing where William a.k.a The Man in Black goes from this point on. He says he wants to burn the whole place down and I am curious to see exactly what he does to reach that point. There are promotional stills and shots in the trailer where we see the older version of William (Ed Harris) speaking with Dorothy. It looks like they may be allies for some point in the story, at least until they draw closer to their respective goals.

It looks like there is more world-building to be done, but the second season still looks like it will offer a more explosive season than the last. However, I am sure there will also be plenty to digest in terms of character development and the philosophical questions that always accompany shows that revolve around the idea of consciousness.

Deadpool 2 Trailer Reaction

 

I know I’m tardy to the party on this one. Recently, I have been trying to watch fewer trailers so that I spoil less of the movie for myself, and also avoid the inevitable YouTube black hole of trailer reaction videos. With that said, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is one of the best castings in comic book film history and I couldn’t resist seeing some more of this film. If the first film is any indication, the trailers don’t actually spoil all of the funniest moments.

The first “trailer” we got for Deadpool was the “Wet on Wet” teaser, a glorious Bob Ross tribute that revealed very little about the plot, like a good teaser. I avoided looking up plot details but this trailer makes it clear Cable (Josh Brolin) serves a role as a villain in this film (or at least part of it), trying to capture a mutant child (Julian Dennison) who Wade wants to protect. Cable is likely trying to capture the mutant because of something he will do in the future, thus offering a moral conundrum for this film. The mutant’s character name doesn’t appear to have been revealed yet, although a shot in this trailer and a brief glimpse in the teaser makes it look like he has some sort of pyrokinetic power.

Cable’s face is less metallic than I am used to seeing from animated adaptations and the comics. However, I believe his arm is the result of a disease so it might progress during the film or over the four-film contract that Brolin signed. Brolin really only has two lines here and I guess I’m hoping the “I’m Cable” part sounds less hokey in context when watching the film. He is a great actor, judging by other performances, so I won’t worry too much. Unless he takes the Paul Giamatti mentality that he can “be as over-the-top hammy as possible” because he’s in a comic book movie. Let’s not have a repeat of the rhino in Amazing Spider Man 2. 

I have to say this trailer takes breaking the fourth wall to another level, with its irrelevant “From the Studio That Brought You 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada” title. I always hated this trend in marketing films and it looks like Deadpool 2 was the right film to finally poke some fun at it. I also love the slow-motion shot, followed by Wade asking if they got that in slo-mo. Obviously this is probably just a result of editing, but it is clear that at some point Wade references slo-mo. That scene also looks like we might possibly see Deadpool’s black X-Force suit.

The shot in the trailer doesn’t make it clear if Wade actually has a black or grey suit, or if something might just be covering his regular one. Either way, we now know X-Force will officially be referenced in the film, with Wade bringing his own team together. Since Wolverine was a part of this team in the comics at one point, I wonder if we’ll see Wade poking more fun at his Aussie friend again. We can only hope.

Speaking of X-Men, looks like the studio might be able to afford more characters this time. Negasonic and Colossus are back but we also see Wade swivelling in Professor X’s chair, not to mention the return of the X-Jet. Maybe we get to see some other mutants this time.

With a co-director of John Wick in the chair for this film, I’m sure the action won’t disappoint. The bigger worry for me has been the plot, the humour and the characters. They weren’t poor the first time around, but a sequel always brings the worry that it won’t live up to the first.

Deadpool 2 gives us a lot of new talent in the X-Men universe, including Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz as Domino. Before the first pic of Domino was debuted people were already complaining about a black actress in the role, which is just more proof that people only use the “best actor regardless of race” argument when roles get whitewashed. Anyway, if her performance in Atlanta is any indication, she should be good here. We only get two short lines here and not much footage so we’ll likely just have to see the movie to judge most of the new cast members.

However, there is plenty to love with Reynolds getting the biggest share of screen time and lines and I can’t wait to see his derivative team on screen.

Brief Update

I’m back to writing for Factinate so I’ll be posting any of the published articles on this site.

Also, I am now aiming to have a rough draft of my second werewolf novel, Alive: Part II completed by May.

In terms of comics, I started reading Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series and I’m loving it so far. Kill or Be Killed is still my favourite ongoing series and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series wraps up. I was reading Fables but the main conflict, the conflict that has defined the series since the beginning, came to an end halfway through. So apparently the second 75 issues of the series will focus on other subplots, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series.

However, the series was worth the discovery for the cover art alone. James Jean put together an impressive list of masterpieces.

Getting “Offended Over Nothing”

Yet again, I was sucked into the social media black hole, scrolling through a feed of memes when I came across this post from one of my “friends”. I met this person once at a party and genuinely loved talking to them, but this post brings up a lot of questions I wanted to direct to them. I considered typing a response in the comments but figured it wasn’t worth the hassle. This person has far more Facebook friends than I do. I had no doubt a sea of people sharing his views would rush to defend him if I tried to start any form of debate, probably responding before they even fully read my post. However, I still have this blog.

Just like the infamous “triggered’ accusation, complaints about people being “offended by everything” or being “too coddled”, “sensitive” etc. all assume that the people making the accusation don’t have any issues they get worked up about.  So let’s look at the post. Basically, the idea is that people used to have real issues and they still didn’t complain as much as we did e.g lack of child labour laws, wars, friends dying. Today we still have some of these issues, e.g Syrian Civil War, poverty. So the idea is that we need to get over minor issues like “microaggressions”, stereotypes, minority representation in film etc.

Okay, that sounds fair enough. One thing though. Generally, these posts have a target in mind: the “libtards”, “social justice warriors” and so on. Posts like this, in my experience, typically come from the same people who complain about the influence of liberals, in everything from politics to TV. So the people using these posts to make a point also have their own set of issues that you could consider minor ones, relative to wars, famine etc. The guy who thinks society is crumbling because a transsexual could possibly use the same public bathroom and see his penis (for a few minutes at a time) has as much right to hear that he’s “triggered” or “offended by everything”- at least if we follow the logic of this Facebook post. This Facebook post is one of hundreds you can find online that uses the same logic, the logic that collapses on itself because it is built on a double standard that ignores context.

This reminds me of the post I did on the old advertisements, where a series of sexist and racist ads from the mid 1900s are now being embraced by viewers as an ideal that we should strive toward e.g “I wish people could take jokes like they used to.” The reaction that I had was “wow it’s good to see society has progressed since this time”, and there was the odd person who shared my view. For the most part though, people just demonstrated a wish to go back to the social and political mores of an older time.

People who use these type of Facebook posts to make a point also forget that people might just pay attention to more issues as society develops. Yes, we can still be concerned about wars and worldwide catastrophes. Society has also evolved to care about minorities more than it used to, which some people view as an unfortunate thing. Yes, we should all take moments to appreciate the good things in life, like a roof over our head. That doesn’t mean that as long as we have food and shelter, we’re not allowed to care about any other issues. Some people don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, they’re more worried about seeing gay people in their favourite movies or TV show. You can also tell them not to be “offended by everything”. Being “offended by everything” is not just a liberal issue, it is a human issue. Don’t try to hide behind the principle of “I don’t get offended” to silence the discussion of issues you don’t care about. Discuss the issue itself. This argumentative technique reminds me of the people who say they don’t like it when actors “discuss politics”. As I’ve discussed before, this is usually just their way of saying “I don’t like it when actors express political views I don’t agree with.” If the same actors they criticize were to preach views they believe in, I doubt people would say actors should stay out of politics. Hypocrisy doesn’t help the debate or create a better society. Hypocrisy is the true cause of our divided society.