Alexandra Shipp: Blackish

The Thursday announcement that Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox properties, including X-Men, led to a lot of speculation concerning the future of the X-Men film universe. I shared some of my own thoughts on this, and while sharing the link on Twitter I came across another conversation. There were retweets all over my feed revealing one post after another arguing that Alexandra Shipp, who portrays Storm in X:Men Apocalypse and the upcoming Dark Phoenix, is too light-skinned to play Storm.

I didn’t comment on the argument at the time because I wanted to let it develop more before, so that more contextual info would be available before I shared my thoughts. Two days after the conversation began, it is now easy to trace its inception.

This debate began after a fan asked Shipp if she would like Storm to meet Thor, now that the universes would likely be merged. Shipp’s enthusiastic response was then met with criticism from one fan, “Disney is re-casting the whole team, boo. Sorry. Dark Phoenix will be your last. We getting a dark skinned non-racially Ambiguous Storm like we deserve.”

Shipp then retorted:

Presumably, the debate that I viewed on Thursday originated from this exchange. It is not confirmed if Disney will start fresh with X-Men and recast after Dark Phoenix but that isn’t really the point here.

Maybe Disney will re-cast, and also usher in a jarring tone change (as I suspect). However, I don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone should be an issue central to her potential re-casting. If a darker-skinned actor takes her place I have no problem with that, but I also don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone gives us a bastardization of the character.

Shipp’s response reminds me of statements Halle Berry made concerning her own racial identity. Like Shipp, Berry is mixed and chose to identify as black from a young age, because she knew that is how the world would perceive her. For example, a white guy who says he doesn’t date black girls, would still see Berry as a black girl, instead of a white one.

While Shipp says she has never been “treated white” it is a fact that there is pervasive colourism in the world and in Hollywood. Even in Jamaica, a country that is 90% black, dark-skinned black people are performing skin bleaching to lighten their skin because they realize lighter-skin is viewed as more attractive. In other areas, such as Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East, lighter skin is inherently viewed as more attractive than darker skin. The preference for lighter skin often coincides with a preference for other features typically associated with whiteness, such as straighter hair, thinner lips and thinner noses. Light skin goes beyond the aesthetic, becoming a marker of status and privilege due to the legacy of slavery or colonialism. For someone like Shipp, she may benefit from this colourism in some situations, while also being subjected to racism like any other black person in other situations.

There is a trend in entertainment- whether it is music videos, television or film- to cast the lightest-skinned black people possible, especially if they are love interests or eye candy. After a while it isn’t simple happenstance that most of the attractive black women in entertainment have “sun-kissed skin”, it is a deliberate choice by casting executives. They can get people who are ethnic without being “too dark”.As Viola Davis says,  there is a pervasive conception that “If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy.” Of course, Hollywood sometimes graces us with an exception, but the word “exception” means that they are a minority within a minority. I have been over the “best actor for the part” argument, and the slate of talented black actors that seemingly come out of nowhere for productions like Luke Cage and Straight Outta Compton make it clear there is plenty of black talent out there, they just need opportunities for good roles.

Respect to Bad Boys II for its dark-skinned love interest

It is possible that I am setting the bar somewhat low for Storm since I am so used to roles being whitewashed anyway. Even films based on true stories, like 21, are not safe from Hollywood’s attempts to make it more “marketable”. Storm seems like one of the few untouchable characters, and this may be why fans are even more protective when it comes to her portrayal.

There were plenty of users arguing that the discussion of whether a black actress is black enough is divisive and racist in itself. I ignored most of these comments simply because this is the same logic used to shut down any discussion of racism nowadays. You complain about white supremacist marches in Charlottesville? You’re being divisive. You complain about another unarmed black kid getting killed? You’re divisive. You complain about a public figure saying something racist? You’re divisive.

In principle, I don’t think it is racist or “divisive” to complain about an actress’s skin tone. Especially since I am sure that many of the people using this “divisive” excuse routinely defend whitewashing in films, thereby enabling racist practices in Hollywood.

Now, there are also people who understand the implications of whitewashing in film, and genuinely just believe that there is nothing wrong with Shipp’s skin tone. The character is black, and Shipp is black as well. Shipp is mixed, but Apocalypse never states that the character is mixed, and Shipp is a visibly black individual. In terms of skin colour, she may not be Viola Davis or Lupita Nyong’o, but she definitely isn’t Paula Patton or Meghan Markle either.

All of this to say that while I don’t agree with the backlash against Shipp in this case, I can understand where the detractors are coming from. If Shipp did a poor job with the role I would probably be more likely to support them. However, I thought Shipp was great as Storm. Maybe I’m not the best person to judge but her accent also seemed a lot more authentic than whatever Halle Berry tried to do in X-Men 1 (2000). Although Apocalypse was a disappointing film I was looking forward to seeing more of this iteration of Storm and I hope that if she is recast, fans don’t share simply because she was too light-skinned for them.

Keaton Jones

I am sure we have all heard about this video by now. Here we see 11 year old Keaton Jones, a Tennessee native whose mother taped his heartfelt thoughts on bullying. As someone who was bullied or ostracized throughout most of elementary and high school, this video resonated with me and truly made me empathize with what appears to be a genuine victim.

The backlash this video has received over the past few days has generated numerous claims, some true and some false. This is why I waited for a few days, biding my time until fact was separated from fiction.

There were allegations that Keaton is racist, and that the bullying he received was a direct result of uttering racial slurs to some of his classmates. This fact is ubiquitous on Twitter but has yet to be verified. The principal of the school said the bullying issue has been dealt with and that no epithets were involved. You can argue the principal is trying to save face but the discrepancy still begs the question: Where is the proof that Keaton is a racist?

You may have heard Jones’s mother, Kimberly, is a racist. That is definitely possible. The picture of her posing with a Confederate flag is genuine, and she argues that she posed with it to be “ironic” or “funny” but that just seems like the desperate plea of someone who has been exposed. For those who need a history lesson, the Confederate flag is about state rights…to continue slavery. Kimberly has also criticized kneeling in the NFL, a practice which I have already discussed and defended.

Kimberly seems like another one of the people living in a post-racial utopia, brandishing a Confederate flag while complaining about the minorities who acknowledge racism and its damaging impact on their communities. Maybe she raised her son with the same naive mindset, instilling the belief that minorities could solve all this supposed racism if they just worked harder.

Who knows. Chris Evans already invited Keaton to the Avengers: Infinity War premiere and a host of other celebrities were quick to jump on the pro-Keaton bandwagon. I like to think Captain America would have hesitated to invite Keaton if he thought the boy’s mother might be a racist.

The internet has accelerated the pace that we produce and consume news but sometimes it appears there is still a delay in getting the fully story. Fake Instagram accounts spring up like weeds, showcasing a slew of racist comments supposedly uttered by Keaton or his mother.

I initially backed out of doing this article. Its direction seemed unclear to me. While I agreed that the rumours of Keaton’s use of slurs represented a lack of journalistic integrity and a mob mentality, I also disliked the mob mentality present in quickly rallying behind a bullied child whose mother started a GoFundMe for her son, as opposed to donating that money to anti-bullying organizations. One side tends to attack the other, thinking they are right. What Keaton Jones shows is that we both need to look at ourselves. The side rushing to defend and rushing to vilify both need to avoid emotional responses. They need to both examine facts, context, history in order to paint a complete picture on the internet’s canvas.

Jason Isaacs and Free Speech

I have previously discussed the phenomenon of people who don’t believe that celebrities are allowed to have opinions. Any political comment, whether it is in an interview or on social media, is derided as inappropriate and a breach of some supposed social contract.

I don’t despite this mindset simply because it has resulted in some actors I like being vehemently criticized. I despise this mindset because of the inherent hypocrisy in it.

The most recent example I will use is a tweet I came across from Jason Isaacs, who expertly called out a Star Trek fan who said his political views are alienating the Star Trek Fan base.

 

So here we see a fan who feels like Jason Isaac’s political views are affecting “the fan base”, which we can translate to “me”. This fan is not speaking out on behalf of others, he is speaking out on behalf of himself. Isaacs previously criticized Trump via tweets and retweets of anti-Trump videos, so this *whitegenocide believer felt the need to call Isaacs out. It is obvious that someone who repeatedly uses the hashtag #whitegenocide doesn’t believe in the value of diversity and is likely to support the President who said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” to America and who also wants to keep Muslims out. So, instead of saying that he disagrees with Isaac’s political views, this twitter user simply tries to say that entertainers as a whole are not allowed to express political opinions.

It looks like @Eye_of_Empire has deleted some of the tweets in the thread since, but his original response to Isaacs appealed to the principle of free speech. So after criticizing someone for exercising their free speech, this user says his comment is appropriate because it was his legal right. Isaacs has that legal right too. Fine, maybe you want to argue that Isaacs is an actor so it is different. It shouldn’t be. Actors are real people too, with their own fears, values and political beliefs.

The real question here is if @Eye_of_Empire would be as upset with Jason Isaacs if Isaacs repeatedly proclaimed his love for Trump and his belief in White Genocide. I doubt that would bother @Eye_of_Empire as much. The idea that actors shouldn’t have opinions is a smokescreen for “actors shouldn’t express views different from mine”. If I disagree with an actor’s political views I say that I disagree, I don’t pretend like my anger is about the principle of actors discussing politics.

I was tempted to pursue another topic for this post but I decided to continue with this one because the irony is a godsend. Diversity and acceptance have always been themes of Star Trek, where people of different races (human and alien) look past their differences and work together. Star Trek even has the distinction of having tv’s first interracial kiss between Uhura and Captain Kirk in 1968. So we have this apparent longtime fan of the show who is disgusted by an actor who speaks out against the bigot in Chief. Welcome to America.

The Only Cure for Racism

I know some people will be tempted to say “stop talking about it” but that is the only cry of racists who want to continue to pick their neighbourhoods, schools, spouses based on race while also saying race doesn’t matter. The same people who justify racism with racist assumptions e.g. “Maybe black people would be more successful if they weren’t so lazy”.

There are a lot of facts, case studies and events out there to demonstrate that racism is still alive and well but denial is far more powerful. If you present any of the above people have an uncanny ability to rationalize or minimize events and rebrand the world as a post-racial utopia. People who speak out against racism are labelled with terms like “social justice warrior” (sjw), which becomes a brand that makes other people want to avoid you at all costs. Even people who may be somewhat enlightened don’t want to be called a sjw, or politically correct, or a feminazi.

As I continue writing my fourth book, I am starting to generate ideas for the sixth. It may not be a novel, it may just be a short story. Whatever it ends up being, it is my own utopian creation. I thought of a world where the technology exists to actually transplant your mind into someone else’s body. It wouldn’t be a physical process, where the brain is transplanted, it would be more of a transference of your personality and thoughts into someone else’s body. This technology is quite common in sci-fi but I don’t think it has ever been used to examine how people of different races can experience daily life differently. Or at the very least, I can’t recall any works that have focused on this aspect of the switch.

If people will ignore reports, journal articles, newspaper articles, books, documentaries etc., then maybe personal experience is the only thing they will understand. If this project were to have any success it would have to last for a long period of time, at least three months. People who are reluctant to accept that prejudice and systemic racism against minorities is still rampant, are often quick to bring up examples of prejudice or perceived prejudice they have experienced. I don’t want these people to experience some name calling or some ignorant comments, and think they get the full picture.

Just like books or articles, it can be easy to derail an author’s argument by resorting to non sequiturs,  ad hominem or the ever popular straw man argument. For that reason, let’s make sure that there are no other excuses or reason for the different treatment. Let’s make sure that our new “black” subjects keep their faces clean shaven, their hair cut low and that they maintain a strict dress code when leaving their homes. Now, I realize this may not be fair. Afrocentric hairstyles such as braids should not be viewed as more threatening, but it is a sad fact that they are. Bears and casual clothing, when coupled with black skin, are also more unwelcome even in casual settings. Let’s not forget this great example of comedian Kamau Bell being told to leave a restaurant while he was speaking to his wife and her friends, who are all white. While Bell is speaking to his wife at an outside table of the restaurant an employee bangs on the window and mouths for him to leave. When confronted about this later she argues that she thought he was selling something, and that it wasn’t a “race thing”. Bell was with his wife and her friends just long enough to get introduced, before an employee is telling him to leave.

To be fair, the employee says a patron told her Bell was harassing customers, and that she was just responding to that. The question then, is why didn’t she at least step outside to see what was happening instead of knocking on a window and mouthing a command, which she says was “stop selling”. If the employee actually stepped outside and asked the group of women if Bell was bothering them, the situation would have been diffused quickly. Why was the employee so quick to tell Bell to leave? As expected, it doesn’t take long to find online discussion that defends the incident due to Bell’s clothing.

“Don’t forget that he was dressed quite poorly at the time too. Sweatpants, a well-worn hoodie, and a knit beanie.”

Ultimately, hairstyles and clothing present an easy target for derailing the observations about different treatment due to race.

Aside from the dress code and the strict rules concerning appearance, my experiment would also require a period of one week where the subjects remain home and where they are monitored (with their consent) to judge their behaviour. Why? To ensure the new “black” people getting sent out into the world are not acting like stereotypes. If someone feels the need to start talking or walking differently because their skin is different I wouldn’t want them to represent black people publicly. This one week probation period would also allow us to remove another aspect of possible derailment, stereotypical behaviour.

As a last condition, I would also want to ensure that the subjects are not informed of any of the different treatment they may receive. Otherwise the study could be accused of priming subjects to be more aware of or sensitive to certain words or actions. Of course, some subjects may have read about the alleged treatment they might get. Or they may have an exaggerated conception that they’ll be shot on sight by cops, and then interpret any better behaviour as proof that racism is dead. Either way, all realizations about different treatment must come purely from the subjects. If people truly believe race doesn’t matter and that no one (except the white ones) are judged for their skin colour, then their should be no hesitation to become a black person for three months.

I want the experiment to start with wealthy white people, who then become wealthy black people. They need to walk into an upscale store or building repeatedly, until they can no longer deny that they get more scrutiny because of their skin colour. They need to get pulled over more often by cops when driving their luxury car and realize that the random stops are not truly random. I want the rich white people to hang out with their rich white friends. I don’t want to warn them, but I want to see if they notice any different treatment.

When this test is done with the middle class they will have different experiences that are just as eye opening. They will apply for a job they are not qualified for, and then realize that affirmative action doesn’t get them a spot. Perhaps they can have men/women reject them sexually or romantically due to their skin colour. They can see someone cross the street when they approach or hold their purse tighter. Or a little more harmless, perhaps they can see the look of surprise they get when they say they like rock or metal (if they like those genres). People aren’t really shocked by white people liking rap music, but black people who like anything other than rap still get treated like unicorns in some circles. Of course this last example isn’t an example of harmful racism, but it is one that demonstrates how ignorance can still lead to minorities being treated differently. Even this simple fact is something that is often denied.

As I continued to flesh out the idea for my experiment, it sometimes struck me as being an extreme way to prove a point. However, when all other options are failing, what else can be done? If this is what needs to be done for a wake up call, then so be it.

Triggered a.k.a You Disagree With Me

Anyone who engages in any form of communication online is surely familiar with the term “triggered”. At the most basic level it is used to criticize people who care or get “worked up” about a certain issue. It is normally used by conservatives or the right-wing to shut down any discussion of a topic they don’t care about. If you are one of those people who doesn’t believe in the left/right classification, read the below excerpt from another one of my articles:

People love to say that they don’t like pigeonholing themselves as right or left wing, or that they don’t identify with the spectrum at all. They are a unique snowflake who isn’t like the rest of the sheep they look down on. This argument parallels the infamous “race is a social construct” argument. The fact that something is socially constructed does not mean its impact can be ignored or simply dismissed. Our use of hours and minutes to plan our day is a social construct that has developed over centuries, and the political spectrum is the same. Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you against social security or not? Are you a gun-control advocate or not? The answers to these questions will place you somewhere on the spectrum. The totality of your views about different political issues will see you land somewhere; left, right, center-right, center-left etc.

picture-2

 

Think that’s deterministic, rigid, stupid? Ok, then let me throw off another social construct. I no longer recognize myself as a black man. So a girl who only dates white guys will still be interested right? Cops who are more suspicious of black people will no longer feel the need to pull me over or frisk me, right?

Anyway…

Triggered isn’t just a word used to denote passion or concern for an issue. It has a negative connotation. It is applied to the “politically correct snowflakes” who get “offended by everything”.

I have touched on the double standards in what people choose to care about in previous articles, such as my articles on whitewashing v blackwashing and my article on how easy it is for minority inclusion in a film to be viewed as “forced” or “heavy-handed“.

If someone criticizes someone else for being “triggered”, it implies that the accuser doesn’t have any issues that he gets worked up about. The same person who calls someone a social justice warrior (SJW) or pc snowflake because they care about whitewashing is the same person who gets worked up when they see an example of “blackwashing”. The same person who shuts down a conversation about police brutality against black people will be the same person who gets “triggered” when they see a gay couple in a tv show or a black student union on a university campus.

Yes, some people are too sensitive and get worked up or “triggered” over something that is not real discrimination or a real issue. However, right-wing buzzwords like pc and sjw start to lose their meaning when people use the terms to describe everything ranging from protest against Trump’s Muslim ban to calling little people “vertically challenged”. Maybe some people only using the terms pc to describe the latter example but there are plenty of people who think anything that does not endorse their outright bigotry is politically correct. The problem is not the world around you. The world around you isn’t getting “too liberal”. It is catching up to modernity. Yes, you can no longer say all Muslims are terrorists or that Mexico doesn’t send its best without a lot of people disagreeing with you.

Minorities are now allowed to have groups for themselves, because they are MINORITIES. China doesn’t have Chinese student associations and the US doesn’t have white student unions. I doubt people who hate black student unions would get as worked up if they saw Polish student unions.

Yes, we now live in a world where there are more gay and interracial couples out there. Or maybe there aren’t more. Maybe we just have more who are willing to come out since it is no longer illegal in the US and they are less likely to face physical violence for it. Of course, they can still face rejection from friends and family. Or they can face disgust from people forced to see them represented on screen. I have literally seen someone on IMDB’s forums (RIP), complain about a three second kiss between two gay characters on The Walking Dead. I really wish I could still access the post, because the IMDB poster literally said homosexuality was being “forced down his throat”. Realize that the heavy-handed homosexuality this poster was complaining about was a three second kiss between two male characters. If that is heavy-handed homosexuality, are all the kisses and implied sex in The Walking Dead heavy-handed heterosexuality? Didn’t think so. For people who are bigoted, any inclusion of minorities on screen is too much. It becomes part of an “agenda”, is “forced” or “pc.” A two second gay kiss can be interpreted as an entire episode where the writers were trying to force them to sleep with a man at gunpoint.

We are now in a world that is more divided politically than ever. Not because the left discusses racism or discrimination too much. We listen to the right’s arguments, we pick them apart with facts. They hear our arguments, they don’t listen. They jump to straw man arguments, denial, racist assumptions etc. This is something I’ve experienced personally with comments on my articles, YouTube videos, tweets etc. Or something I have seen from the reactions people have to any liberal thoughts they come across online.

It is a toxic environment where both sides can start to drive each other to further extremes. Maybe the conservative who starts off a little disgruntled with minorities, because he thinks Black C students get all the good schools and jobs now, isn’t able to find the same support he used to find among his friends or co-workers. Then he turns to more conservative sites that fuel his ideas about the world. Like Dylan Roof, the Charleston church shooter, maybe he finds skewed statistics and narratives about Black Lives Matter orchestrating police killings. Then maybe he decides that if the majority of the world (from his point of view) doesn’t see the problem he sees, he’ll try to deal with it himself.

Taking a Knee

This is an issue that I have wanted to talk about since I first heard about it, but hesitated to, since I did not know where to start. Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest back in 2016 attracted a great deal of attention, mostly hate from the alt-right and the horde of Americans living in the mirage of a post-racial America who ignore all signs to the contrary. The ones who argue that discussing racism is racist, but also go out of their way to defend racism from figures like President Trump.

Ben Shapiro is apparently one of the favoured mascots for racists nowadays. He is the perfect example of the new racism. Someone who is intelligent and articulate, not the typical redneck that far too many people think of when they envision a racist. He remains calm when he attacks “the left” and “liberals” (his words) and presents facts in such a way that someone who is already on his side, or on the fence, will eat them up. I decided to look up one of his videos since I wanted to hear thoughts from the other side.

Let’s look at one of the points he makes in this video. The title of this video makes it clear that the poster and most of the people who flock to it to comment, are already on Shapiro’s side. The like to dislike ratio of 36-3 also makes that clear.This is the selective exposure thesis at work, where the customizability of the Internet allows people to search for info that already appeals to their views.

5:34- 760 shootings by police this year according to the Washington Post, 9 of them of black people. In Shapiro’s words there is such as thing as police brutality that has nothing to do with race. Absolutely, I can agree.

Black people are about 13% of the population, so obviously it would be tough for as many of them to die when compared to white people. The issue is the percentage or chance of them getting killed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/

Now, these reports can be flawed because they require local law enforcement to voluntarily divulge this info. As this link shows, there is no government agency keeping track of these numbers. Local law enforcement must divulge it willingly, and only about half of the agencies do. So, the stats that Shapiro presents are skewed.

Let’s look at The Washington Post’s estimates for shootings of black people by cops from 2015 to present: 381 according to this same article.

Now if we go back to the studies Shapiro cited, the totals for 2015 to the present (for all shootings) equals 2688.

So according to the Washington Post’s stats 7% of the shootings were of unarmed black people. Let’s keep in mind that the estimate of 381 does not reflect any killings from 2017 so far.

Let’s also ignore the strong possibility that the numbers are underrepresented, for blacks and as a whole. Okay, Mr. Shapiro let’s just say you win this argument. I’ll ignore any other statistics that argue blacks have a higher rate (not quantity) of deaths by police and go along with your argument.

Now let’s go to an issue that is even more central to the support and criticism of the new wave of kneeling protests in the NFL: Free speech.

 

This is the tool that is used to defend white supremacist websites and white supremacist rallies like the ones in Charlottesville. Yes, protesters carrying swastika and confederate flags are considered white supremacists. If you can’t wrap your head around that, then no amount of statistics or reasoned arguments I present will ever change your mind.

So a statue of a Confederate general is going to be torn down, and people use their free speech to protest. They protest against the removal of the statue of a figure who fought against his president and against the consolidation of a union. Sounds like a pretty divisive figure to me. Seems pretty disrespectful to the American flag since he rallied behind a different one. This general also seems pretty disrespectful to the veterans since his war with the President killed so many and rallied others behind the cause of continued slavery.

When it comes to Kaepernick’s successors, you would think Trump and his base would rush to support free speech. Maybe Trump will say that “many sides” are wrong. Instead, Trump said that football players who kneel should be fired. In Shapiro’s defense, he also denounced this statement as one that a government official should not make. However, Shapiro refuses to acknowledge that racism is a part of Trump’s repertoire or his appeal to his base.

To that point, let’s go back to this video from February 2016.

Jake Tapper initially asks Trump if he denounced the endorsement of David Duke and the KKK. Trump first says he knows nothing about David Duke and the KKK, he can’t denounce a group he doesn’t know. Fair enough.

Tapper then elaborates that he is talking about David Duke, former Grandwizard of the Klu Klux Klan.  Trump says he doesn’t know who David Duke is…right after getting the explanation. Tapper explains again and Trump repeats that he doesn’t know who David Duke is.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of American history will know what the Klu Klux Klan is, and if you hear someone was a former ____ of it, that implies they were a member. Tapper could not have been more clear with Trump, and it could not be more obvious that Trump just didn’t want to lose voters. Yet you can still find comments on this video defending Trump. It seems like nothing will stop racists from supporting someone who defends their views, but don’t you dare call them “racist”. Then you’re just being a social justice warrior.

How is this video not proof that Trump implicitly supports racists. How about all his comments about Muslims and Mexicans? Why is it so hard for the supposed intellectual conservatives to recognize that the world might not be post-racial when it comes to how minorities are treated?

As an epilogue, David Duke is no longer with the Klu Klux Klan but he is still active in their community. Read his response to Trump’s belated criticism of the alt-right protest in Charlottesville.

When I see white and black players and owners kneeling or locking arms together, I see the same unity that the right supposedly wants. The mindset of pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t solve anything. Athletes should be allowed to use their platform to protest, just like the alt-right can. They took a few minutes before a game to make a statement, much less time than the alt-right protest in Charlottesville did. Don’t act like your game or sport has to be ruined because you saw a sign of solidarity against racism. If that is enough to ruin your enjoyment of football, maybe the problem is you.

Charlottesville and Donald Trump

Racists used to wear hoods to hide their identity. They don’t need to wear hoods anymore, they own the White House.

These are the words I remember reading from a random twitter user this morning as I perused the newsfeed to catch up on the weekend’s events. I heard about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville Virginia, the counter-protest, and the violence that erupted. One of the most interesting events to emerge out of this incident was President Trump’s response to the violence. This is a man who denounced the cast of Hamilton for peacefully challenging Mike Pence’s record of upholding equality. This is a man who had this to say about a black protestor at his rally: “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing”. Surely Trump would bring “fire and fury” to his denunciation of the violence. Instead, Trump tread lightly, and denounced the violence on “many sides.”

So let’s try to see where Trump is coming from. The “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally was a protest against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Lee was a great general, on the Confederate side. The side that supported the continuation of slavery, so like the Confederate flag, a public display is somewhat contentious. Nonetheless, the right made sure their voices were heard. They exercised their freedom of speech by gathering with white supremacist symbols and hurling racial or anti-semitic slurs at non-white passerby. They were met by a group of counter-protesters, also exercising their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Then things escalated. Verbal insults thrown from both sides turned into violence, culminating in a white supremacist crashing his car into the another vehicle and mowing through the crowd, which resulted in one death and several injuries.

So Trump is right in one sense, there was violence on both sides. The facts don’t end there though. In a case like this, we must look at who initiated the violence and how events escalated. This “Unite the Right” protest was planned far in advance by leaders of the alt-right and white supremacist movements, groups that have been tied to an increasingly high number of hate crimes and domestic terrorist attacks in the US and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the anti-racism protestors are guilty of “political correctness”, which nowadays just means the opposition of bigotry. The anti-racism protestors are “triggered” by Confederate flags and statues to Confederate generals, while the Right gets triggered by affirmative action and black student unions. Both sides contributed to a scuffle, but a man from one side decided that he wanted to drive his car through a crowd.

Let’s look at this another way. White supremacy as a whole is not rooted in fact. All of the racist assumptions or beliefs people use to justify the current state of the world can be broken down by decades of research e.g. research showing that the property value of an area drops when more people of colour move in. So even though white supremacy is not rooted in fact, we still let white supremacists assemble. Giving voice to the alt-right and white supremacists is no different than giving voice to Flat Earthers.

The most disturbing thing about Trump refusing to disavow white supremacy, until today, is that it reflects a trend that we can trace back to his campaign. Trump previously refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK. His defence was that he didn’t know who David Duke was, but we can see an interviewer explain that for him multiple times in the below video. Yet Trump still refuses to disavow the support of David Duke. Why? He knew he needed the votes.

There are people out there (even in the comment section of this video) that try to compare groups like Black Lives Matter to the KKK. Firstly, there have been violent incidents at BLM demonstrations, but those incidents havre actually not been traced to members of BLM. Saying “Black Lives Matter” does not make you a member of the actual organization.

Meanwhile, the KKK has a long and continuing history of violence against minorities. Other white supremacist factions have also become emboldened by Trump’s election and view him as their saving grace in an American landscape that is changing too much for their liking.

AJ+ released this video documenting the online vigilantism that has resulted in some of the alt-right protesters being identified and facing consequences such as losing their jobs. As expected, the comments reveal some overt or implicit supporters are more concerned about what happens to the white supremacists than the people they wish to marginalize.

You have to wonder if the right got as worked up about Mike Brown being shot multiple times and depicted as a thug by their peers. Of course not. In their eyes, Brown, Martin, Castille etc. just faced the consequences of their actions. The same thing is happening here. Freedom of speech does not mean that everyone must agree with what you say. Employers, friends, family etc. can reject you for much less than overtly racist demonstrations.

Also, it is funny that the right always criticizes the left for “identity politics” e.g groups allied around race, religion etc. What is this rally? Isn’t it about protecting white European culture? So basically, identity politics is only a bad thing if minorities do it. I am not being biased, a “libtard”, a “social justice warrior” or “politically correct” for pointing out these fallacies. These are the facts, that get ignored or twisted time and time again by racists who refuse to acknowledge facts no matter the consequences. This refusal to acknowledge facts is what allowed Trump to become president, citing inaccurate stats about black crime and embracing racist rhetoric with the mantra of “telling it like it is.”

America isn’t the same place I visited two years ago. It is something uglier, corrosive. Decaying from the inside while the poisoners remain blind to the damage they’re doing.

“Telling me that I’m obsessed with talking about racism in America is like telling me I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning.” Hari Kondabolu

Zazie Beetz – Deadpool and “Blackwashing”

I posted this video a few weeks ago discussing the reaction people have to Zazie Beetz’s casting as Domino in Deadpool 2. Like many other videos, I emphasized the double standard present in people’s reactions to whitewashing versus “blackwashing” e.g. when a character is whitewashed, people argue that talent or marketability should trump race. If a character is blackwashed, people complain it is wrong to change the race of beloved characters and that the actor was selected only due to their race. If a white actor plays a character of colour it is because they were the most talented person to try out for the role. Vice versa, and the actor of colour was picked only due to their race. Whitewashing becomes a common sense business move, while blackwashing is just “pandering” to minorities. People tend to ignore how whitewashing also “panders” to white people, since one of the most common arguments used to defend whitewashing is that more whiteness in a film makes it more appealing to white people. Some people will even go so far as to say the film will be an economic failure if the film wasn’t whitewashed. Of course, the success of films like Straight Outta Compton disprove this theory.

I presented numerous different examples and clearly laid out how this double standard serves to reinforce the idea that white is inherently better, and the video was met with a wave of dislikes and comments where people repeatedly go back to the same double standards that I laid out in my video. One comment after another said it was wrong to change the race of characters, that the actress doesn’t look like the character etc. The video was sitting at less than two hundred views for a while but got a new influx of new viewers over the past week, leading me to believe it might have been shared on a website, or possibly got more traffic after the first picture of Beetz as Domino was released.

Keep in mind, my video came out before we got our first pic of Beetz as Domino. While some people complain about how she looks in terms of her hairstyle, clothing etc., my video was made for people criticizing the fact that a black actress got the part. This detail, along with just about all relevant details, were ignored by the people who swarmed to my video. Some even admitted they didn’t even watch the full video before commenting.

I previously discussed how the right-wing often uses the word “triggered” to criticize anyone who doesn’t endorse bigotry. Here we see triggered people who likely saw the title of my video or watched a minute of it before rushing to the comments. I have often disagreed with the views expressed in other videos, but I have never commented on a video that I didn’t bother to finish watching. If I disagreed I did not ignore every point made. I made sure I fully understood what the uploader was trying to say, because I wanted to respond with counter-arguments that actually disprove their points. My video was only five minutes long so I don’t think the issue is that my video is too long either. People simply came across something they didn’t want to hear and refused to engage with the facts I laid out, hence the repeated defferal to all of the same arguments and double standards that my video criticizes.

I pointed out the tendency for people to criticize hypothetical examples of whitewashing that they said they would criticize e.g. White Luke Cage, to take attention away from all of the real examples of whitewashing they supported.

“Ok I guess we’ll have white Blade….right? or Chinese wolverine… right?….hindu superman?….right…….. yeah… Fuck out of here!! Stick to the true origin !! fucking social justice warriors jerk offs!!”

I pointed out the tendency for people to appeal to the “colour-blind” mantra or the simplistic notion that a character should look the way they are supposed to (which also ignores all the times whitewashing was supported)

“I don’t have a single problem seeing minorities on the screen.I just wanted Domino, the character I love to be portrayed as the character I love. Very, very simple.”

I avoided appealing to emotion, and thought that a clearly laid out set of arguments and counter-arguments could break through to some people on the other side of the aisle. The only positive comments I received are ones from people who likely already shared my views.

There were some people who probably fancied themselves as enlightened and expressed less vitriol, while also displaying a stunning level of ignorance.

“And for the record, when is the last time you’ve seen anyone in this modern era “Defend whitewashing”?”

This poster could have found examples of whitewashing being defended on THE SAME VIDEO they commented on. Yet again, there is an unwillingness to engage with facts that conflict with their world view. Yes, you can find numerous articles and videos online from major publications that criticize whitewashing. The whole point of the video is that audiences react differently, e.g. the people who swarm the comment sections of those articles with comments like “political correctness”, “reverse racism” and “social justice warriors” to criticize the people who are bothered by whitewashing. This is in contrast to the comments they give in support of whitewasing such as “It’s just a movie”, “Best actor for the part, race doesn’t matter”. Now if “blackwashing” happens the comments will be swarmed with comments saying it is wrong to change the race of characters.

My mom once said you can’t have a debate with people if the ground isn’t fertile for it. This ground isn’t just infertile, it’s scorched.

Norwegian news site NKR is currently using their beta site to test a tool that makes readers take a 15 second quiz before commenting, to ensure that they actually understand the point of the article. Readers don’t have to agree, but the developers hope the quiz will give people time to calm down and ensure that they are less likely to resort to the slew of straw man arguments I see on my video. Ironically, people commenting on the NRK article also added comments that made it clear they misunderstood the purpose of the tool:

“Here we go..thought crime..three questions to make sure you agree with our angle on the story.”

Maybe it’s time to let the terrorists win.

 

Elliot Rodger

Today I was reading an article by Mark Manson, one of my favourite bloggers. The central point of the article is that the common factor in all these shootings is the lack of empathy displayed by people who should have seen it coming.

Before the vitriol pours in to my site or Mark’s, he is not saying victims are at fault. His article looks at different people who were close to the shooters, who ignored obvious signs that the shooters were mentally disturbed and seriously planned to commit violence. In the case of the Columbine shooters, some of their “friends” found the bombs they built, but thought nothing of it. Mark argues that this can ultimately be traced to a lack of empathy or outright apathy for what is going on in someone else’s life. Of course, what I am offering is a very simple thesis of the article. Do yourself a favour and read the whole thing.

Manson breaks down the different arguments brought forward after mass shootings, either as a whole or by referencing arguments used for certain killers. He does not say none of the arguments matter. In fact, he says they are part of a bigger whole. I would be missing the entire point of his article if I said that my grievances made the article invalid. However, I have to mention these arguments because they bring up common misconceptions about some mass shootings.

His first point is that the gun control argument is somewhat flawed since killers like Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodger got their guns legally. A gun control advocate wouldn’t end the argument there. A key part of gun control is arguing for the regulation of the types of funs and types of ammunition that can be sold legally,; as well as arguing for more thorough background checks. They would ask why people were able to obtain such guns so easily. Especially in Rodger’s case since he had a well documented history of mental illness.

The next point is truly the crux of my article.

Manson also argues that the attempts to label Rodger’s killings as a result of misogyny are flawed since Rodger killed mostly men. Now, Manson does later say Rodger “became a misogynist because he was a killer.” Clearly he is not rejecting the misogynist label completely. However, a quick Google search will show you many people who reject the claim of misogyny using the same logic Manson laid out originally. These thoughts are directed to those people.

You might ask why I am bothering to write about a deranged killer from 2014. I tried to understand why I felt compelled to write this too, and I think a part of it comes down to the fact that I actually read Rodger’s “manifesto”. As Manson points out, I only gave into Rodger’s delusions by doing this. I fed his ego and desire for immortality. Unfortunately, curiosity got the best of me.

It is that reading of Rodger’s “My Twisted World” that makes it clear he was a misogynist. Above all else, Rodger was sexually frustrated. At age 22, he was still a virgin and blamed his lack of success mainly on women. According to him, their brains were less developed than men’s. Hence their poor decision making abilities. If that is not misogynist, I don’t know what is.

Yes, Rodger killed men. Let’s not forget his motive though. He was angry at men as well, for having more luck with women than he did. Each man mowed down represented another man in Rodger’s life who was more successful with girls than he was.

After that, I will start luring people into my apartment, knock them out with a hammer, and slit their throats. I will torture some of the good looking people before I kill them, assuming that the good looking ones had the best sex lives. All of that pleasure they had in life, I will punish by bringing them pain and suffering. I have lived a life of pain and suffering, and it was time to bring that pain to people who actually deserve it.”

Let’s not forget that one of Rodger’s first targets was a sorority house, an embodiment of the beautiful women he resented. Due to the gated entry, he could only kill two women outside of it. He then had to find other victims.

With that point out of the way, let’s move on to the idea that Rodger was not racist since he was half-Asian, and some of his victims were Asian.

Shoes won’t help you get white girls. White girls are disgusted by you, silly little Asian.”

Rodger also says:

“Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You’re just butthurt that you were born as an asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You’ll never be half-white and you’ll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge.”

Rodger, half-Asian, posted those comments in a forum on PuaHate.com. Rodger wanted white girls only, and specifically indicates a preference for blondes numerous times in “My Twisted World”.

If you are bothered, you can find plenty of research on mixed people who express racism towards one half of their identity.

Rodger also saves some hate for black guys and Indian guys in his “My Twisted World”, expressing disgust that they can get white girls when he can’t. If you don’t want to read that, just read more forum excerpts from this article.

“Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were extremely rage-inducing.

I passed by this restaurant and I saw this black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls. He didn’t even look good.

Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with 2 above average White Girls!!!

What rage-inducing sights did you guys see today? Don’t you just hate seeing these things when you go out? It just makes you want to quit life.”

Racist? I think so.

My larger point. Bigotry isn’t always simple or logical and we need to stop using elementary levels of logic to shut down discussions. Manson only used the example of Elliot Rodger as a springboard for his larger argument, but his intentionally hyperbolic statements represent the mindset of millions of people: The millions of people who think they have the world, and all of the ugliness in it, figured out.

The Persisting Justification of Racism

Note: Been dealing with some formatting issues on the site e..g the spacing in this article. Working on it and will hopefully have it resolved soon.

When I was younger I had stereotypical notions of Texas being the most racist state in America. The Deep South still has a terrible reputation but more recent research I’ve done on America’s racial climate brought Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, to the forefront. As I was looking through an article detailing Boston athletes’ comments on Boston’s racism, I came across this comment:

 

It is no secret that Boston has always worn the label as a racist city. A well deserved one at that. But until people STOP using labels to describe ethnic group it will never stop. And that includes all groups. The African-American community needs to stop using the N word for everything. Lose it from your vocabulary . It doesn’t help your cause when you call each that name excessively. Maybe if the word disappears some of these hateful things can be avoided. Sounds a little naïve but it has to start somewhere”
This poster is right, his comment does sound naive. I almost don’t know where to start with this comment. The article detailed several testimonials about racism athelets received in Boston stadiums and Boston as a whole during their time playing for Boston sports teams. After reading all of the experiences, all this man can say is that maybe things like this wouldn’t happen if we didn’t use the N word.
“You’re the ones we learned it from. I heard nigg** back in 1971.” (Ice Cube: ‘Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It’).
It is not like blacks historically used the N word to refer to themselves, and then white people used it to insult us. The use of the n word is a re-appropriation of a term that is still used to denigrate the black population. I have heard people arguing that the true injustice is that black people can use the term and they can’t. After all, shouldn’t we be equal?
Firstly, this argument is dripping with paternalism and condescension. Secondly, it ignores context and history. Third, I would gladly trade not being allowed to say the n word for all the benefits that come with whiteness.
On average
1) Girls are more likely to date you
2) People will be more welcoming if you move into their neighborhood
3) People will be more willing to send their kids to school with your kids
4) You will be more likely to be hired for a job (Affirmative action actually benefits white women the most)
5) Less likely to get followed when you shop
6) Less likely to get pulled over by police
7) Less likely to get killed by police
Now, if someone said I can get all that but I won’t be allowed to say the n word, I would gladly take that deal. The white people who think they are victims because they can’t say the n word, represent the true “triggered” victims they always mock. They are surrounded by benefits and privileges that make their lives easier (as a whole), but they ignore all of that and focus on things that are trivial in comparison. I remember reading a testimonial from a woman who was upset because she saw a fruit stand that had a black Jesus painted on it. She felt victimized and ranted about how black people would get upset if she put up a white Jesus at her business. I remember reading this piece as part of my research for my Master’s paper, as best I can remember it came from White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism but I may be mistaken.
This woman is blind to how white supremacy has created the popular image of white Jesus. European painters depicting Jesus in the 14-16th century were very unlikely to depict him as anything but white due to their own views on other races. Centuries later, depictions such as the Sistine Chapel still fuel the American conception of Jesus. This has been cemented by the most popular depictions of Jesus on film and on television. So, this woman ignores the dominant images of white Jesus all around her but feels the need to lash out at a fruit stand for showing something different. It is true that recently there have been more rules regarding displays of religion in some workplaces, which can sometimes affect displays of Jesus. That is not an issue of white Jesus vs Black Jesus though, it is often more of an issue of Christianity vs other religions, which is a whole other article.
Moving back to the comment that inspired this article, the poster also says that we can eradicate racism by simply getting rid of labels. It is true that the labels of “black”, “white” etc. were birthed for the purpose of creating legal and social hierarchies. Hence, the frequently cited argument that race is just a social construct. However, people are not blind. They have always noticed skin colour. The desire to create a hierarchy was a result of the idea that people with darker skin were inferior. Even in the bible, the Cushites (called Ethiopians in the King James version) are described as dark-skinned Africans.
People will still see colour if we remove the categories of race. People already factor in skin colour when deciding what areas they want to live in, who looks suspicious, and who they want to date or marry. I have a hard time believing that tendency will disappear simply because the dark-skinned folk aren’t called “black” anymore. Dating profiles will say “no dark-skinned guys” or no “guys of African descent.” People will cross the street when they see a “dark-skinned guy” approaching. You see where I’m going with this.
What truly baffles me about this post is that this poster doesn’t spout the usual “I don’t even see colour” rhetoric that I would associate with his comments. His comments on removing the categories of race displays the same naivety that the colour-blind worldview does, but he, let’s call him “Blind”, actually acknowledged that Boston is a racist city. Many people would be happy to tell the Boston athletes that the racist incidents were very isolated ones or that they brought it on themselves somehow. Blind displays some more conviction but undermines it by shifting the conversation to race labels and the black community’s use of the n word.  Although he might not mean to, he resorts to blaming the victim. It’s the equivalent of asking a rape victim how she was dressed.
Although “Blind” didn’t make this argument, his comments also reminded me of the black-on-black violence cop-out that is often used by racists to shut down discussions of police shootings of black civilians: “Well black people are killing each other all the time anyway. Maybe they should work on that first instead of race-baiting.”
White people are also killed mostly by other white people, at least in the US. The next time a black person kills a white one, can I just retort that white people are killing each other off anyway?
Even the people who can acknowledge that racism is an issue, can have backwards ideas about its causes or resolutions. I believe that part of this problem is that some white people take it personal when you discuss acts of institutional racism or individual prejudice. They hear you discuss racism and get a knee-jerk reaction to accuse you of racism, or to simply discuss how enlightened and colour-blind they are: “I don’t even see colour, you’re so racist for talking about it.”
These people will then get “triggered” if they see a movie where a white character got changed to a black one (even though this happens less than whitewashing) : “Why is Hollywood forcing diversity on us? I hate this liberal propaganda.”
Welcome to the new colour-blind era.