What Does It Take for Something to be Considered Racist Nowadays?

I had another moment of weakness recently, scrolling through the scourge of YouTube’s recommended videos and watching a video from the REACT channel. Below was one of the recommended videos, and as you can guess, the title got my attention.

The video I was watching was one where millennials are basically tested on their knowledge of songs from the 90s, 80s etc. I guess the theme of “older music” related to older tv commercials with YouTube’s algorithm. Anyone who has read my previous posts might know my thoughts on the criticism of “pc culture” or “triggered snowflakes”. In short, the criticism of people who get “offended by everything” is often an argumentative tool used by outright bigots to defend their prejudice. You disagree with them saying Muslims shouldn’t be allowed in the US? You’re politically correct. If a smaller issue pops up, like people complaining about whitewashing in a film, you can bet that these same bigots will be there to complain about people getting worked up over nothing. And then they’ll also be the first to complain if a character gets “blackwashed”. Sometimes, political correctness can go too far. However, the people who constantly rally against pc culture are often just bigots upset that the world no longer tolerates their bigotry the same way it used to. They want to return to the good old days.

The commercials above are a great example. I did not watch all of them. Why? The title of the video and the description (which pokes fun at present “I’m offended” era) says there was nothing wrong with these ads at the time and also implies that there is nothing wrong with them now either. In short, while people nowadays are more likely to get offended because they are “snowflakes”, the ads are not racist. The issue is the pc snowflakes, not the ads themselves. That is the point the poster and most of the commenters are making.

So, if I watch any of the ads and find any of them offensive, that means I view the poster’s point as invalid. Firstly, many of these ads were released decades ago. Some were released during times such as Jim Crow, so obviously the standards for representations of minorities were not the same. If you are watching videos from that time and your first reaction is “I wish people would tolerate commercials like this nowadays”, then you are the issue: Not social justice warriors, political correctness, feminazis, white knights etc.

This is the perfect example that many people that say they want to avoid being pc just want to be able to embrace racism and misogyny without any criticism or pushback from the society around them. One commenter after another fails to see that maybe it is a good thing that these sexist and racist ads are no longer acceptable. Yes, maybe people do get offended by nothing sometimes, but these people think these ads are a good example of “nothing”.

In this day and age, these right-wingers need to hear a racial slur or see a lynching to be convinced that something is in fact racist.

The Right is Still Triggered

Note: To anyone reading, sorry for the hiatus. Been busy sorting out a move into a new place and just got internet set up yesterday. Without further ado, back to it.

I have my moments of distraction, where I spend time in the black hole of YouTube recommendations, watching scenes from some of my favourite shows or the other random videos that pique my interest. I was watching a clip from Netflix’s The Punisher, when I came across a random right-wing comment.

“Deborah Ann Woll is so beautiful and talented. The female characters in this show are some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. No feminazi bullshit, no pandering, no SJW nonsense, just all normal, strong, believable women characters that didn’t make me feel like I was watching a show created by tumblr. I loved Karen and Madani in this show (Madani started off annoying until around episode 4 though.) This show is just so well done. There’s some cheesy writing here and there, some flat jokes, but shit, nothing is perfect. I’m stoked for season 2.”

Firstly, this comment is amusing since the 20+ other comments after it didn’t mention politics at all. No one else was mentioning “feminazis” or sjws, so who is really triggered here?

Next, this post also demonstrates how intolerance is relative. This viewer commends Karen’s character and her inclusion in the series, while also saying it isn’t “feminazi bullshit”. For some people, any scene with a female lead (if she isn’t banging the male lead) is feminazi bullshit. Any strong female character becomes a Mary Sue and part of a feminist agenda.

As an example, look at this comment on this Punisher clip. In the below scene, Billy Russo is giving a speech to potential recruits of his private military contracting firm, Anvil.

Now check out this comment from a triggered right-winger who sees two female applicants.

“This is such a bullshit scene LOL I laughed out loud there’s no less than two women in that crowd. There is not a single civilian contracted mercenary group that would ever hire women for combat. Sjw’s and stupidity may have forced the US Army to allow women into combat but civilians don’t have to and most people that own their own businesses are smart enough to know simple facts of life. Simple facts such as women are ineffective in combat and if you don’t believe that look at any stats from the US military’s physical Fitness tests. Without fail the ratio of men passing these tests to women passing these tests are ten-to-one one across-the-board. They are not built for combat there’s nothing sexist about that it’s simple fact men are Fighters they are built to be that way women are not.”

So this person is obviously harping on the fact that women typically have less upper body strength than men. He says women pass these tests at a ten-to-one ratio compared to men, and that ratio of women is approximately what we see here. Maybe (emphasis on maybe) I could understand where he was coming from if the group was mostly women, but to go on a rant because two women are in a scene?

Like I said, sjw and feminazi are relative. They are not absolutes. “Feminazi bullshit” to one person can be completely overlooked by another. The more right-wing you are, the more sensitive you will be to any minority or female inclusion.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

T’Challa a.k.a Black Panther was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War, originally serving a role similar to the one Spider-Man played in the comics (the figure who joins Iron Man’s side but then changes his mind). Once Marvel were able to secure the rights for Spider-Man again, Tom Holland’s version of the character was hurriedly fit into the film. Spider-Man was brought in, but Black Panther remained and I think many people would agree that he shined in his debut.

The writing, the suit, the fighting and Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal all introduced the new King of Wakanda, and Black Panther picks up shortly after, where T’Challa is returning to Wakanda to be crowned king.

Firstly, there has bee a lot of excitement about this film because it is one of the first mainstream Hollywood films with a black director and a mostly black cast. Additionally, it is also one of the first movies in a while focusing on a black superhero. Inevitably, people’s excitement at these developments is also being met with the “colour-blind” or outright racist resentment.

  1. You don’t see me cheering for a new movie with a white cast.

It wouldn’t make sense for you to. There is an endless parade of films with white main characters and supporting characters. Your characters have a wide range of traits and professions. They are not often portrayed as thugs, or streetwise comic relief. The numerical representation of white people on screen far outstrips their representation in America, with over 70% of speaking roles in Hollywood films going to white actors (Sept. 2014- to August 2015). You are so used to this now that you have become blind to it.

Whiteness is the most desired commodity in Hollywood. It is why many stories focusing on black heroes are not viewed as “marketable”, despite successes like Straight Outta Compton and Hidden Figures. Studio heads are more willing to bank on white actors. This is why they favour adaptations of properties with white characters. This is why a character can be whitewashed when Hollywood adapts a story, because they view it as marketable. Then audiences start to internalize the same excuse, and get to the point where they genuinely support the idea that a movie loses interest for them if the protagonist isn’t white.

Consider this, even with the Marvel brand and Black Panther’s introduction in Civil War, it was still considered a “risk” to give $200 million to a black director whose previous work was critically lauded and profitable. There is a long-standing belief that black doesn’t sell as well as white, especially overseas, and Black Panther is challenging the dogma with its empathic opening weekend.

Don’t accuse black people or minorities as a whole of being racist here. Black people and Hispanics generally see more movies than white people do, meaning that a lot of them shell out money to watch (or even repeatedly watch) movies with characters that may not look like them. If minorities can do it, why can’t white people? We can appreciate a good story regardless of race, but we can also be appreciative when we get a great story and great film with actors that represent our population.

In short, if you go into this movie and carry your resentment with you, it is likely to influence your rating of the film.

Moving on…

Firstly, I have to say that this film did an amazing job of bringing Wakanda to life. Everything from the costumes, customs and music transports you to the fictional country that was never colonized. Its technology and clothing blend traditional and futuristic, borrowing inspiration from existing African countries to create something that is truly afrofuturistic.

Second, Black Panther actually gives us a good villain. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger gives us a villain with a tragic backstory and a mission that is more unique than a lot of others you will see. Essentially, he wants to take over the world, but the nuances and motive behind his aspirations are what makes him and the film special. Jordan can be charismatic, intelligent, empathetic, but also threatening. Other villains have also been physically threatening, such as Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, but without good writing they end up as generic placeholders. In terms of the entire MCU, Kilgrave from Jessica Jones may still have Killmonger beat. However, I have to place Killmonger above Loki as the MCU films’ #1 villain. Black Panther doesn’t shy away from exploring issues of racial identity and racism, and that was a pleasant surprise coming from the same company that turned a doomsday story into a buddy comedy (Thor: Ragnarok). Killmonger’s last line in particular, is one that left me speechless.

Speaking of comedy, it’s generally handled well in this film. I have previously ranted on YouTube and this blog about Marvel’s insistence on humour in their films. The Thor films as a whole are the worst offenders, giving us sloppy writing that regularly fails to build tension because we always know a joke is soon to follow, usually from the most annoying characters (looking at you Kat Dennings). Black Panther has one or two moments where I felt like a joke could have been cut, but overall I believe it is one of the MCU films that has the most balanced humour. There is nothing wrong with humour in itself, but it must fit the characters and the storyline.

In terms of jokes that could have been cut, one of the most notable comes from Andy Serkis as Ulysees Klaue a.k.a Klaw. Reprising his role from Avenvers: Age of Ultron, Klaw serves as an ally to Killmonger. If you have seen the trailers you know there is a scene where Killmonger frees Klaw from captivity, so what I am about to say won’t be too much of a spoiler. During Klaw’s interrogation, he is randomly singing What is Love. I guess the “don’t hurt me, no more” part is meant to be funny because Klaw wants to avoid torture, but the scene also comes across as really random and very Marvel-esque in terms of sloppy humour.

Most of the humour comes from Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Letitia Wright previously portrayed Nish in season 4 of Black Mirror and she is also able to shine here with the lighter material and the more intense moments. Shuri’s rapport with her brother is one of the highlights of the film and is a perfect example of a more organic approach to comedy, where it flows from a character naturally and doesn’t feel like it was forced in to keep things “fun”.

Alongside Boseman, Wright and Jordan we also have a host of other talented actors and actresses. Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead, makes Michonne look like Elsa in this movie. Daniel Kaluuya also plays an important role but he does get outshined by Winston Duke’s M’Baku. Martin Freeman also returns from Civil War as agent Everett Ross, and is yet another talented cast member and Lupita N’yongo rounds it out. For those who have seen the movie, you know her character is the real MVP.

The action in the film is at its best when the hand-to-hand choreography is on display. Some of the larger scenes do feature some shoddy CGI but thankfully these scenes aren’t prevalent enough to ruin the film. The Black Panther shines in his action scenes but Boseman also brings a great presence and power to the character, building off what we saw in Civil War. He is someone who is torn between tradition and chance, past and future.

I know that the hype or the outright anti-black animosity will affect some people’s views of this film. Some might say it is overhyped. I was pleasantly surprised not to feel that way. It is my new favourite MCU film, beating out The Winter Soldier.

Go see the film for yourself, and hopefully you can enjoy the film simply as a film, while also appreciating everything else that comes with it.

Black Panther and the Triggered Right

As I’ve discussed before, the term “triggered’ is often used by the right-wing to criticize people who get worked up about an issue that the right views as invalid. The use of “triggered” also implies that the right doesn’t have any issues that they care about, implying that they don’t worry about the trivial things the rest of us “snowflakes” do.

Which is why I find it so amusing to point out the double standard in this world view. For the newest exhibit, I present Black Panther. Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Black Panther is the target of a barrage by the alt-right. The alt-right takes credit for The Last Jedi’s Rotten Tomatoes score, saying they used bots to create fake reviews. Now they have their sights set on a upcoming superhero film.

Aside from giving us a heroic black main character, Black Panther will introduce Wakanda, a fictional African nation untouched by colonialism. It is wealthy, technologically advanced and has little to no contact with the outside world.

There was a mob of people got angry when they saw John Boyega in a stormtrooper costume for five seconds in the first trailer for The Force Awakens, so I knew it was a matter of time before Black Panther got heat for positive portrayals of black characters. People are always quick to argue that online discussion doesn’t matter. Yes, there are some people who make inflammatory comments that they don’t genuinely support. They do it for the purpose of attention and we call them trolls. It is convenient to think that every racist comment you read online is the work of a troll, but that mindset is not just delusional, it is downright dangerous. Steve Bannon, the Breitbart editor who was temporarily the White House Chief Strategist, said that online hate is an “army”.

“You can activate that army,” Bannon stated. “They come in through Gamergate* or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.”

Gamergate, in short, was an online hate campaign that targeted Anita Sarkeesian for speaking out on misogyny in the video game industry. What some people ignore as a bunch of trolls, became a weaponized force that helped to put Trump and his ilk in office. These aren’t just words. These aren’t a few harmless comments. They are the child of a much larger issue in society, a growing resentment and outright hate of minorities that is further emboldened by all the hate the commander in chief spews.

When the left complains about whitewashing in films, we’re told we’re being divisive. We’re focusing on race too much and not letting talent breathe. Now we get a talented black director, directing a large cast of talented black actors. We have black actors doing more than playing thugs, comic relief or supporting characters. Black Panther is like most of Hollywood’s films, where one race of people get the privilege of most of the roles and the roles with the most variety.

However, some people are ignoring the talent in the cast or the interesting story that the trailers hint at. They see too much blackness. Specifically, they see too much black greatness. These people would complain about a film where we’re slaves as well, since say they see that as an attempt to make them feel guilty or to stir up conflict (instead of simply seeing it as a history film). It turns out these people don’t like the other end of that extreme too.

  1. I don’t see my race represented enough! (although there are plenty of other films where you will see it disproportionately represented).
  2. It makes my people look bad. (For all we know it won’t. If it does, welcome to our world. We’re always told just to suck it up because it’s just a movie.)
  3. It’s wrong that black people are so proud of themselves. (Aren’t you the people that argue that the marches in Charlottesville were just a little racial pride? You have your free speech, we have ours.)

I’m looking forward to seeing Black Panther and there’s nothing the alt-right and their bots can do about it.

Racism and Denial

For anyone who has read my posts on race, you know that I am not one of the people who claims that we now live in a “colour-blind society” where racism is dead. Many people would call me a “race-baiter”, “libtard” or “social justice warrior” because I discuss things such as racial profiling, or the rise of white supremacy in America.

A modern refrain from people who deny racism nowadays is that minorities need to just work hard and stop complaining. Basically, racism is dead now and there is no need to protest. With that in mind, I stumbled across an interesting article on Medium that explored how white people have held the same beliefs, even during times of more blatant discrimination such as Jim Crow segregation.


Tim Wise studies survey data that reveals that most (50% +) white people surveyed during times such as the 1950’s and 1960s still believed that black people complained too much about racism and that their protests were divisive. Remember now, some of these polls are taken at times when black people weren’t allowed to vote or go to school with white people. Yet, most white people still argued that black people should just work hard and stop complaining.

For those of us with decent reading comprehension we can understand the point Wise is making: No matter the time or level of discrimination, most white people will still deny that racism is a problem. He is not personally attacking all white people or saying they are all racist. He is not saying racism now is AS BAD as it was then. It is hard to actually read the article and not understand the point, or disagree with the conclusion Wise drew from it.

However, just about every comment missed the point and actually strengthened Wise’s argument regarding the denial of racism. It is clear most of the people who disagreed with Wise likely did not even read the article. One person explicitly says the article is a personal attack. Another says he stopped reading when he saw statistics from 1966 (even though Wise’s argument doesn’t work without older statistics).

This is a clear case of people reading the headline and maybe the first paragraph, and then rushing to the comments to call the anti-racism educator a racist. All these comments are coming from the same side who routinely argue about the left being “triggered” or “snowflakes”. Who is triggered if the simple mention of racism makes you dash to attack the author before you even read an argument that he clearly laid out? How are we ever to reach the supposed “compromise” racists want so badly if no amount of facts are heeded?

I’m Not Racist But…

I think anyone who genuinely isn’t racist has caught on to the fact that the new breed of racists reject the label of racist. Trump is just “telling like it is” when he demonized Mexicans and Muslims, people say they have black friends when they get called out for racist thoughts etc.

We have seen this numerous times before but I came across something on Twitter the other day that still left me dumbfounded. I have previously discussed rapper Talib Kweli’s penchant for fighting back at the racist hordes that flock to his Twitter feed, and the person below was another one of them.

So, I know people might be quick to say this man (@GennethKrant) is just a troll. However, his entire feed is filled with these pseudo-intellectual racist statements.  Read what this person wrote here, really try to understand him, and then realize that it is impossible to. This entire statement is one big contradiction. You can’t condemn “terrorizing illegals” and disapprove of marrying Jews and then say you are inclusive, “fair and reasonable”.

Maybe this person is clueless enough to think he is not truly racist since he doesn’t use racial slurs and has black acquaintances who he hangs out with sometimes (while still viewing them as beneath him). The new racists are the Schrodinger’s cat of racists, simultaneously racist and inclusive.

More Right-Wing Straw Mans

For those of you who do not know, a straw man argument is an argument that does not address the argument an opponent made. Typically, the straw man is created by either exaggerating or simplifying an opponent’s argument

For example

Person 1: Racism still impacts minorities

Person 2 (Straw Man): You’re saying minorities shouldn’t work hard since racism holds them back anyway!

This may seem like an exaggeration on my part but the online realm is rife with straw man arguments. This post is actually motivated by an argument some racist (sorry, alt-righter) presented on twitter. According to them, acknowledging that racism still impacts minorities just gives minorities a license to become lazy. Sadly, this thread was met with a wave of support and criticism of liberals who would try to create a utopia where no one has to work hard.

This particular straw man argument is a very popular one and shows the strength of denial and straw man arguments. A lot of people on the right wing, and those sympathetic to them, love to complain about liberals being the ones that never listen to the other side or heed facts that contradict their world view. This straw man argument is one example of an argument that is borne out of willful ignorance.

No reputable figure who studies racism or even acknowledges its impact tries to argue that minorities shouldn’t bother to work hard or improve themselves, since racism will stop their progress anyway. This is not an argument that liberals make. There is plenty of evidence to show that racism still impacts minorities, such as the study that people with racially ambiguous names get more responses to their resumes, even though the resumes are identical. So people who don’t want to face the facts can simply ignore the actual details of the study, see the headline that says “racism” and jump to a stupid argument.

My mother never told me I shouldn’t bother to work hard because of racism. I was taught that I would have to work twice as hard to get the same respect. She was right. If I fail, it’s because I’m a lazy black guy. If I succeed, people assume I am unqualified because they don’t understand how affirmative action works.

We are stuck in a cycle where people say we can work hard and succeed, and are then treated with suspicion if we do succeed. Racist assumptions abound as people wonder if we AA’d our way in or if we are selling drugs to support our lifestyle. This is the beautiful colour-blind world we live in.

Race Swap

I previously shared a blog post titled, The Only Cure for Racism, where I describe my dream of a world where we can transplant the mind of someone into a different host body. This has been done before in science-fiction, but I examined how this could be used specifically to demonstrate how people can receive different and harmful treatment based on their skin colour.

There is so much information out there to demonstrate that racism is alive and well, but denial, straw man arguments etc. allow many people to ignore this information. These willfully ignorant people include groups like the alt-right and more enlightened individuals whose worldview is still shaped by ignorance. This is the age where terms like “libtard” and “social justice warrior” are used to describe people who have some knowledge of the issues affecting minorities. Don’t get me wrong, some people do legitimately see discrimination where there is none. However, the “right wing buzzwords” paint a wide swath of people with the same brush and ultimately help to derail conversations that can help society truly move forward. No form of discrimination or injustice was ever overcome by avoiding its discussion. If that is the lesson people have learned from history, then that is just more proof of the power of denial.

With that in mind, I began to write a story about race-swapping. In this story, a disgruntled white man volunteers to have his thoughts and personality implanted into a black host for six months. If he goes through the six months without feeling like he received any harmful treatment due to his skin colour, then he will receive a cash prize of $200,000. I wanted my protagonist to be representative of many of the racists present today. I am still fleshing out the story, but I know he will be young and educated (looking at you Ben Shapiro).

This story is still in its infancy, but I wanted to share this first piece since sharing this also motivates me to continue working on it. I am still working on my fourth book, Alive: Part II, as well (deadline of September). I am not sure how long “Race Swap” will end up being. It could be a short story of a few thousand words, or perhaps a novel. Either way, I will keep chipping away at it. Enjoy.


The libtards challenged him, and now he was going to prove them wrong. Their latest machination was something born out of desperation, because they couldn’t find facts to support any of the garbage they spouted.

My parents were poor, and they struggled most of their lives. Just like I did. I never got a handout but the Democrats and social justice warriors have the audacity to tell me I have white privilege, as if every white person has it easy. The blacks complain about racism and yet they get affirmative action, instead of just working hard like the rest of us. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve lost a job I deserved because some black C student got a free ride. They complain about racist police, but maybe they’d have an easier time if they just obeyed the law.

I thought off how much easier my life could have been if I was one of them, and I endured my commute with anger flowing through me. I saw the black school kids with their white girlfriends, knowing that people would call me “racist” just because I think people should stick to their own. One thing after another showed me how unfair the world is, why people like me need people like Trump to look out for us. We created this civilization, and now it was leaving us behind.

By the time I reached my destination, I had to take a few deep breaths before ringing the intercom.

“Good morning, how can I help you?” A female voice said from the speaker.

“I’m here for a 10am race swap.”


Elliot Rodger, Exodus and Choosing Ignorance

Over the past few days, The 2014 Isla Vista Killings came to the forefront of my mind again. I previously did an article on Elliot Rodger that was directed at the people who disavowed the arguments that Rodger was misogynist because most of his victims were men, and disavowed the argument that he was racist because he was half-Asian.

As a quick recap of my previous article:

  1. Rodger was misogynist. In his manifesto, “My Twisted World” he says women make poor decisions about who they date (a.k.a men who weren’t him) since their brains are less developed than men’s. Yes, he killed mostly men, but those men represented the men who took the girls he felt entitled to. Let’s not forget that Rodger’s primary target was a sorority house, but since he couldn’t get access to the people inside he settled for killing people nearby.
  2. Rodger was half-Asian, that doesn’t mean he can’t be racist. While the alt-right and other conservative groups love to complain about white people always being the target of accusations of racism, they also tend to use the “but he’s a minority” excuse to derail conversations on racism. In Rodger’s own words, full-blooded Asians are “disgusting ugly”. Rodger only wanted white girls, particularly blondes, and he repeatedly expresses frustration that other men, especially minorities, could get white girls when he couldn’t. “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me?…I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more.”

Now, with those arguments out of the way, I had to get some thoughts of my chest regarding people’s willingness to choose ignorance. All of the people who deny that Rodger was racist or misogynist likely didn’t bother to do any research to prove their point. They looked at the most basic statistics, his half-Asian identity and the demographics of his victims, and then dropped the mic on the conversation. This method of argument is easy and convenient, and is becoming all too popular. Despite being able to access information easier than ever, it is also easier to block out the information we don’t want to see.

I previously remember seeing this phenomenon when I was doing research for a paper on the racial portrayal of Egypt in Hollywood films. I argued that racist conceptions fueled the dominant portrayals of Egyptians as either white or Arab, but rarely black. I used Exodus: Gods and Kings (Exodus) as a case study, finding information on the time period (1300 BCE)  to prove that the portrayal of a white Egyptian royal family clashes with known history. I did research on Ancient Egypt to prove that dark-skinned black Africans did rule Egypt at numerous points in history and accounted for a significant portion of its soldiers, civil servants and royalty, at least until the Greek invasion later in Egypt’s history.

Another part of my study was analyzing moviegoer’s thoughts on Exodus and it’s portrayal, analyzing the arguments people used to defend it. While some people resorted to the easy “it’s a movie” argument (which they would probably reject if they saw a black person playing an ancient Greek), some argued that Ancient Egyptians were white. I remember a thread on IMDB’s forums, which no longer exist, where someone presented a link showing proof of Cushite-ruled Egypt. Cushite is a term for those who came from “Kush”, an area located in or near modern-day Sudan (Bennett 499). The term Cushite refers to dark-skinned Africans and is replaced by “Ethiopians” in the King James version of the Bible (“Communications” 683). Instead of checking the link, one poster simply responded that he refused to read that “liberal propaganda”. Now, this person could have Googled “Cushites”, or “Cushite-ruled Egypt” to see that the term isn’t just propaganda.

Although it may be easier to read through a link, it is also easier to ignore a link someone sends you than to read a book or passage that they present in person. The above user chose ignorance when he decided that he simply didn’t want to read any information that might disprove his world view. I can’t just blame this random IMDB user either, this is something many people do that erodes the intellect we’re supposed to possess in this techno-savvy era.


Works Cited

Bennett Jr., Robert A. “Africa and the Biblical Period.” The Harvard Theological Review 64.4 (1971): 483-500. Print.

“Communications.” The William and Mary Quarterly 54.3 (1987): 682-690. Print.

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, 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 cheer simply because she was too light-skinned for them.