The Culture of Catcalling

Note: Due to my schedule, some of my posts are written in an area where I can’t post links to social media or certain sites. For that reason, I will sometimes substitute with newspaper articles or attempt to upload links later in the day.

Some of you may remember this video from 2014 where an edited compilation of footage shows a woman being catcalled or receiving street harassment over the course of 10 hours as she walks through Manhattan. I initially wanted to do an article on this video when I first heard about last year but the YouTube comments made it clear that I would be fighting an uphill battle with the other men on the internet.

There were plenty of defences given for the catcalling and I want to address some of them.

  1. How is saying “good morning” or “how are you?” catcalling?

The issue is not the greeting itself in this case. Maybe people will call me a “white knight” for saying this, but this is a situation where you have to view it from the eys of a woman. Most men can’t relate to being catcalled by women daily. There was a response video where a male model walked around a city in his underwear, trying to argue men have it just as bad. However, the guy was definitely better looking than the average guy. Plus, the response video seemed to imply that a man walking around in his underwear is equivalent to a woman walking around in jeans and a shirt.

You can try to offer one ludicrious parallel after another, but I think most men will agree that we are not catcalled multiple times a day by strangers as we walk down the street.

So, with that in mind. Imagine you’re a woman. From the time you reach a certain age, you start getting all this attention from strangers on the street. It’s strange at first, but maybe you find it flattering after a little while. Then after a few years, the same thing happens day in day out. Some people are just saying “good morning” to be polite, the same way you’d say “good morning” to a colleague at work. However, some people use that opening as an attempt to get your number, tell you how hot you are etc. So after a while, you’re a little more guarded or skeptical when someone offers the greeting. Are they just being friendly or is it a preamble for something else? This is a case where a few (or maybe a lot), may have ruined a good thing for many.

2. Shouldn’t girls should be flattered?

Read number one again. The woman who are very flattered by catcalling are likely the ones who aren’t subjected to it that often. I was listening to a “Mating Grounds” podcast by Tucker Max, where he asked a female colleague why women wouldn’t be flattered by catcalling or why comments such as “good morning” would bother them. As the woman points out, it is the accumulation of those experiences that makes you grow tired of it after a while. Maybe it is flattering the first day, first week, first year, first decade etc. If a woman who is regularly catcalled still loves the attention, then she is likely very insecure.

As Tucker Max added, he was used to fans at his book signings asking him if he was drunk. It was funny the first few times but by the time the 50th fan asked him he wanted to punch them in the face.

3. So what, we’re not allowed to talk to girls anymore?

If the only girls you talk to are random ones on the street, you need to get out more. Join groups for activities you’re interested, get to know your classmates in college etc, hang out with these new things called friends and see if they know girls. There are other places to talk to women where they won’t be as guarded due to their previous experiences.

The guys who insist that catcalling is a vital part of being a man always crack me up, since they are also the ones who complain the most about women being “stuck-up” or narcissistic. What do you expect will happen if a woman is reminded multiple times a day of how hot she is by guys on the street, plus guys who comment on all her social media and message her with comments dripping with sexual desperation? Trust me, if men collectively put a stop to these actions, we would collectively have an easier time with women.

With those excuses out of the way, I also want to comment on something else that this catcalling video brings up. Now, I am not trying to say that criticism of catcalling is now invalidated due to this issue. I am only saying that it reveals another dimension of the video that gets overshadowed by the people who can’t even acknowledge that catcalling might not be a good thing.

“The Mating Grounds” podcast illustrated my problem as well. Tucker Max pointed out that a lot of the men in the video were black, and also attributed this to a general culture of catcalling among black men. I don’t want to call Tucker Max a racist since a lot of his other content demonstrates that he acknowledges discrimination such as racial profiling by police. However, I think this comment illustrates some level of ignorance, which this article actually helps to shed light on. Although the company behind the street harassment video claimed that they filmed through many different areas of Manhattan, an analysis of the all the locations in the edited two minute clip reveals that 59% of the shots were in Harlem. For those who don’t know, Harlem is over 60% black. Since the areas we see in the video are mostly black, it makes sense that we will see mostly black people in the video.

There is a chance that black people might not just be more likely to catcall. We won’t know since the video’s creator apparently cut out more footage of white guys since the clips contained too much noise. The reponsible thing to do in that case would be to try and collect more footage without too much noise, in order to get a more representative sample. There are other catcalling videos out there, and they all show a healthy dose of white men engaging in it as well. Let’s not reduce catcalling to something that only (or mostly) black guys do.

 

My Racial Awakening

In this brave new era people who discuss racism are viewed as society’s greatest dividers and agitators. Meanwhile, the people who’s lives are structured around racist assumptions and beliefs use the excuse of “colour-blindness” to shut down any discussion of racism. I have discussed this in my previous piece, which Talib Kweli was gracious enough to read and retweet. Since that piece discussed my current passion for the topic of race, I wanted to use this piece to discuss the reason I joined the discussion.

Until I was about thirteen, my view of the world was similiar to most conservatives. I thought racism was something historic, with only a few outliers remaining, such as the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. Elementary and high school taught me about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and Jim Crow, but never taught me about the more subtle forms of racism that are far more prevalent. My lessons on stereotyping and racial profiling were all extra-curricular ones until University. My experiences fortunately did not subject me to violence, but I don’t think they should be ignored simply because they didn’t result in violence or death. No matter what justifications people will want to use, my experiences show that people are not as “colour-blind” as they claim.

When I was thirteen my stepdad (at the time) and my mom announced that they were moving to England due to a work transfer. While they sorted out the move, I lived in Jamaica for one year with my uncle.

I think my time in Jamaica actually offered the most stark contrast possible to the experiences I would have in England. I moved from a country that was over 90% black to one that was less than 5% black. Of course, Jamaica has its own issues of discrimination, with colourism becoming a growing phenomenon, which is also leading to more skin bleaching as people try to lighten their skin to something they view as more beautiful.

However, when I was in Jamaica, I definitely didn’t receive the same level of scrunity for my skin colour as I did in London. At thirteen, I wasn’t as self-conscious as I am now. I initially ignored people staring,  people crossing the street or holding their purses tighter when they saw me. London has a decent black population, but the area I was living in was apparently one where they weren’t as welcome. Some people will be quick to say that this is an issue of class then, not race. However, I retort that this is an issue of race and class intersecting. What I experienced would not have happened to a white thirteen year old living in London.

I was one of the few black people at the first school I went to in England, and I think this also facilitated my release from blissful ignorance. Of course, being one of the few black people did not guarantee racism. I didn’t mind that people noticed I was black. I was never conservative enough to view their ability to see me as a mark of discrimination. Contrary to conservative doctrine, seeing someone’s colour isn’t racist. The issue is how you treat them due to their skin colour. I never felt discriminated against at the school like I did on the streets or in my own apartment. The issue at school was a more harmless form of ignorance, that nevertheless made me realize how different my race made me. As mentioned before, my mother didn’t want me growing my hair long, and this is a habit that has stuck with me. However, I would usually grow my hair out for a few weeks before getting it cut. I’d have a nest of curly hair less than an inch long on my head, which still managed to fascinate some of my classmates. I can remember plenty of them running their hands through it.

Yes, London may be a relatively diverse city but these kids didn’t grow up in that London. Southbank International School was a home for the children of wealthy Brits and expats, many of which apparently didn’t mingle that much with people of other races. There was even a rumour that I was related to the only other black person at the school, a girl a few grades older than me. This girl and I never spoke. I didn’t even know her name. It seems like people assumed we were related simply because our skin was the same tone. At the time, I didn’t consider this a subtle manifestation of racial ignorance. Although I realized how ignorant the assumption was, I found amusement in it. I didn’t find amusement in what greeted me outside the school.

I loved the gated complex we lived in, courtesy of my step-dad’s company. It was amazing seeing so many high end cars in the parking lot, everything from Aston Martins to Maseratis. The building’s staff were very familiar with my parents, and knew me well. As I look back on the experience, I realize how warm and welcoming they were to us. While I revelled in this new environment, certain things started to annoy me after a while.

“Do you live here?”

This was a question I received from other residents. This question was never an attempt to start a conversation. It wasn’t followed by a request for directions, an introduction or any form of small talk. Usually the only response I received was a stare or maybe “Just checking.” I answered this question with a smile on my face the first few times, not thinking that my skin colour could make someone question my presence. Sometimes I may have walked through the gate after someone else, and I thought it was a fair question since I didn’t enter the security code myself.  Other times, I thought that maybe my casual dress begged the question. However, some of the residents asking me were also dressed casually. Before racist assumptions come into play, I have never been one to wear excessive jewellery or baggy pants hanging low. I don’t wear hoodies often either.

Sometimes I was dressed more formally than the residents interrogating me. The uniform for one of the schools I went to was a suit, complete with a green blazer. This uniform was nothing like the uniform worn by the staff and also should have signified that I wasn’t a homeless person wandering into the building. Additionally, I was often clean cut and sported no facial hair at the time (mother’s orders). As I look back on my justifications for the questioning, I wonder what the residents thought I planned to do if I didn’t live there. Did they think I was planning to sneak past the security at the front desk and ransack as many apartments as I could find?

These experiences continued to pile up, and after a while, I could not help but ask why I kept getting asked this question. The answer didn’t really come to me until a flight back to Canada during one of my school breaks. My stepdad and I had first class seats and while I enjoyed the privileges that came with it, the experience was somewhat overshadowed by an encounter with a flight attendant. I went to use the first class bathroom, and she stepped in front of me and pointed to the bathroom in coach.

I was confused, but didn’t think to argue. I had to pass my stepdad to reach coach, and he stopped me to ask where I was going. When I explained that I couldn’t use that bathroom, he assured me I could and told me to walk back towards the front. When I did, the same flight attendant stopped me and pointed to coach again. My stepdad saw everything this time, and angrily pointed to my seat “He sits here.” With that said, the flight attendant finally let me use the first class bathroom.

It took me a while to accept what happened. I remember fuming in my seat, wanting an apology from the flight attendant. Once the initial rush of anger passed I tried to justify what happened. Maybe my age had something to do with it? This proved to be a faulty justification since teenagers have parents who could have possibly paid for their ticket. My dress?  I remember that the weather was warm at the time so I know I wasn’t wearing a hoodie. I was dressed casually but there was no afro, low-hanging pants, excessive jewellery or metal gilded teeth in sight. There was no valid reason for this flight attendant to assume I was a delinquent sneaking in from coach to use the first class bathroom. She didn’t even ask me if I was in first class or ask me to present my boarding pass. She didn’t say a word to me. She just blocked my path and pointed to where she thought I belonged. The fact that I COULD be in first class didn’t even register in her mind.

Needless to say, by the time I moved back to Canada at age fifteen, I wasn’t a blissfully ignorant person anymore. I was embittered, injected with righteous indignation. Although I am still committed to exploring and denouncing racism, I know that this period was one where it dominated my life in an unhealthy way. I wasn’t just aware of how the world worked, I saw it as a poisoned entity. There were times in the years ahead where I genuinely saw racism where it didn’t exist. However, I think this stage is a natural one for anyone who was taught by his insitutions that racism is long gone, and then gets kicked in the teeth by reality.

By the time I entered the University of Ottawa, I still had more to learn. I was followed while shopping for the first time while in a SAQ in Hull, Quebec. A white friend and I entered the store, and an employee rushed over after a few minutes to ask if I needed help. I had my hands on a bottle of Appleton and advised her that I was fine. As I waited for my friend to make his selection I noticed the employee leaning on a shelf near to me, keeping her eyes trained on me while ignoring my friend. Although I was well aware of racism, this was a specific type of profiling I had either never experienced or never noticed.

There are plenty of minorities that will often argue that a racist incident, or a form of racism, must be a fabrication because they’ve never experienced it themselves. I never denied that black people could be watched more intensely than whites when they shop, but I somehow thought Canada was immune to such idiocy. Most of the time I saw it in entertainment or heard about it, the employees made some attempt to be subtle. I thought that maybe she was watching me because I had a bag on, which could be used to conceal items, but my white friend had a bag as well. Maybe some part of me wanted to believe she was just admiring me for my good looks.

I went to SAQ for a second time years later. My friends and I were travelling through the area and decided to stop in. While they were mainly focused on cheaper alcohol, I was eager to see if my first experience with SAQ was an isolated one. Lo and behold, I see an employee on the other end of the store move to a wall that gave him a good view of the entire hard liquor section. He folds his arms and leans back as he watches me move down my desired aisle. Two of my friends were in another section of the store and the employee ignored them. A group of at least four white girls walked in a few minutes after us, and they were also ignored.

There was no bag on my back this time, so it wasn’t like I could shove a 40 ounce bottle of liquor down my pants and try to walk out. I don’t believe in God, but I can’t help but feel like some force conspired to give me the perfect circumstances to test out SAQ’s racism. I say SAQ’s racism because “watch black people when they shop” appears to legimitately be a company policy. Two different employees, years apart, adopted the same protocol. Either they support the racist ideas that fuel that policy or they disagree but feel the need to just follow orders like the Nazis did. As soon as I left SAQ that day I knew I would never step foot in one again.

I remember watching Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, and hearing a modicum of hope from James Baldwin when he says (don’t remember the exact phrasing) “I must have optimism because I am still alive.”

Believe it or not, there are many people out there who have and continue to be experience far worse racism than I have. There are unarmed men shot dead by cops or wannabe vigilantes, whose deaths are justified due to their status as dangerous “thugs”. The concept of arresting someone without killing them seems to disappear when black people are in question. “So what if two cops were lying on top of him before he was shot? He was a thug anyway.”

Society has a conscience, but its conscience has a blindspot. I have my own obstacles and experiences that bombard me with the truth about our utopic post-racial world. They exist, and no amount of willful ignorance or right-wing slander will change that. They impact me, but they don’t kill me. I’m alive, and going strong.

Talib Kweli’s Twitter Fingers

As a child, most of the music I listened to was whatever my parents were listening to. I heard the pop and rap on the radio, but also older R&B and reggae. When I was thirteen, I started listening to music independently, getting into the alternative rock that was popular in England (my home at the time). As I grow older, I continuously seek out older music of many genres, wanting to diversify my tastes.

I first heard about Talib Kweli Greene (known professionally as Talib Kweli) when I was doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa. I forget the context for his name being brought up, but I believe he may have been doing a show somewhere in the city. Years later, when I joined Twitter, I was randomly motivated to find his account. To this day, I have not listened to his music. I will, but this post isn’t about his artistry. Anyone who follows Kweli knows he isn’t afraid to engage anyone who tweets to him or about him. Some of these tweets come from people criticizing his career or music for one reason or another, but a lot of the ones I’ve seen are people who accuse him of being racist.

As I’ve discussed before, “colour-blind racism” is the modern racism. It is a naive mindset that racism, both instutional and individual, is dead now except for those pesky people wearing white hoods. It treats any mention of race as being racist, while also defending comments, mindsets and behaviours that rely on racist assumptions. People will say they don’t see colour, and then argue that black people would get killed by cops less if they just obeyed the law. People will say they don’t see colour, but then refuse to date anyone whose skin doesn’t match their own. People will say they don’t see colour, but then assume a black person with a good job isn’t qualified for it.

Racists are drawn to Kweli like moths to the flame. There is a sort of vicious cycle at work, where someone attempts to call Talib out for perceived racism, e.g. Talib’s declarations of being proudly black or his previous responses to another racist. Then once Talib dismantles this racist’s arguments, another jumps in to attack him because he dared to discuss race. Such is the hypocrisy of the colour-blind racist. While they have their own racist assumptions and beliefs, they are quick to throw out the word racist for those who call them out on it. “I’m not racist, you politically correct social justice warriors, (other right wing buzzwords) race-baiters are the real racists. I just think I should be able to say I don’t want more black people in my neighborhood without libtards attacking me. Black people are violent after all! That’s not racist, I have black friends.”

I have sometimes wondered why Kweli bothers to respond to these people, and some tweets from fans have also expressed the same question. Some of the haters accused Kweli of doing nothing but tweeting all day, but a look at his touring and musical output shows he is a productive artist. He handles time well, but I guess I still wondered why he bothers. Then I read Kweli’s own answer to the question, and it all made sense.

People are always quick to label racist online comments as the work of “trolls”, people who write inflammatory comments and derive enjoyment from the uproar they produce. The word “troll” implies that the poster doesn’t actually believe what they wrote, they are just saying it to see how people react. This kind of mindset, where we just ignore online racists, is downright irresponsible in this day and age. As Kweli points out, the alt-right is an entity that was birthed online. Real people reside behind the alt-right sites and comments that have proliferated online. These people have jobs, families and the ability to vote. They got Trump elected, with their own votes and their ability to spread misinformation that reinvigorated the resentment of minorities that many people in America harbour. Kweli combats racism through campaigns and events and he knows “twitter fingers” may not be for everyone, but it is one of the tools he employs to combat the ignorance that is stoked by this new climate of right wing backlash.

The people who decide to accuse Kweli of racism demonstrate one racist assumption after another, and a straw-man understanding of concepts like white privilege. User @adamant919 had the audacity to use the term “black privilege” to describe black people’s supposed natural gifts and our “handouts” with programs like affirmative action, which actually benefit white women more and don’t lead to unqualified applicants getting selected for jobs. Funny enough, the user appears to have deleted his account since. This isn’t the first user that has deleted his account following an encounter with Kweli and it gives me some hope that some people might realize the error of their ways. However, someone can delete their account out of a sense of embarrassment, without actually reflecting on their views.

This Slate article offers an interesting case study of the infamous Hunger Games (2012) racist backlash, where supposed fans were upset that the character Rue was played by a black girl, even though Rue is described as having dark brown skin in the book. One fan began collecting these racist tweets, such as “Rue being black ruined the movie” and created a tumblr account to showcase them. This article follows up on this tumblr account, reaching out to some of the twitter users to get their thoughts.

The user who wrote this tweet argued that she didn’t mean to be racist. She was just surprised that Rue was black since Rue was supposed to remind Katniss (the white, main character) of her sister. Firstly, “remind her of” doesn’t always mean “look like”. If she was truly “colour-blind” then Rue’s skin colour shouldn’t have even registered with her. Aside from the terrible excuse offered by the twitter user, the author brings up a point that a lot of people like to use for defending racists online: “This kind of drive-by scapegoating does not seem conducive to genuine reflection (and it definitely doesn’t encourage reflection in the individuals it scapegoats).  It allows us to point the finger at other, younger, relatively powerless people, rather than consider the ways in which we’re implicated in a problem that is much, much larger than a few misguided teenagers on Twitter.”

I have heard people say the same thing to Kweli about his Twitter comments, and it usually comes across as very disengenious. Some of the users from the Hunger Games example may be teenagers, but some of them are grown men and women. The same goes for the alt-right. People who throw out the “don’t shame people” argument out act as if there are no attempts made to examine racism on a much larger scale. There is plenty of information online, in classes, on tv that sheds light on the much larger problem of institutional racism. People choose to ignore these sources. People choose ignorance. They reject enlightenment as left wing propaganda, the work of libtards or social justice warriors. People surround themselves with friends and sources who share the same views and refuse to challenge any of their assumptions about the world. How exactly should their racist comments be dealt with?  Conservatives love to throw out the argument of free speech to defend bigotry and no one is saying they don’t have the right to make such comments. My question is: If someone is willing to go online and criticize someone’s skin colour or attack a rapper for his liberal beliefs, why are we discouraged from exercising our free speech and shining the spotlight back on them?

As Kweli says, if someone is already racist “when I respond to them, it doesn’t matter what facts I give or how much sense I make. They’re going to be who they are.” Being kinder to the racists won’t make them more prone to ‘reflection.” The real purpose behind responding is to avoid having your message become silenced. There were probably millions of people, viewing one racist comment after another from the alt-right and thinking that all those comments wouldn’t have any impact on their lives. They stayed silent, and let misinformation and racist rhetoric fill the void. They may as well have packed Trump’s things and moved them into the White House for him.

Get Out

Note: Spoilers Ahead

After much delay, I finally got around to seeing a film I’ve heard nothing but good things about. I must say, the film lives up to the hype for the most part. Since the film was released a while ago I didn’t really feel like doing a review of it, which is why I want to sum up my thoughts on the film itself and move on to the interesting questions/issues it raised.

Firstly, the performances are all amazing. The only other film I have seen Daniel Kaluuya in in Sicario, and he was alright in that. The role was smaller and didn’t allow him to demonstrate the range we see in Get Out. It looks like things are looking up for Kaluuya since he also has a role in 2018’s Black Panther.

The Armitages, the family that Chris is expecting to join, are all outstanding. Caleb Landry Jones was particularly interesting as Jeremy, Chris’s prospective brother-in law. Keith Stanfield, probably best known as Darius on Atlanta, isn’t in the film that much but stole the spotlight when he was present.

Get Out works well as a comedy when it is intended to be comedic, as expected from Jordan Peele. However, it is also masterful as a horror film. The horror isn’t the type you would expect from a franchise like The Conjuring. There are no jump scares to be found. Instead, Peele forces an air of unease upon us that permeates most of the film. I was reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone, where its strength lies in its ability to unsettle you and get your mind and heart racing. More importantly, it also gets you thinking.

Peele has described Get Out as a “very personal” story“. A friend at work pointed out that Peele has a white wife, and it is very easy to see Get Out as a satirical, cathartic reenactment of encounters with his wife’s own family. I forget the exact wording, but I remember a tweet that said Get Out isn’t about ‘hang that nigger’ racism, it’s about ‘I’m not racist because I have black friends and voted for Obama’ racism. I think that tweet is a perfect distillation of what Get Out offers.

The Armitages’ are a rich, white family who are openly welcoming to Chris when they meet him. The dad is quick to mention he voted for Obama and that Obama was the best president in his time. With this statement, the film starts to delve more into the issue of the fetishization of the black body. Jeremy is the one to bring up the idea that black people’s genetics make them superior athletes, expressing his own quiet disdain and envy at this fact. This stereotype is also brought up by the extended family, and the comments all bring back memories of comments I’ve head all through my life as well. I was recently involved in a Twitter conversation where @adamant919 had the audacity to call our supposed natural gifts “black privilege”. Funny enough, it looks like the user has since deleted his account.

This fetishization reduces the black body to something that is either a threat, a conquest or a toy. Get Out is one of the first films in a while that generally surprised me with a third act reveal. Initially I thought that Chris would simply be brainwashed into submission, becoming another Andre Hayworth via Missy Armitage’s hypnosis. It was genuinely chilling to hear the breakdown of the surgery that would be performed to turn the black body into a vehicle for someone else, reducing Chris to a passenger within his own body. The Armitages’s could easily do the same process with white bodies, but it is clear that they are appealing to a desire specifically for black ones. In Chris’s case, Jim Hudson only wants his eyes so that he can capture the kinds of pictures he envies Chris for. However, the groundskeeper (Walter), is being controlled by Rose’s grandfather. Walter’s role on the estate becomes more chilling when we realize it is an old white man reveling in what his new body can do. The infamous Walter sprint, which grandpa calls his “exercise”, becomes a man testing out stereotypes for himself.

Peele is currently being considered to direct The DC Extended Universe’s Flash film and I was hesitant when I heard this, since the role seems far removed from his skillset. After seeing Get Out and how it manages to combine satire, horror and comedy, I am sure Peele can find a way to handle any project that comes his way.

Ex-Machina and Race

I remember watching Ex Machina back in 2015 and falling in love with the film within the first half hour. The film follows a programmer, Caleb Smith, who is invited to test an AI being developed by his  CEO, Nathan Bateman.

By the time it was done, Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of all time. Aside from the great performances, especially by Oscar Isaac, the film asked a lot of interesting questions. There was one question, and one specific line, that still sticks with me. It comes to the forefront of my mind every time the topic of interracial dating ever comes up, with the most recent occurrence being Get Out.

“Accumulated external stimuli” (AES).

Whether it is in person, online or in entertainment, there are a plethora of reasons offered for dating exclusively in one’s race.

“It’s not natural”

Neither are cars and retirement homes. In the good old days humans used horses to travel and the old and sick would perish to make way for the fittest. Some scholars even argue monogamy is unnatural. How many of these things do proponents of this argument which to cut out of society? Of course, these people probably don’t realize how faulty their reasoning is. After all, I am sure many of the people who use the argument have no attraction to other races, and therefore assume that it is natural for them to feel that way.

This also brings up the question of why they view it as unnatural. I grew up with interracial couples in my family, among my cousins, aunts etc. By the time I was ten I viewed interracial coupling as natural. However, I realize my experience is not an objective truth. People who grow up with racially or ethnically homogenous families will be more likely to see an interracial coupling as unnatural if they have rarely experienced it themselves. Especially if their family also actively discourages or criticizes such relationships.

“It’s not racist. It’s just a natural preference.”

AES is the only reason for racial preferences that I agree with. Firstly, it doesn’t view attraction to a specific skin colour or ethnicity as being an ingrained development, where we are born programmed only to date white people, or Chinese people etc.  People who grow up genuinely believing their preferences were pre-programmed (so to speak) often disregard the impact of years of subtle coaching from family and/or friends to stick to their own or “preserve the culture”.  If your parents are guiding you to seek out your own kind once you have your first crush at age seven, it is easy for you to reach thirty and think that the choice was a natural one.

Of course, people don’t always have a preference for their own. Some people will reject their own kind and only seek out others. I know plenty of black people who don’t want to date other black people, or at least not dark-skinned black people. I know people who are neither white or black, but still have a preference for white mates, or lighter-skinned mates that can produce lighter-skinned children. It is a mark of beauty and progress. They see their family moving on up in the world as the generations become lighter. Is this sort of self-hate natural? Or is it a result of what they were taught to value by their own family? Or maybe a result of the dominant images of beauty available in the media they consume? As Nathan says, these stimuli form a sphere of influence that “you probably didn’t even register, as they registered with you.”

The Great Wall

The Great Wall was never on my radar since the trailer failed to interest me, and because the inclusion of a white main character came across as a blatant example of whitewashing. Matt Damon’s character is a European mercenary, but it begs the question of why this character had to be introduced instead of focusing on an Asian one.

I have repeatedly discussed whitewashing on this blog and on YouTube, which is why I grow tired of repeating the same arguments, to defend the same arguments in support of whitewashing.

I came across a tweet from a user who I have previously had respectful disagreement with.

I didn’t bother getting into an argument with this user.

Firstly, there is a huge double standard in terms of race-change in comics. People will defend The Great Wall, Ghost in the Shell and Death Note blindly since white actors are more “relatable” or “marketable”. Or people will simply say that they are colour-blind and that we shouldn’t focus on race so much.

If a person of colour plays a white character there is a firestorm of criticism, ranging from Rue in The Hunger Games (2012), to Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four (2015).  People suddenly aren’t colour blind. They want actors who look like the characters, who fit the demographics etc. If people complained about non-speaking black extras who were in The Hobbit (2012) for ten minutes, they are obviously not colour-blind. They just don’t care as long as more white people are on screen.

The Great Wall isn’t an adaptation. The source material for this historical fantasy is the setting. It makes sense for the main character to be an Asian one, and now we have some people arguing that Chinese people don’t want to see themselves on screen. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese audiences shell out a lot of money for white American and European actors. I just don’t think they would be repelled by a Chinese actor. How are minority actors ever supposed to get bigger roles if they are always denied because they are not a big enough star?

Death Note cast Nat Wolff, an actor best known for YA flicks, as Light Yagami. Wolff is not a highly marketable actor but is a fact that Hollywood is willing to take bigger risks with unknown white actors.

Let’s also debunk the marketability argument by looking at two recent Hercules films. Kellan Lutz, best known for a supporting role in the Twilight series, starred in The Legend of Hercules (2014). Meanwhile, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in The Hercules (2014). If all people cared about were how marketable the actors are, no one should have complained about The Rock’s race with the casting. The Rock is arguably the most marketable actor in Hollywood and people’s complaints about his skin colour on sites like YouTube and IMDB are not the comments of colour-blind people.

Likewise, I have always ignored the argument about people of colour not being “relatable” enough. Of course, being able to relate to a character can be crucial to enjoying a film. However, there are many great characters that are not necessarily relatable. How relatable is Optimus Prime? There is the assumption that a main character has to be relatable in order for people to see a film. If people will pay to see aliens and robots, why is seeing a a person of colour such a stretch?

Additionally, looks should not dictate how relatable someone is. I can relate to white Peter Parker, for his struggles with money and girls. Even when I can’t relate to a character, I can still enjoy a film. I can’t relate to Batman, with his level of personal loss, wealth, fitness etc. Yet I love watching (some versions) of him on screen.

Now let’s move on the crux of this twitter user’s argument. Free-market economics. Like many people, he argues people simply wouldn’t pay to watch the film without big American stars. He also conflates American with white, which many people continue to do.

I am sure that many people probably thought that a film like Straight Outta Comptom (2015) would never be a box-office success, even with a relatively modest budget of $50 million. Many people pointed to Red Tails (2012) as the definitive example of what would happen if enough white people weren’t involved. “All the white viewers in America and worldwide won’t pay to see a film with so many black people”. Yet Straight Outta Compton was a success and introduced audiences to new, talented and non-white actors. Straight Outta Compton marketed it’s story well, making people acknowledge the race of the actors but also put aside any prejudice or hesitance in order to see the story. If you are interested in a film’s story, setting etc, but decide not to watch it because   the main character isn’t white, there is something wrong with your head and Hollywood needs to stop pandering to this mentality.

How are minorities ever supposed to get bigger roles and become “marketable” leading men if they are never given the opportunity? Do they all have to settle for supporting roles with white leads and hope that is enough to someday make a name for themselves? Even if a film takes place in China, Hollywood makes sure a white man is there to lead the way.

Alive-Third Book Completed

I am happy to announce that I completed a rough draft of Alive on thursday. I will be returning to the story to add, cut, delete, edit etc and have a polished version ready by July at the latest. Once I have an edited version, I will then look into editing services that can give me impartial advice on the book. Then I will pursue an agent. However, I wish to take a break from it for a week so I can return to it with fresh eyes.

Alive follows Mason, a young black man in a medieval society who is bitten by a werewolf. After surviving an attempt on his life, Mason meets Ayda, the woman who bit him. Ayda offers him a sanctuary in a society that rejects their kind, but informs him that she plans to use their power to eliminate the people who discriminate against them. Torn between his conscience and a desire for vengeance, Mason must confront a society that wants him dead and a woman who wants to use him to wage war.

I am especially proud of this book since it began with one poem that I posted to this blog. I built on that on poem with others and was able to craft a full novel from it. It has demonstrated the value of blogging and the creative benefits that it can bring.  I am also debating doing a second part, since the ending to this first book is open ended.

Once Alive is completed, I want to begin working on a novel for Hazard.

David Harbour and Stranger Things

Stranger Things was one of my favourite shows of 2016 and I was happy to hear that it received a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for “Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble Cast”. Of course, the award was overshadowed online by memes targeting Winona Ryder’s facial expressions.

It appears that Ryder actually stole attention away from David Harbour’s speech, which is also one of the most discussed events from the SAG Awards. Firstly, the speech is generally about fighting injustice and accepting “outcasts and freaks”. The speech can refer to the events of Stranger Things but is of course a parallel to Trump and his presidency.

Like any political comment, it has attracted a wave of support and plenty of criticism. I previously discussed how people forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword in my Patton Oswalt article.

“I also find that people often forget that freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. For example, President Trump said the Hamilton cast was out of line for criticizing Vice President Pence, but he also supported the unfounded allegations that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim. Trump had no problem using his freedom of speech to assert that a President’s birth certificate isn’t valid, but he was also insulted that the Hamilton cast would have go off-script to address his VP. People invoke freedom of speech as an excuse when people express views they do not agree with.”

I’m not bringing this up again as shameless self-promotion. I bring it up again because I believe that it captures an issue that is central to the criticism directed towards Harbour and Stranger Things as a whole. I first came across the criticism of Harbour’s speech due to an announcement about season 2. While I was just excited to see some new pictures, a few of the users (who use Facebook to comment) were quick to comment on how much Harbour’s speech turned them off the show.

Bill Michael writes: “I love the first season but after the SAG award political rant/meltdown on stage by the cast I doubt my family or I will watch season 2 now”

And Jim Culver follows up with: “I was right in the middle of binge-watching season one when they did that, and it totally soured the experience for me. All I could think about was what a pretentious jerk the guy who played Hopper is, and what a ditz Winona Ryder is.”

So maybe Culver has a point about Ryder, but what bothered me was the animosity generated about Harbour daring to express an opinion.

I have come across some people who believe that celebrities shouldn’t make political statements of any kind, since they have so much influence and can sway people negatively. However, we have to remember that celebrities are human beings. They have a stake in the world just as much as we do.

If an actor or actress I respect makes political statements I disagree with, I don’t chastise them for having an opinion, I criticize them for the views themselves. I like my bigots out in the open, and I want to know what is going on in the minds of people who I am indirectly giving money to. The people criticizing Harbour, for criticizing Trump, come across as Trump supporters who don’t want to hear their hero denigrated by what they view as “libtards,” or “commies” judging by the comments on the Youtube video. I have to wonder if they would be as upset if Harbour made a speech talking about the need to support Trump.

As expected, plenty of the comments criticize the left for being intolerant. After all, Harbour does advise that people should be punched in the face. When Trump said he wanted to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and establish a Muslim ban, people said it was only a metaphor. I’ll use the same excuse here, Harbour was just referring to what his character would do, not what he is seriously condoning others to do.

So, the same right-wing that is convinced most Muslims are terrorists, that Obama is a foreign born Muslim etc. are now upset that the left dares to make a speech about accepting outsiders. Does anyone else see the problem with this mindset? While one side continues to defend whatever they say as the politically incorrect truth, or  “telling it like is”, any comment that does not support Trump is viewed as proof that liberals aren’t tolerant. Liberals don’t tolerate bigots, it’s as simple as that.

 

 

Trump-1984 Is Upon Us

We have officially entered the era of President Trump.  There were many people who thought this would never happen. They discounted all of the apparent support for Trump as a the work of a loud minority and had faith that the American people would let reason prevail. I wanted to believe this too but I couldn’t ignore all of the support that Trump received for one prejudiced comment after one another, and the climate of hate that he happily nourished. No one is racist anymore. They all have black friends or they are not racist, but… No one is sexist, they’re just not a white knight and they don’t like feminazis. They also don’t like political correctness, liberal agendas or social justice warriors. All this talk of the need to fight inequality is just the work of people who get offended by “everything”. Then along comes Trump, who isn’t afraid to “tell it like it is”.

Trump didn’t lay out many specific policy plans, because he didn’t need to. His comments on Hispanics, Muslims and women got him all the support he needed. Trump did lay out two bold plans, which some people disregarded as words that were only meant to get votes and media coverage. Trump repeatedly stated the need to ban Muslims from entering the US until “we can figure out what the heck is going on” and the need to build a wall along the U.S Mexico border. I have heard family, co-workers and friends say that there was no way Trump would even try to enact these policies.

Yet here we are. To be fair to Trump, his executive order is not a definitive one.

It prevents the citizens of seven Muslim-Majority countries from entering the US and also suspends the US refugee program for 120 days. However, there is the possibility of a reinstatement or an extension on the order if Trump deems it necessary.

Some of the defense for the act stems from the idea that all Muslims are a threat. I won’t give those arguments much time since radical Islamic terrorists statistically make up a small portion of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.

Many people are also defending the ban since they have the idea that America already had lax security protocols for refugees and immigrants coming from Muslim majority countries, which isn’t true.

Some are arguing Trump will be impeached, but the point is that he genuinely tried to enact the policies he discussed.

Trump wasn’t just treating the race like a marketing opportunity and appealing to hate because it would get him airtime. At this point, it seems as if he genuinely believes all of the bigoted comments he made during his campaign. It wasn’t all a publicity stunt.

We now have a man who’s senior White House Advisor refers to easily debunked lies as alternative facts. It isn’t a coincidence that sales of 1984 spiked after these comments were made. Trump’s campaign and his presidency is fueled by bigotry, and hate is the enemy of fact. Anyone who was willing to vote for Trump after he said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” will obviously continue to support him. They will embrace alternative facts and use any of the right wing buzzwords, “social justice warrior, political correctness etc.” to shut down any reasoned discussion they don’t want to hear.

 

Voter turnout was relatively low for this past election, at 60% of the eligible voters. However, that means that over 30% of the eligible voting population still voted for Trump. We are talking about 66 million people who wholeheartedly embrace bigotry and represent a regression in the ideals of racial and religious equality. Maybe we only have to deal with Trump a few more months. Or maybe we have to deal with a whole term, and maybe another.

Hopefully this election motivates people to vote in the next one, and pick the lesser of two evils if need be.

 

The Fear of a Black Baby

Over the weekend my stepdad shared this video during a family gathering. While most of the family was congregating in the living room, my mom, my aunt and I snuck away to view this prank performed by Nephew Tommy of the Steve Harvey Radio Show. My mom has been a big Steve Harvey fan for years now, and is not one to get offended easily. Yet she didn’t laugh once during this video.

For those who can’t watch, Tommy informs this man that his wife was accidentally impregnated with his sperm by his fertility clinic. After getting over the brief of confidentiality by the clinic, the caller doesn’t seem that worried that his wife will be having someone else’s baby. What he focuses on is the fact that the baby will be black.

Now, I can imagine people throwing out words like “colour-blind”, “race card” or “race-baiting”. The people who throw out these words have a hard time grasping the concept of noticing race, and not being racist. Their go to defence for racism is to argue that they don’t even see colour, and those that do are the real racists. They say that the people always talking about race are the people dividing us all. In that case, this man fits the description. Tommy repeatedly says that he is the “baby daddy”, which prompts the man to ask if Tommy is black . That is not something a colour-blind person would say. For the rest of his call, this caller is only worried that the baby will be black. “Am I going to have a black baby?” If he was colour-blind, this wouldn’t matter either. If he’s colour-blind, his only concern should have been that the baby is someone else’s.

I initially laughed at his outcry, while my aunt and mom both looked taken aback by my amusement. Maybe it was a nervous reaction on my part, since I was so taken aback by how disgusted this man was with the idea that he could end up having a black baby. In retrospect, the video isn’t funny. It reveals how people can embrace racism and use the excuse that they consume black entertainment to backpedal out of their own racism. Once the caller realizes it is a recorded prank call he quickly informs Tommy that he listens to the show everyday. I’m surprised he didn’t say that he has black friends. Like my mom said, this man accepts us for entertainment but doesn’t seem to want blackness anywhere near his home.
Of course, people will be quick to defend him. Probably because they would react the same way. My question to these people is: Can you really say you’re “colour-blind” if you would react this way?