“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?

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.

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 New Dirty Words

I have found myself spending more time on Facebook since Trump’s election. Not to peruse selfies, but to see what all my “friends” are saying about the election.  These “friends” could be someone I met just once, a former classmate or coworker, or someone I considered a close friend. With each status I come across I get more insight into how some of them really think. I have seen plenty that I like, and have also been disappointed from some of the truths these friends bring to the surface. Everyone has the right to free speech, so I am not judging them for making their voice heard. As a matter of fact, I like to have people’s thoughts on such a topic out in the open. I can now exercise my free speech to challenge some of the views presented.

There are certain words that appear repeatedly from Trump supporters; “political correctness”, “race baiters”, “identity politics”, “social justice warriors (sjws)”. I collectively like to refer to these as the right-wing buzzwords. 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?

The funny thing about people who reject labels such as “right-wing” is that they often do not hesitate to criticize “liberals”. In their own minds, they are just following common sense. It is the other side that is stuck in their ways and is blind to reason. I feel the same way sometimes. Trump was able to capitalize on a climate where people felt like their free speech was stifled. They wanted to say racist things without being labelled as racist. They wanted to say sexist things without “feminazis” labeling them as sexist or misogynist. These oppressed people then see a man who unapologetically calls Hispanics rapists, blacks lazy and calls to ban Muslims from the US. Their hero was born. No more of this “political correctness” or “race-baiting” that held them back.

The term political correctness originated in the 1980s, and was a term developed by conservatives to criticize policies that they viewed as being too accommodating for minorities. These policies included avoiding the use of certain words to describe minority groups and policies such as affirmative action are often lumped into this category too. Realize that the term was developed by conservatives. Now there are times that there may be genuine cases of people being too sensitive about a issue. However, I find that brandishing the term “political correctness” often allows people to defend bigotry. I have heard people rant about their empathy for minorities, but complain about sjws or race-baiters saying “everything” is racist. “Everything” is obviously a blanket term. It could include Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or it could refer to Trump saying Mexico “doesn’t send its best“. Maybe prying would reveal the Trump example, or maybe someone would throw out something more harmless in order to avoid a debate.

donald-trump

The right-wing buzzwords have become scarlet letters that no one wants to wear. Even people who may genuinely hold some enlightened views about minorities reject the terms and go out of their way not to be misconstrued as “politically correct”. Sometimes it isn’t about being pc or not, it is about being racist or not, about having empathy or not.

Tucker Max, an author and businessman who I follow, started a new project called The Mating Grounds. It was a podcast that helped to promote an upcoming book, and was designed to give men actionable dating advice that was devoid of the sociopathy offered by pick-up artists. One podcast in particular caught my attention and served as a great example of someone showing empathy, but also being wary of being labelled a sjw.

One caller asked for advice on dealing with a racist area (Arizona), where he was repeatedly rebuffed due to his race. Max was quick to advise that Arizona is one of America’s most racist states, demonstrating that he doesn’t embrace the right-wing narrative of a “post-racial” society. He acknowledges the historical and present racism in Arizona. Max was also quick to say that he wasn’t a “sjw” by any means.This fear of the right-wing buzzwords sends us all back to high school; we want to be one of the cool kids. We don’t want to be caught socializing with the losers, the pc horde and those sjws.

This brings up another feature of the right-wing buzzwords, and many political terms. They are all relative. Your own position dictates what you view as being liberal or conservative. There are many people that would condemn Max as a sjw or race-baiter for his comments about Arizona. Additionally, the podcast criticizes rape culture, and stresses the importance of empathy and female choice in dating. There are plenty of people who would consider that “feminazi propaganda” or the work of a “white knight”.

You can call me politically-correct, a sjw or as white knight. I am not ashamed of my views. My views mean more to me now more than ever, especially since people with clashing ones decided to elect Donald Trump as president.

There Is No Racism Problem Here

I have always taken an interest in what people post on online comment sections, whether it is on newspaper articles or YouTube videos. A lot of people think that racist comments on these forums are all the work of “trolls”- people who deliberately make inflammatory comments for the sake of starting arguments. If we can pass off all racist online comments as the work of trolls, then we can imagine that there isn’t a single racist person online and that the internet is the idyllic bastion of tolerance and democracy.

However, plenty of research suggests that the anonymity of online forums just makes it more likely for people to embrace their prejudice. The book I linked to is just one source I used in a paper concerning this phenomena. A lot of online forums accept pseudonyms, and even if they link to social media, some people may still be bold enough to post racist comments since they can customize their privacy settings on these platforms. Unlike a face-to-face interaction, it is unlikely that there will be consequences for racist statements. I was reading an article in the Howard Journal of Communications that also studied how racists can become emboldened online,specifically on newspaper comment sections, since their racist comments or rants are often supported online. This then creates an echo-chamber where racists dominate discussion and silence more civilized conversations. There is no democratic debate.

This is to say that I don’t think I am over-analyzing when I pay attention to the comments people make online.  One common narrative that I have found on IMDB and YouTube is the idea that some countries don’t have the same racism that America does. I have seen such comments on videos or boards for films like 12 Years A Slave and Selma. The basic gist is that “my country has no problem with black people, either historically or now”, and typically comes from European users. Historically I would beg to differ. America’s history of slavery may be the most prominent but numerous European countries participated in the slave trade.

12-years-a-slave

Present day, my biggest issue with this argument is that it ignores one of the unfortunate realities of racism. Racism can be generated from a complete lack of interaction with a group, but it can also be generated from a certain level of sustained interaction. It is easy to say that your country has no problem with black people when there are very little or when they have very little impact on your city or country. When people feel like their culture is threatened, that is when they begin to lash out.  I am not empathizing with this view, or making excuses for racists. I am a minority as well and want to emphasize that people can become more intolerant when they “feel” threatened, even if facts do not line up with their view of the world.

Let’s see how tolerant people remain when they start competing with minorities for jobs. I came across a post on the IMDB board for American History X, which helped to crystallize how job competition can contribute to racism as well . The film follows Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a former Neo-Nazi who tries to save his younger brother from the life of racism he once had. As Derek reflects on what led him on the path to white supremacy, he remembers his dad being killed by black gang members after responding to a 9/11 call in a drug den. However, Derek also remembers an earlier incident; a conversation with his father.

american-history-free

Years earlier, Derek tells his dad that they started reading Native Son in school, which is about a young black man in poverty. Derek’s dad makes it clear that he thinks “black books” are being used at the expense of good books. Derek’s dad, a firefighter, then shared a story of black firefighters being hired even though they weren’t qualified. We do not know how Derek’s dad knows they weren’t qualified. Derek’s dad also refers to the need for diversity as “nigger bullshit”.

An IMDB forum discussion titled “I agree with Derek’s dad on most point…” argues that Derek’s dad was undoubtedly racist but he had a good point about diversity trumping talent. A link is included but you may not be able to access it if you do not have an IMDB account. I have included screenshots below as evidence.

Most of the replies in this discussion echo the misconception that affirmative action results in unqualified candidates. There is a misconception about affirmative action flooding workplaces with black C students instead of white A students. However, such hiring is illegal and affirmative action mostly involves selecting a minority from a pool of qualified candidates. Affirmative action in the US also does not instil quotas, which is another prevalent misconception.

One response in particular got my attention:

imdb

In case you can’t read it: “I agree 100%, my uncle and his friend years ago both tried out to be police officers in Philadelphia and despite having higher test scores than two black aspiring police officers, they didn’t get the job, it instead went to the other candidates. That shows how messed up the US is, employers should higher the most qualified candidates instead of trying to up their diverse employee stats. It’s simply stupid.”

I have heard similar stories before, and I have yet to hear such a story where there is proof that the black candidates were unqualified. I thought I would give the poster the benefit of the doubt and ask him how his uncle knew the black candidates got lower test scores.

His response:

imdb

“This happened a little bit before I was born so this is what I was told (I was told the others were unqualified, I assume this was observed during physical training). I love how you automatically assumed I was racist, triggered much?”

So basically, this poster’s uncle actually has no proof that the black candidates were unqualified. I respect this poster for actually being honest; he could have just lied about his uncle seeing their test scores himself. Yet I also detest that he heard this story, doesn’t know the details and is now using it to fuel his attack on minorities. The next time a black person gets a job instead of him, he’ll likely assume they were unqualified. Then he’ll tell his kids this story, and they’ll tell their kids….

First we get this ignorance, disguised as an argument for merit. Next people might complain about having to accommodate new languages or religions.

Let’s see how tolerant your country is when immigrants and minorities are blamed for a poor economy, crime, changing culture etc. This is already happening more and more in Europe with the refugee crisis. No country lacks a racism problem. That is either a lie or the country has very few minorities.

 

I Like My Bigots Out in The Open

I try to avoid spending too much time on Facebook, there’s only so much entertainment that I can derive from selfies. Earlier today I came across this interesting video a friend posted.

If you can’t watch it is a video by black photojournalist, Tom Jefferson. The incident begins with Jefferson at a anti-fracking rally in Mars, Pennsylvania. One bystander, John Pisone starts insulting the protesters and then turns his attention to Jefferson. He starts off saying all black people look the same to him, calls Jefferson a “chimp”, says his hair looks like a mop, and ends with some eloquent monkey sounds.

Pisone has since been fired for his comments and his comments are an example of racism that even Fox News would view as racist (maybe). This is probably the reason that the comments aren’t swarmed with complaints about liberal bias, “race-baiting” or “political-correctness”.  What bothers me is that racism needs to be this salient for people to catch on to it. The same people decrying Pisone’s comments might be the same ones saying someone wouldn’t have been shot twice (while restrained) if they just “obeyed the law”. Or who would complain about too many black characters in a tv show (e.g. Luke Cage).

Racist beliefs are much more common than we think and most people realize the stigma of racist beliefs. Therefore, they disguise their racism. They say they are “colour-blind” whenever racism is brought up, while also making decisions about their neighbourhoods, schools, partners etc. based on race. Do not look at Pisone and think “Thank God they’re aren’t more people like him”, say “It’s a shame more racists aren’t outspoken”. Let them say what they really mean, on video, on social media. Let others see how “colour-blind” they really are.

It is their free speech to share such thoughts. It is legal. It is also legal for us to criticize them, distance ourselves from them, or fire them due to their comments. Come forth racists. Don’t hide behind your black “friends”. Don’t say “I’m not racist but…”. Cut through the darkness with your white light.

White Privilege and Straw Man Arguments

white privilegeThis blog post is the first in a string of posts that I will try to post to the site daily from now on. The pieces may not always be very long but I am trying to commit to writing one article everyday from now on. The pieces I post on my Instagram-wmoviegrapevine- will probably serve as the inspiration for these longer pieces.

Today, I came across a post from a user on Instagram. Like my first Instagram account-moviegrapevine- this user’s content focuses on movies and comics. However, there is the odd post that will tackle a political or racial issue and this user demonstrated that his views are pretty liberal, just like mine.

Anyways, today he posted a piece discussing how he was growing increasingly frustrated with accusations of “white privilege” being levied at him. The way he sees it, that term means he was born with a silver spoon. I was able to discuss the post with him in a private message and we both cleared up each other’s confusion. However, the post did bring up some pretty prominent straw man arguments that get applied to the discussion of racism and white privilege. White privilege is a system of benefits that benefit white people and it is important to understand it is a complex issue.

  • White privilege does not mean that all white people are racist

 

The user I talked to mentioned that he hated getting lumped into the same group as racists since he was not racist himself. I have previously discussed how many racists will not admit to being racist in this supposedly “colour-blind” era. However, I believe that this user truly isn’t racist.

Realize that even if you are not racist, you benefit from white privilege. For example, cops are more likely to view you as innocent (Chaney and Robertson, 2015) and you are statistically less likely to get jail time ( as opposed to fines, probation etc.) for criminal charges, especially drug charges. Having a “white” or racially ambiguous name (like Jacob, David) can also help you get more callbacks for interviews if hiring managers are judging candidates only by resumes. Some people might want to argue that “ghetto names” might be a factor, but realize that the resumes in this study were manufactured to have the same level of skill. If merit is all that matters in this great colour-blind society, then who cares about a name? Also, many names are definitely not ghetto but are still not “white names”, like Jamal or Cadeem (my name)

 

  • White privilege does not imply that white people do not work hard or that minorities should not.

 

People love to say that anyone who discusses racism has a “victim complex” or is too busy whining to work hard. Acknowledging racism and working hard are not mutually exclusive. Successful black people, like Obama, have acknowledged the impact that a legacy of racism still has on black people nowadays. Many black scholars, athletes and entertainers have all discussed racism at one point or another. My mom never raised me to think that I should not bother working hard because of racism. She raised me to believe that I would have to work twice as hard as a white person to get the same level of success.

If you are a white person who works hard and never asks for any “handouts” then realize you probably still benefited from having a “white” name on your resume. If you don’t have a white name, fair enough, you don’t benefit from that privilege. How about the privilege of cops being more likely to see you as innocent (Chaney and Robertson, 2015). How about living in a nice neighborhood, without people wondering how you make your money or if you actually belong in the neighborhood. Benefitting from these privileges doesn’t mean you’re racist, or that you’re lazy. It is just a fact that there are many benefits you reap even if you are oblivious to them or openly oppose them.

 

Works Cited

 

Chaney, Cassandra and Ray V. Robertson. (2015). Armed and Dangerous? An Examination of Fatal Shootings of Unarmed Black People by Police. Journal of Pan-African Studies 8 (4), 45-78.