Race Wars

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Normally I don’t delve into this stuff because I’m spoiled by who I surround myself with, unless some rookie happens to get under my skin.

       For worse or for worse, Facebook has amplified a new range of voices. Shit, everyone’s a philosopher nowadays (why even go to school). I mean, it’s great that technology has encouraged a wave of intellectual awakenings, but watching people try to reinvent the wheel can be frustrating. Everyday now (or really every time I check the damn thing) people are sharing links and liking posts, positioning themselves alongside random internet gospel in an attempt to manufacture confidence in the beliefs they’ve duct-taped together. In discussions, all it comes out to be is a half-assed blurting of other people’s half-assed stuff to try and score ego points here and there in never-ending asinine back and forths (the equation for ignorance is half-ass^p, after all).

       The current trend is to invade discussions about solutions to racism. The banter usually boils down to talking about how we are not actually a post-race society; and how certain efforts are or are not successful at transforming us into that post-race society. On my view those efforts fall into a few different models: bruteforce solutions (over-compensatory), passive solutions (equilibratory) and role-modeling solutions (singular).

       On the brute force model, people attempt to manufacture equality by countering racism with anti-racism. Here, the plan is to force demands for equality down societies gullet through methods like protests and boycotts, thereby squeezing racism out of humanities butt-hole and hopefully reaping the benefits. One recent example is the Bay Bridge blockade. The other day my Uber passengers were unaware of why the Bay Bridge was being blocked off. I explained to them what the cause was, but they didn’t seem sure it worked. Of course, some will say nothing was accomplished (SF/Oakland is still seeing robberies in broad daylight, Flint isn’t now getting clean water and killer cops aren’t getting re-tried), while some say it served its purpose (by virtue of getting an aloof Uber-riding couple to talk about something other than getting drunk).

       Another example, Jada Pinkett-Smith was on record as saying she wants to boycott the Oscars. She wants to force the awareness of the blinding absence of minority representation within these kinds of events. Of course, some will argue avoiding the already all-white celebration is the right move (in order to avoid playing the token black woman and risk humiliation), while others will want to argue that merely being there helps to scrub away some of the white washing (Jada could be the one carrying the torch and she’d surely be a good fit to do it). I mean, can she (or the protestors) ever really win in people’s eyes? Jada, the people on the Bay Bridge, and others like them will always end up damned if they do (people will argue that nothing really changed) and damned if they don’t (people will argue that they did not help to bring awareness to issues at all).

       On the passive model, people try to create an idyllic piece of reality under the hope it will be embraced and dispersed by society itself. In other words, by behaving as if all things are equal and showing what equality can look like, the rest of society will follow suit and just make it happen. A popular example is Star Wars’ Black lead actor, John Boyega. On the one hand, he plays a Jedi (thumbs up…and spoiler?), while on the other he’s a servant and a galactic janitor (thumbs down). Some people say that Finn represents a billion(s) dollar invitation to Hollywood to put more minorities in lead roles, which will encourage the rest of the studios to catch on and do the same (emulating and propagating equality). Others argue that Finn is just status quo for Hollywood and that other studios will continue to mock minorities one way or another (sabotaging attempts at equality).

       A similar case is  Black Entertainment Television (BET), which is a channel (just like PBS, CNN and NBC) that produces its own content (just like Two Broke Girls, Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother). Yet, the channel is at once supported by a part of the community and also disdained by another. Some think it is necessary to keep the channel alive to maintain minority representation (else there wouldn’t be any to speak of; just having it up might inspire other bigwigs to put out more channels and content for minorities in a mostly white washed space). Some argue that merely having that channel running doesn’t do enough to provoke racial equality (citing endless reruns of syndicated shows and no unique, thought-provoking content; what good has really come of endless Lil Wayne music videos). Again, damned if you do (people say passive efforts carry some embedded racism anyway) and damned if you don’t (what examples of equality would there be if no one even attempts to show what it could look like).

       On the singular model, though, an individual places the burden on herself to encourage change with both passive and bruteforce methods. In other words, this is the “do work” solution. See, I was watching ESPN and Marlon Wayans was actually asked if he would boycott the Oscars (his friend Jada already said she would). Besides saying he wasn’t invited (in a joking way), he said that his primary concern is putting his head down and producing, writing and creating content. In this case, Marlon believes he carries the responsibility as an individual minority actor/filmmaker to represent other potential minority filmmakers (proving it is possible to succeed) and also help others to become creators (making others succeed). He is a classically trained actor (some would call him whitewashed) who produces pretty dumb movies (some would call him an Uncle Tom). No matter what, people are going argue about whether he is doing good or bad for equality. But no one can say he he hasn’t put in the work to demonstrate and encourage success (look at the commercial for his new movie and it is minority actors in the spotlight). Marlon wants to earn his right to get invited to the Oscars and decline if he so chooses, and is helping get others to the point where they can get invited to shows (and decline). Quite frankly, he doesn’t care what people think about his efforts, because he’s actually seeing a payoff (financial, familial and sociological success). There is no damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t in this case, because he has become who he wants to become and is helping others become who they want to be. Who can argue against that? 

       If you’re reading between the lines, the only “model” that matters is the singular individual effort a person makes towards ultimately becoming who they want to become and also helping others do the same. Talking about other people’s efforts (whether bruteforce or passive) does society no actual good (talk is cheap, after all). Each of those people on the Bay Bridge, Jada, John, and Marlon all have shifted society forward in some real way (look into Boyega’s eyes here and tell him he’s an Uncle Tom hurting our chances at equality). If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you they have seen change come about through their efforts and have seen success occur. I’m sure the dude said something like, “be the change that you wish to see in the world” not, “argue how SOMEONE ELSE is right or wrong without ever doing shit yourself.” I mean, maybe I haven’t changed the world by wanting to become some Mexican-Salvadorean,  Latino Honor Roll every year, ADHD researching, salutatorian (Kelly!), news article writing, Cal graduating double majoring, fitness coaching, businessman, tutoring, blogging kid from the Mission, but at least I’ve proven that anyone from the hood can do cool shit, too. There’s just no way I’m gonna let a sideline Facebook troll tell me I haven’t tried to put up my end of the bargain in this thing. 

 

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