Saturday, July 26, 2003

Maybe We Aren't All Racists

Sofia Sideshow has this cool anecdote. Money quote:
So...the director, a white guy, began talking about the show, how excited he was to do it, and talked about the playwright, and spoke of the show's relevance in applying to them, black kids, in these times, in America.
A hand nervously raised in the crowd, and the girl spoke up after the director excitedly encouraged her.
"Well, the show was great, and the actors were great, but I don't...I think the show is a little dated."
The director explained that this wasn't true, but admitted that the role of Clay [the self-repressed black man] was the POV of the Baraka at that time.
Another girl spoke up.
"Actually, I thought the POV of Baraka was the white woman."
I fell off the chair laughing. Not because what the girl said was preposterous, but because it was suddenly so clear. She was dead on right.
The white crazy woman who antagonizes the black man in the subway, both despising him and loving him while hating and debasing herself, mocking him for his 'white-boy' suit and tie and haircut, telling him to break out and be 'black' through a sputtering array of trivially stereotypical slurs...Baraka tried to hide his views behind her, as if it were the POV of whites--and they were not pretty--and this high school girl caught him.
To his credit, the director was truly impressed at her insight, and missed the point entirely.
"That's why it's so relevant!" he said, "Lula [the white girl in the play] shows the racism behind every white person. Lula is a racist. White people are racists. It's how we are brought up, even if we don't realize it it's how it is." He was on a roll...
..."I'm a racist," he said, to the crowd of black high school kids...
...who laughed.
Flummoxed; that's the best word to describe the director's reaction.
At this point, the actor who played Clay spoke up, and said that the director was going overboard, and said something (I can't recall exactly now) far more moderate, and positive about society in general.
But the director insisted.
"No, I know I am. It was simply how I was brought up. I remember my neighborhood and we all were, even if we had black friends..." he went on and on. And on. It didn't help.
A guy got up, which took some time because he was so tall. There was something about him that was so extroverted, and I would lay odds he was a class clown, and well-liked. He had that look.
"You know, I know where you're going, but you're not a racist. [more giggling from the black kids, the way he said it was so...theraputic] And I have white friends. They're not racists..."
Giggles of agreement from the students, who apparently also had white friends, or maybe white boyfriends or girlfriends, or possibly even other friends of various diverse races. Makes your head swim just thinking of how normal and un-unhappy these black kids could all be.
"...I think that this show had a lot to say about the past, but a lot of things have changed since then."
The director countered, "But to say that you have never experienced racism in your lives, or won't ever..."
"I've experienced racism," the guy said, "but not much. I'm sure that there are problems, but they are nothing like the playwright's problems." He didn't mean it the way it came out, but it was funny nonetheless. More laughter.
Finally, "well, if that's your feelings, but I think that you'll learn the hard way later in life, when you get older."
Ah, yes, the perpetual escape route. Perhaps he meant, "wait until Freshman orientation..."
Now if only I can get over all this free-floating guilt...