Monday, June 29, 2015

One Filmmaker's Point of View on Racism

Over the weekend I attended a movie entitled, “I’m not Racist ... Am I?” by Catherine Wigginton Greene.  

Here’s the summary that got me interested in seeing this movie: “What if this next generation could transcend racism? One year, 12 teens, on a remarkable journey to face racism and white privilege, and to have the conversations most of us are too afraid to have. Once they push through naivete, guilt and tears, what they learn may change us all.”

These teens did not face or openly discuss racism.  They were guided to discuss racism by proponents of unusual black Point Of View.  Basically, Ms. Greene extrapolates from the indisputable fact that the power system in the US favors white people. She explains, via a male spokesperson, that because all white people have benefited from this system, all white people are by definition racist.  And no colored people can be racist. If they are racially prejudiced, they are bigots, not racists.  

I see no value in redefining well-known vocabulary. In fact, I would say that one reason I was not allowed (by my African American city council person) to purchase city property in his district is that I am not African American.  In Philadelphia, the power structure benefits the non-whites.   

The movie also states that addressing a person of a different race or ethnic origin as an equal is wrong.  That all our interactions must take into account our differing ethnic heritages.  I, personally, see nothing wrong with having a business deal with somebody and not asking anything about their ethnic culture, but then again, I'm white, so I clearly "don't get it."

The moderator, who guided these teens’ discussions, also said, “if we get an image in our minds (such as skin color) when we hear the word "nigger" that whether or not we use that word, we are part of the problem.”  He also said we must NOT use the word "halfies" because that is insulting.   He had to explain that "halfies" means biracial.  I'd never heard the term before.

At the end of the movie, when the teens were allowed to say what they’d been thinking but that had not been discussed, what came out was more of a personality conflict between a white female and a couple of African American males.  I think these teens would have disliked each other if they were the same race.

During the year, the teens played games designed to show how the system helps white people.  The moderator read statements and if the teen felt it applied to him or her, s/he took a step forward. If not, s/he didn’t move.  One statement was “I see people of my race on television program presenting good examples.”  

As a white person, I don’t think most people on television, of any race, present good examples.  They all do things that hurt each other and society. They all argue about trivia.  Another statement was, “I can be accepted into a good school, and nobody will ask if I was helped by affirmative action.”  Just the phrasing singles out white students, who can’t get affirmative action.  The game was rigged.


At the end of the movie, the teens in the movie said they’d learned a lot.  But as a viewer, I didn’t see that they’d learned anything, or changed in any way, except perhaps that they had memorized the filmmaker’s point of view.

After the movie, many people in the audience talked about how moving it was.  I was not moved. The main point seemed to be that the movie maker thinks that talking about racism from her point of view is a good thing.  We’re all entitled to our opinions.  I just don’t see how her opinion is going to help improve race relations.

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