Thursday, April 06, 2006


i am so annoyed with renee from black/white. she is the black woman who appeared white on the show. this woman wants to make friends with a white person. so she decides to try a knitting class, 'cause that's what white people do??? and when that doesn't work, she tries a scrapbooking class?

where do i start? that was so stupid. white people do all kinds of things, just like black people do all kinds of things. it was stupid to label something foreign to her as something that white people do. it was also stupid to take up something that wasn't really up her alley and expect to find someone of any color, let alone someone white, that she'd have anything in common with. it made me wonder what renee does in her spare time when she's not in the experiment. does she bowl? does she go out dancing? whatever hobby she has, there are more than likely some white people in the vicinity of where the show was taped that have that hobby too. her rationale in finding a white friend was just damn stupid.

also stupid - her husband, brian, for trying to set up situations where racism would happen, just to prove to bruno, the white man, that racism exists. first of all, bruno is hardheaded. an african proverb warns us not to argue with fools 'cause passersby won't be able to tell which arguer is the fool. and right about now, that's what's playing out between brian and bruno. secondly, overt or covert racism doesn't necessarily happen every day. we live in a society where many folks are politically correct and where, short of anger or jealousy or a battle over scarce resources, racial tension doesn't necessarily just happen. you can't just manipulate a situation to bring out racial tension or conflict whenever you want, because you never know who you're dealing with. i can go for indeterminable amounts of time without experiencing racial tension firsthand, then have two offensive things happen in one day, 'cause that's just how it works, depending on the kind of folks you're around. it's a "by chance," random type of thing. brian is trying too hard and quite frankly is overzealous about the whole thing.

see, if bruno had come along when renee and her white friends were in the club talking to a white man who had some racially charged things to say about mexicans, blacks, and crime, maybe he would have, by chance, witnessed something brian would have wanted him to see. but then again, maybe bruno would have dismissed the man's words as statistically reasonable analysis of real situations instead of stereotypical judgments on minorities.

there is a point that white men, who seem to be tired of being vilified, are making more and more often in the media: not every thing that minorities and liberals call "racist," is in fact, racist. that's just how statements and actions are perceived, because there are minorities and liberals clamoring for justification for their victim status and special treatment, and they'll take it however they can get it, if you allow them to twist your words and your actions into something that's racially based. to some extent, i agree with the notion that some people are hypersensitive, paranoid witchhunters. that said, those folks and those situations don't negate the relevance of words and actions that really truly are based in supremacist, racist, and/or elitist attitudes that affect minorities negatively or that reflect low respect and esteem for minorities.

for example: many of us have heard about cynthia mckinney in the news lately, the scuffle with the security, the change in her hairdo, etc. in his commentary on the incident, a radio talk show host called mckinney a "ghetto slut" and a "welfare drag queen" based on her hairstyle, which has been changed from cornrows to what looks like a straw set (think crinkly curls) afro. he apologized the following day for calling her a slut, and made clear that some people wouldn't accept his apology because they "consider any negative comment or criticism of any type at any time about anybody who is not white to be racism."

of course, he glossed over the actual problem with his words. the problem wasn't that he had negative criticism for mckinney. it was his usage of the words "ghetto slut" and "welfare drag queen" to describe her that made his words racist. if congresswoman mckinney were white, i doubt that "ghetto" and "welfare" would have been uttered. he undoubtedly used those particular words based on stereotypical thinking about black women that would even possess him to utter those words, which are so obviously racially associated with poor black people. his apology notes that congresswoman mckinney is "engaging and endearing," but i suppose she would not have been, if indeed she was a "ghetto slut" or a "welfare drag queen" instead of a congresswoman. to me, this insinuates elitist thought, not just stereotypical thought, on his part.

but if you leave it up to the many brunos out there, i'm reaching - just grasping at straws for something to be up in arms about. no actually, i just know what i'm hearing when i hear it. but i can't make white men hear what i hear. they're not coming from where i'm coming from, and i accept that for what it is. this is a lesson for all of us, especially renee. people simply are who they are, and their experience, or the lack thereof, is something you can't control for.

on the show renee was upset when she took white carmen to a black hair salon in black makeup, and carmen asked for permission before actually rubbing some woman's hair. this was a learning opportunity for carmen. renee could have explained to carmen that that action seemed out of place in that environment, and that it's not common in her experience to see a black woman touching another woman's hair. instead, renee just gets upset and rants to the camera, "you don't see black women touching people's hair," as she explains why she's finished with getting to know carmen. i've got a question for renee: how was carmen supposed to know that, not being a black woman herself, and not having been told not to touch another's hair? she was ignorant to that sensitivity of ours. you can't hold people accountable for experience that they don't have - accept that fact for what it is and then just teach as best you can. in my opinion, the next time carmen pisses off some black woman by asking to touch her hair, it's renee's fault for passing up the opportunity to tell her better.

we all require patience and exposure to different experiences in order to recognize and respect the humanity and dignity and idiosyncrasies in people from other cultures. i find renee to be entirely too impatient with carmen's ignorance. i find too many people to be too impatient with other's differences and backgrounds. we can at least learn from this show that differences are real and we need to just accept that and be patient with that. learn to work with it, around it, however we can get it to work, not just on a racial level but in general, from person to person.

edited to add: a friend of mine reminded me that i also picked up on how rose is learning a lot, but she doesn't really filter for class differences in addition to race differences. there are some differences between her and her poetry class peers that exist primarily because of economic class more than for racial and cultural difference. it's not clear from the show whether her processing is sophisticated enough to pick up on this. perhaps she'll catch on to that with more experience. also, i'd like to add that the finale airs next week, and i'm looking forward to it, 'cause with the exception of rose, all these folks get on my nerves anyway.