Category Archives: Race

Strange and Marvelous Shiftings of Blame. Part the First.

Content note: Sarcasm and lack of reverence for sentence structure.

I saw a film. That’s what I did. A week or two ago. Went and saw Dr. Strange.

It was such a cool movie. I have been waiting for them to do Dr. Strange- not as long as I have been waiting for the Prometheus sequel, But at least all summer. All the magic and stuff. Inception style curdled architecture. Mordu as Dr. Strange’s black best friend. Wong being the librarian instead of Dr. Strange’s magic personal servant.

The inspiring theme about accepting failure and never giving up. I really liked that. I really want to write a post about that.

It made me feel happy feelings for a while.

Wait. Back up.

Ooooohmygosh. Marvel reduced the black hero to being merely the white hero’s black best friend.

Again.

Mordu is given no back story. Even in the case of Dr. Strange’s Asian Mentor who was magically a European Woman who was magically deprived of all Feminine Markers Like Hair so that a White Man could almost learn to take her seriously without throwing a hissyfit-

well

the story(tellers) decided she still had to die for it. for correcting a White Man- and being right

-even in her case they explain the lack of backstory by saying ‘she doesn’t talk about her past’. She hasn’t told the other characters, so the Audience(protagonist) can’t find out either. OoooOOOoooo. Mysterious!

She probably doesn’t talk about her past because she used to be an Asian Dude and she knows what racist transphobes y’all are!

Mordu, they don’t even make a mystery. Why is he doing the things he does? ‘He had a hard life’

What does that have to do with it?

Doesn’t matter. Case closed.

He’s told the other characters. He’s talked about it. They’ve been round and round, trying to work through the pain of his past, channeling it into constructive forward facing strategies.

It’s just that the suffering of a black man isn’t important enough for the white (protagonist)Audience to even suffer through a one or two sentence description of it.

He has fulfilled his narrative function in the White Hero’s Journey. No vestige of humanity is required. Dr. Strange moves from ignorance to enlightenment and from whimpiness to badassery -by means of Mordu’s instruction- without ever having to become conscious of -say- the white cop who shot Mordu’s dad over a broken taillight.

Or whatever.

‘Cause if it wasn’t something White protagonist(audience) was implicated in-

Then they could say what had happened. Couldn’t they.

If it were Thanos’ fault somehow. Or maybe an Asian Dude’s fault. Then it would be okay to say ‘Thanos killed his father’ ‘He follows the rules so strictly because he was cheated- an Asian Dude blamed him for a thing he didn’t do.’

It wasn’t The Big Bad who caused the pain in Mordu’s life. Because then we(the audience) could bear to hear WHO caused that pain.

And- because I can see the words forming in your brains because of how magical I am- if they bring Mordu back, in a later film or WHATever-

They will still not make him a full fledged character. I guarantee it and bet you a thin dime. They aren’t withholding this information to make it more special when they finally tell us later. They are

never

going to tell us Mordu’s backstory.

Well. For all that. It still could have been worse.

They could have had three black best friends, like they did in Civil War.

AND THEN.

And then.

And then the black best friend turned out to be EVIL.

His evilness consisted of a plan to run around the whole world- and STEAL the power of OTHER PEOPLE.

Which is LITERALLY

The story of EUROPEANS and the rest of the HUMAN RACE.

Running around the whole world, stealing the labor and the ideas and the bodies of other humans. Trying to scrub their souls into the same state ours were in, so that WE would be more likely to attain salvation for having made the attempt.

Europeans literally betrayed the humanity of All Humans Everywhere, by treating other(any) humans- and in practice particularly Africans- as a sale-able commodity. Subsuming the power of an enslaved person to the (innately criminal)enslaver who may then by means of the enslavement use that power as their own.

And here we are.

Comforting ourselves during hard times with a smarmy story about how an African betrays a European by committing THAT crime and gosh isn’t that evil of HIM.

And how the European has such endless courage despite being killed over and over. Yeeaaaaaaah, that’s totally who gets killed over and over these days.

No.

No.

I am at the edge of my life’s energy here, magical or otherwise. I would love to sink into this tale of courage and death and adventure and meaning and let it lift me on wings like eagles.

And be comforted.

But I am not comforted by this story.

If Marvel meant that- that main theme- that you have to be willing to accept your failures?

Why are They not owning up to Our own goddamn crimes, America? Our- failures?

Embedded in the structure of the story is a refusal to do what the story seems to be saying. They don’t seem to mean what they’re saying.

And if the audience(We) was(were) able to accept what the story is telling us(our failure), wouldn’t (They)Marvel HAVE said it and meant it?

Who has failed?

There is something rotten in Denmark.

Window

The night of the election I had been at a coffee shop. Watching with jolts of horror as the numbers jumped and rose and fell.

It wasn’t over.

But the coffee shop had closed. And the numbers looked, except for a very unlikely chance, certain.

I rolled into the dark parking lot slowly. The other cars and the brick of the buildings rolled past. Despite my caution, no one was out.  I pulled into my parking spot.

My neighbor’s car sat next to mine. I did a double take.

One of the windows was smashed out.

Maybe I’m old at the beginning of thirty, but he seemed young to me. Early twenties. He worked at a large company nearby and always looked the part. Clean cut, button up shirts. Business like but friendly.  He sounded like white people, something I found out as we passed each other, coming and going to our cars, and I squeed over his nerd bumper stickers.  Howl’s Moving Castle. Death Note. Star Wars.

His car wasn’t even usually parked over here.  It was usually parked over at the edge.

I got out, stunned and thought of something.  I walked back to where his car was normally parked.

The spot was empty.

There was shattered glass covering the ground, right below where his window would have been.

***

The next day, in the cool sun and cold wind blowing through every thing, I visited one of the galleries in town. I had been there so often the owneress had declared me a regular.  She had paintings of puppets and people with their guts out and did shows by black artists and ne’er-do-wells.  It was refreshingly different from some of the more pompous galleries in town- blandly interesting paintings of farm landscapes, sculptures of corn.  Playing local interest and the wealthy tourist sorts.

Ah yes. I was in the Midwest once. On business.

Lucrative business.

I wanted to ask her advise about something.  I was facing a life direction sort of decision, made suddenly urgent.

We chatted for a while before I brought it up. We were both horrified by the results of the election. Shaken, if the tears in the back of my throat and the added wet brightness of her eyes was anything to go by.

I’d stepped into a Starbucks earlier. Hefty white people, laughing and talking loudly about their daily lives. Enthused.

“Oh, he texted me!” She was sitting on the couch doing a charcoal drawing and watching her phone at the same time. She was waiting for a buyer to show up. A round comfortable shape in a room plastered with colored squares. Someone from Africa was asking her if what they were hearing was true. The hate crimes blossoming in news feeds already. Only the morning after.

“I tried to describe it to him.” She waved her pencil. “It’s hard to explain about election cycle reporting, how the media plays the most shocking things for ratings.”

***

The night of the election. I went and sat back down in my car and tried to think what I should do. The parking lot was full of cars. And distinctly empty of people. And quiet. So quiet.

I had been living here like a hermit. No one over, talking to no one. My subliminal assumption is that I’m some kind of freakish abomination, so I general cut out the unpleasantness for us all and avoid people.

Finally I decided that I would rather try and fail then wonder and got out and went over and knocked.

His light was on, but there was no answer. I waited a little. Fair enough. This is a bad night, all around.

The next day, when I got home from work, the window had been replaced.

After the weekend, a different car is sitting in his parking spot.

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Progressive Church in the Room- Passive Aggression- Allergies

“Who are you?”

She asked- looking at us all. The question was one of the bullet points in the list she had been writing on the white board as people filled in and sat. Now she asked it directly. When the room stared at her, lack of verbal response punctuated by a few nervous chuckles, she asked again. And again.

I was a visitor.  Let them answer their own speaker.

The shape of the sound of her words was a little strange to me. She asked people to repeat themselves if they were looking away from her when they spoke. When the meeting began, the organizer had introduced her.

“She’s deaf” the organizer added.

She said hello to every one and then indicated the organizer.

“You never tell people that about someone. It’s rude.” she looked around at us. “That’s for me to tell.”

Outing is on my mind a lot. Being outed by someone else- in certain situations- was a fear that crawled around the floor of my mind.  So- that made- sense-

I sat up a little, interested.

A little later, the lady sitting next to me referenced the organizer’s introduction and the speaker’s response.

“I appreciate that you stood up for deaf culture-” she explained.

The situations I don’t give out information about myself have nothing to do with LGBT culture. They have to do with my personal fear of the human capacity for cruelty and my personal desire to not be it’s object.

The church flyer had said this was a talk on how to “create inclusive partnerships”. The description turned out to have been ambiguously worded. Buzzwords- our theology of wholeness-  oblige- values- our congregation allows full participation- I had come expecting to sit and listen as someone explained what the church thought. It billed itself as the most progressive church in town.

At the very end of the talk, it was mentioned that this was not an action committee on inclusion. The speaker expressed surprise. She had been under the impression that it was. She moved on from that discovery and continued grilling the people who had wandered in at the beginning- how would they create change? what steps were needed? who did they need to talk to in the organization and how would it be carried out. She carried them through. There were actually steps possible. A national organization had given them a list. They could petition the board. They could do a lot more, they realized, then they had thought they could.

After “Who are you?” the next item on the list was “Who are they?”

Meaning the people who walk into that church building.

“We know that they’re people seeking something!” suggested the lady next to me.

I’d spent most of my life- adult and otherwise- visiting churches. To prove they didn’t have anything for me or to make sure that the thing I was looking for wasn’t there. Sometimes I had been seeking something from them. Usually not.

“Would you know that without asking them?” I finally made an interjection.

“I mean, why else would you drag yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning, get dressed, and make the trip to church?”

A little more surreal.

“So- you wouldn’t go to church except for that reason?”

“Yes! Exactly!”

More possibilities were suggested. ‘They’  were this. ‘They’ were that.

The lady sitting next to me was my new favorite enemy. A woman with disordered grammar came in and sat down by us. She had come up to me after the service and started talking about the government and incriminating papers that had been hidden and people thrown out of helicopters.

The lady plucked a paper plate off the top of the stack and slapped it down in front of the woman, face plastered with a curling smile. Her canines were showing. She shoved a bowl of grapes at us.

She made another suggestion to the speaker.

“They aren’t allergic to white people!” She nodded, smiling widely at the only person of color in the room. One of two persons of color I had seen in the entire church.

Because if you’re uncomfortable here, it’s your problem- not ours. And not a social or emotional problem either. It’s probably some kind of weird medical condition relating to your body.

“They aren’t bothered by being in a room full of white faces.” she clarified.

Because she isn’t racist. People who object to being around her object because they’re racist.

The talk went on.

Near the end, the speaker stopped suddenly.

“Who am I?” she asked us. There were almost tears in her eyes.

She handed out orange printouts. Lists of phrases. Person who uses a wheelchair. Person with deafness. Person with hemiplegia. Not crippled. Not afflicted. Not normal. Not abnormal.

“You need to hear the language you are using.”

“Who am I?”

“I am a person. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am Jewish. I am a rabbi. I enjoy cooking. I love horses”

One of the ‘normal’  people leaned over and whispered to the person next to her.

“What did she say?”

“She loves horses.”

“I am deaf.”

The room was quiet.

“Do you understand?”

“I do not have a hearing problem. I can’t hear. It is not a problem.”

“What you are able to do for others depends on who you are.”

“Who are you?”

 

 

 

pop break: racism and screen painting

I’m a little tired of death right now.  It’s been kind of a lot.

About movies. And race.

Marvel and DC both did Civil War type films. Yes you know. Yes yes. I’m slow at pop culture, okay?

It was kind of funny to me what different paths they took to end up in roughly the same place.

Marvel:

Racist? What? No no no! I’m not racist! In fact, my best friend is black!  And my frenemy’s best friend is black! 

Why don’t my black best friend super heroes ever get their own origin stories or even just non-origin movies where they are the title character and main protagonist?

Uuuuh…. Hey look! I have THREE black best friends!  And my third black best friend just learned a valuable lesson by watching my white super heroes grapple with their problems! Isn’t that cool?!  Even when white heroes are acting like moronic pieces of shit, they are teaching black people how to exist and black people would be lost without them!

 

DC:

Black people don’t exist.

Abuse survivors who question GOD are EVIL. Evil!! Evil MONSTERS who want to destroy the world and unleash MONSTERS on the world and who are all secretly EVIL and stuff. Especially if they like BOOKS and LIBRARIES and clearly have some kind of mental illness that keeps them from SPEAKING clearly. Because people who love books and the mentally ill are EVIL.

And the mastermind behind mysterious conspiracies is probably JEWISH cause their parent was nearly killed in the HOLOCAUST.

We’re renaming ourselves Budweiser for the summer.

 

 

My vote goes to Marvel for at least pretending.

*

The fun doesn’t end there of course. This is Budweiser- I mean America! We couldn’t limit our racism to just one or two movies in a genre created to give children heroes to look up to and heroism to emulate.

I love X-men Apocalypse so much.  And I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. Don’t get me wrong. But can we address the blueface please? EDIT: and greenface too!

In Guardians of the Galaxy, you had an entire universe filled with aliens species who looked like humans, which was speciest as fuck but we don’t know any aliens yet, so I’ll let that go. But what was with the fact that they all looked like WHITE humans?  I mean with the exception of the one black dude who was evil, clearly some one else’s minion and not in charge of his own destiny, and who had like one line.

And it wasn’t even like they all were supposed to be a single species. To give the impression of diversity, they painted their actors a bunch of colors. Like green.

But the facial structures, speech patterns, and futuristic hairstyles were all obviously of European descent.

Let that sink in.

We had an entire, diverse, universe filled with colored people- and all of them were white people with their skin painted.

EDIT: It was pointed out to me that Dave Babtista and Zoe Saldana are “mixed race”. I was happy to learn this fact and the names of these actors as I didn’t know them and did this rant without researching. But being the emotional basket case that I am, I reserve the right to still feel disgusted. Sort of- oppositely.

This is so much better! (sarc) We put the POC in so much face paint (digital or otherwise) that to the sad ignorant eyes of a white person they LOOKED white.

But the white main character and the aliens played by white humans didn’t need any makeup to be presentable?

Separate Phenomena.  Green Face.

Green is so much more acceptable in the Marvel-verse than… you know…

*

Which is sort of what made it morbidly funny in X-men Apocalypse when Marvel had a bunch of straight white superheroes on a personal journey to accept their true identities… as straight white people with blue paint on their still clearly European facial structures.

I’m mean, what the fuck?

The mutants who joined the Big Bad were- DRUM ROLL

the black one

the asian looking one

the gay looking one

And THE JEWISH ONE. Who survived the HOLOCAUST. And is CONSPIRING. To destroy the WORLD.

God!  What the FUCK?  WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

None of THOSE people ever had to struggle with their real identities vs their perception by the wider population! Oh no! It was JUST white people!

And in true Marvel-is-a-friendly-dog-who-knows-they-shouldn’t-pee-on-the-rug-but-does-anyway fashion, the Team Bad mutants were sort of emotionally manipulated into joining the Big Bad.  And in the end mostly joined Team Good-

After learning valuable lessons from white people.

In face paint.

*

Some days I really hate people. And I’m not particularly thrilled with earth.

But there’s nowhere else that has shwarama.