After getting the nudge from a friend, I finally decided to see the movie The Hangover. The film is comedy about three groomsmen who lose their friend (the groom) in Vegas the day before his wedding. It’s sort of a “Dude, Where’s My Car” movie…except the car is replaced with a person. As far as the humor goes, it was another one of those “Meh…” movies for me. Some of the one-liners were funny, but the movie itself was decidedly unfunny. Not much to say about that aspect of the film. More interesting to me though, was how the movie added to the consistent propogation of racism currently lining several movies coming out of Hollywood. Specifically there was a character “Mr. Chow” (played by Asian-American actor Ken Jeong) who reinforced many of the stereotypes typically associated with our Asian brothers.
For those of you who know me, you’re well aware that examining race is one of my staples. While I frequently use my blog as a clearinghouse to discuss many other important things to me (religion, politics, and the world around me) viewing things from a racialized perspective has been a central theme of sorts. Specifically, I’ve tried to address racism in a way that will provide readers (especially my non-black readers) with a reasonable understanding of how one person of color sees the world.
Despite all this, I eventually concluded that no matter how often I provide commentary about issues involving race, certain people will never fully understand where I’m coming from; nor – I suppose – should I expected them to. While we all share very similar human characteristics on one hand, on the other hand we all experience certain cultural situations that make us different. So when I saw The View’s Elizabeth Hasslebeck trying to preach to two black women about why black folks should not use the N-word, for instance, I got incensed. True: a part of me wanted to at least commend her for showing (what appeared to be) genuine passion for wanting a racially neutral, “colorblind” society. But the greater part of me couldn’t help but to chalk her tearful plea up to some sort of arrogance outlined by white privilege (telling us black folks what’s best for us). But last summer I had somewhat of an ‘about face’, when I angrily read about the Spanish Olympic basketball team’s racially insentive photo (interestingly, this happened on more than one occasion). At that point, I saw just how easy it is to fall into the same trap in which people like Hasselbeck often stumble. As angry as I was with Hasselbeck, I found myself doing the EXACT same thing with the Spanish Olympic team and with The Hangover.
Over a year ago, I blogged about the story surrounding the now infamous Tiger Woods/Kelly Tilghman lynching joke. Of particular interest was the very next post I wrote discussing my frustration with how a white journalist was fired (unfairly, IMO) for using a controversial magazine cover to creatively show how damaging Tilghman’s story was. The reality was: I saw a white person who “got it” and tried to make other people “get it.” For that (as opposed to Hasselbeck trying to get other black people to “get it”), I tipped my hat to the magazine editorialist. But after further review, I’m wondering how hypocritical I was for praising one white voice while excoriating another. I also wondered what rights that journalist had to declare what would be offensive for black people. I then easily turned the spotlight back on myself by asking how much I should (or should not) be in the position to speak on behalf of other groups. Should I — a lone black man — be able to speak for Asians around the world about how offensive Ken Jeong’s performace was (for good measure, you can also toss in Mad TV’s Bobby Lee)? Even if my being offended accurately represents the sentiments of 99% of the Asian world, that still leaves a sizable number of people who are misrepresented by the anger I mask as being “socially aware.” Basically, I have to ask: is it ever OK to be outraged for another group?
I hate BET with all my heart and soul. Adding to the things I hate are anything that Tyler Perry has ever produced, most of the work that Mo’Nique has done up to this point, a vast majority of today’s mainstream rappers, and the mile-long list of ignorant things black people do. But as much as I despise certain stereotypical aspects of black America, I think I’m ever MORE annoyed when I see non-blacks chiming in by telling us how we need to respond. Without even thinking about how some of these things intricately fit in the paradigm of the black experience, non-blacks tend to provide commentary (most of it unsolicited) regarding things they know nothing about and which don’t affect them directly. Fox News is notorious for that (i.e. in this clip, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill is debating with a couple of clowns on Fox News – one black, one white – about how Lebron James’ recent Vogue cover should not be offensive to black people).
I suppose my ultimate point is simple: there is a fine line between being socially conscious toward the experiences of other people and just downright overstepping your boundaries. It’s one thing to be aware of the lives, actions, and lifestyles of a group people. It’s another ball of wax to presume that you can speak on their behalf. That privilege can only come when you are a part of that group (and trust me when I say that I’m putting myself on trial here as much as anybody else).
Malcolm X was once heavily criticized when he rebuffed a liberal white student’s attempt to get involved during the Black Struggle. While his barrier of sectarianism was eventually broken down as he became more open to white involvement, he always maintained that blacks should be at the forefront when addressing black issues. I think that same idea applies today. I see absolutely nothing wrong with being socially aware and active in issues that affect other people. But perhaps we should leave it up to those who are most affected to be the initial fire starters.
What do you think?