Learning To Overcome My Latent White Supremacy

Black Identity, Film, Race, Uncategorized

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Recently I was talking to a friend about a skit I’m working to film and produce. The skit features two young adult women. I have two actors in mind for this and one happens to be white and the other happens to be black. When I was describing the concept to my friend, I mentioned that I didn’t want for there to be a racial component to the story. He provided a simple solution saying, “You should only use white actors.” I was caught o off guard, it sounded racist but my friend is not racist at all. I thought about the interaction for a while and realized how easy it is to be complicit in a system of white supremacy.

I originally started sharing this as a Facebook comment to this short article about Woody Allen not hiring black actors unless the story “Requires it.” I started by writing the post like this:

Recently I was talking to a friend about a short PSA I’m working to film and produce. the skit features two women. I had two actors in mind and one is black. I said that I wanted to use the black actor but didn’t want to have a racial component in the story. He provided a simple solution saying, “You should only use white actors.” I was floored but understood how easy it is to be complicit in a system of white supremacy.

There are a few things wrong with my original words and the thinking behind them.

“I had two actors in mind and one is black.” This in a way assumes that the normal thing to be is white. I didn’t mean it that way but my brain automatically went there instead of saying that one is black and one is white.

“I wanted to use the black  actor but didn’t want to have a racial component in the story.” This is HUGELY PROBLEMATIC and I almost left it out there in a comment trying to show solidarity with a fellow black person who is an actor. It’s a problem because it places the onus of racial tension on the black person. It implies that black people are a racial problem. They are not. (We are not.)

As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in Between the World and Me,   “Race is a product of racism.” It’s a white problem. Not necessarily the problem of an individual person who is called white but of the whole system of attitudes and behaviors that have created the terms, white, and black. A system that has persisted and has continued to oppress black and brown people in sometimes very subtle and nuanced ways but also in violent and obvious ways. Obvious at least to those who are paying attention either by proximity or by intentional wakefulness.

As some of you may know, I am the son of a black mother. She denied being black for my whole childhood and came out to me as a black person when I was in my 20s. Here’s a post about some of that:  THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF GROWING UP WITH A CONFUSED RACIAL IDENTITY

So, yeah. I’m half black and also a little bit racist. I’ve got white supremacy in my thinking. I am unintentionally compliant in this system. I promise I’m really working on this.

I carpool and work with a very thoughtful and woke white friend and we talk about systemic white supremacy every time we ride together. It’s an inexhaustible topic of conversation. I feel that we will never run out of things to say on the topic.

ConFuSing pAragrapH>>>Being a person of mixed race, I find that I have trouble with language regarding race. I don’t self-identify as a white person but when I look at things I’ve said or written I find that I only sometimes identify as a black person. I usually call black people they and sometimes call white people they, although if I look closely, I find that I imply that I share a white experience, which I do in some ways. I have been subject to various forms of white racism in my life and have been treated as other enough times to make me feel genuinely other. I don’t really look black though and I was raised by a poor single black mother who had a life riddled with violence, drug abuse, imprisonment, unfortunate police encounters, domestic abuse, and deep shame regarding her own identity as a black woman. In many of these ways, I think I share an experience that many black people have had and yet I often feel like an outsider in that group as well.

I’m doing racism sometimes and I’m really sorry about it. I think it’s important for people to come to terms with the fact that racism exists and that they probably participate in it without even knowing.

Was I writing about film? Yes. I guess so. If you’re working in film, do better. Don’t assume you’re not racist.

Second Week Living in Germany as Missionaries- A vulcan like separation of logic and emotion.

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Here starts week two of living in Germany. We’ve actually been here for 10 days but I’d like to think that the first 3 days were just travel days. Culture shock! I feel like we have to learn everything again; How to throw out the garbage, how to use the bank, how to acquire sustenance, how to wash our clothes, how to get around, how to understand legal documents…It’s all new.

On the first day we came into our apartment and there was food in the fridge, a flower and card on the table, plates, pots, cutlery, stuff to clean, and so on. We felt so welcomed by everyone here. Truly amazing.

We are experiencing wide mood changes; hope, discouragement, purpose, loss, brotherhood, abandonment, joy, sorrow. I suppose that some of these emotions are the pangs of relinquishing control. We have sold our things, packed up our most valuable possessions, sent them with some guys in a van, and moved away from our home area. I knew that things would be difficult but my logic is never able to accurately describe how a new situation will feel.

On logic: I’ve always felt that my logical mind and my emotional mind were separated. That the emotional mind needed to be told what to feel by the logical mind. I was really surprised to find that it’s not that way at all. My emotions knew that I was starting a new chapter in my life. In the weeks before we left I was a mess emotionally. I felt like Jean Luc Picard in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode where he mind melds with Sarek (Spock’s Father) to help him get through an important delegation. Sarek was super old and his control was fading. Picard had to deal with the un dealt with emotions of another man’s life. In Star Trek, Vulcans learn to suppress their emotions in order to have a society where logic prevails. Many circumstances that we go through in life beg us to do the same. Suppress.

Other outside sources call to us to push down our emotions. Some of Becca’s family have expressed their shame with us asking people to help us pay off our dead car. To me this is the perfect opportunity to disconnect. I’m wired to do it. As much as my spiritual self longs for community and family, my natural self wants to be alone. It wants to find a cave to crawl into and never be found.

The only thing to do now is hope. Hope that God will enable us to do what we think that he has called us to do here in Germany. Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew {their} strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; {and} they shall walk, and not faint.”