Thursday, March 16, 2006

Black. White.

There's a new show on FX called Black. White. Basically, a black family of three is put together with a white family of three. A mom, dad and teenage child. The black family is made white and the the white family is made black to see what it's like to be the other race out in public. Then they live together without makeup. The makeup makes them look pretty creepy, but that's beside the point.

It's pretty clear that producers chose families who would clash anyway, despite race, and it's heavily edited to show the most extreme events (like any reality show), but it at least inspires some self-examination and thought.

The second episode was on last night and Oh. My. God. Half the time I was so uncomfortable watching it that I couldn't even look. I had to look the other way a few times.

Where did they find the white family?! The daughter, Rose, is fine, but those parents?! They're apparently affluent in Santa Monica, but so weird! And clueless! The mom is worse than the dad. I get so embarrased both for the black family and for all white people, who are being represented by this nut job. You probably haven't seen the show, but at one point the white mom is "inspired" by the slam poetry group that meets at their house, so she goes in to this hippy-like tyrade of her own brand of poetry, addressing each of the kids there and saying things like, "you beautiful black creature..." It's so creepy. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and felt so embarrased for everyone in the room. The black mom was like, "what the hell...??" Then the white mom and dad went to church in black makeup (they originally wanted to wear traditional African garb, thinking other people would be too, you know, since they're African American - DUHHHHH!!!) and they were totally dancing around and clapping, raising their arms, etc. I wanted to puke. The real black mom and dad just kept looking at each other like, "who are these dumbasses...??"

I do have to say, though, that I'm surprised at the black family's opinion that most white people are basically racist. For instance, the black dad said he thinks most whites are looking for the opportunity to say the N word. Also, he thought it was racist for a white person, while walking down the sidewalk, to alter her path so he and the white dad (in black makeup) could more easily pass. The white dad was like, "She's just moving so we can get by...that happens all the time." Also, the black dad does kinda seem like he's just expecting to be treated poorly or receive bad service b/c he's black. Sales clerks came up to help him in a store just like they would to anyone and he felt they were sizing him up instead of wanting to assist him...I don't know. I just don't agree with the thought that most white people are racist. It would be foolish to say that racism doesn't exist, but I don't think "most" white people are racist.

I mean, anyone can get treated poorly by a cashier, server, customer service rep, etc. I wonder if black people think that a rude waitress or cashier is being racist instead of just plain rude? Never thought about it before now...

Another part of the show that made my skin crawl were two different guys (on two different nights) in the white bar where the black dad works (when he's in white makeup). The guys said things like, "This community is pretty much the only all white bastion left in the area. The surrounding communities have had lots of blacks move in..." The other guy said things like, "Around here, blacks think it's uncool for each other to do 'good' in school. They feel it makes them less white to be dumb." ....Ummm....what???

What do you think? Are most whites subtly racist?

Possibly in older generations. But I think our generation learned about racism, the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc., in school and most of us, I hope, were brought up to believe everyone is equal (but with cultural difference) and that racism is wrong. Am I incorrect in assuming that?

Racism can go both ways, though. Take the microcasm of a city bus, for instance. The other night, there was a seat open next to a black guy at the back of the bus where I was sitting. TWO different white guys sat next to the black guy, then moved as soon as a seat next to a white person opened up. I'm not kidding. Then, a white lady got on who had a bunch of bags to hold and there was no room up front to sit. A black guy just watched her. As soon as a black lady got on (who wasn't much older), he got up from his seat to let her sit down. But he wouldn't get up for the white lady. Also, this white guy was taking a while to get his money in the thing and this black girl behind me yelled, "Sit your ass down!!" I don't think she would have said that to a black person...I've also noticed that a few black cashiers I've encountered were all, "Hey, how you doin?" to a black customer in front of me, then not a word when I get to the register....what's that about??

Anyway - Who knows - that show just had me thinking about that kinda stuff this morning. Watch it if you can - interesting. It's on Wednesdays at 9 CST.


  • Racism comes in many forms, some subtle some not. I grew up in a small town in Arizona that was not racially diverse and when I moved to Houston I was blown away by the blatant racism I witnessed on a daily basis. I had always been taught to judge people based on an individual's actions and to see/hear people making judgements based completely on skin color was shocking. I'd like to think we've come a long way with civil rights and in many ways we have but the sad truth is that there will always be some form of underlying prejudice. And you're right, it's on both sides of the fence.

    By Blogger potusol, at 11:31 AM  

  • I don't think I could watch this show, I'd be constantly yelling at the TV. It's sad because they pick such extreme cases on both sides. Not one person can represent a race, so let's pick the most out-there freak and put them on TV. I mean really.

    By Blogger ab, at 12:19 PM  

  • Wow, this is all so fascinating to me! First of all, there is racism everywhere you look, no matter what color/ethnicity someone is. It's just the way it seems to be, and although I hope it will be different for my children growing up, I don't know that it will ever change.

    I grew up in an inner-city environment where there wasn't ROOM to be racist - some of my best friends were black, hispanic, asian... It was so normal for me to be surrounded by people of different backgrounds and skin colors, that it really took me by surprise when I got out into "the real world" and saw so much hate. High school was where it all started to really make sense to me, and that's where I started talking back to the people who felt as if their life wasn't appreciated as much as a white person. It's BULLSHIT. We are all people, and as a white person, I get treated badly by people all the time - not because I'm white, but because some people are just nasty, terrible human beings. Color of skin won't change that fact.

    I could go on and on, but I won't. The truth is, it's more UNDERSTANDING from all sides that we need. Hopefully in time, we will get it.

    Great post, Kiddo! I loved the food for thought!

    By Blogger AmyD, at 12:38 PM  

  • I've heard of everything. What a bizarre experiment. I'd maybe like to see on episode, but if the white woman in black makeup is as looney as you say..i'd likely feel uncomfortable and shut it off too. I agree with you as well, not ALL white people are racist, the idea is ridiculous.

    Good point also about a clerk/waitress with an attitude just might be perceived as racist instead of a bitch. Interesting...

    By Blogger The Persian, at 1:11 PM  

  • Just yesterday, a woman at work made what I consider to be a racist remark. She said it matter-of-factly, as if OF COURSE I would think the same way. I was SO taken aback that I just stared at her. The other woman with whom we were talking changed the topic quickly, so we just moved on. I feel guilty for not raising a fuss, but I doubt it would have done any good. She would probably have just denied the feelings that caused the remark and her attitude wouldn't change. It is disheartening, though.

    Also, I have another friend (white) who was attracted mostly to black men. For a while, she lived in a small town in... Texas, maybe? I don't remember now... but the point is that she said black men would never even look her in the eye. When she would try to start conversations with them, they would be polite but shrug her off. She couldn't even really flirt with black men there, let alone get them to ask her out. Very bizarre.

    By Blogger Twinkie, at 10:09 PM  

  • i felt uncomfortable just reading your description of the show. i grew up in baltimore city--a predominately black area (don't say African-American there because my friend Tawanda will rip you a new asshole that her family is not from Africa). Although I was a minority in my neighborhood, I didn't feel uncomfortable.... until I moved to Phoenix. It took me a couple of days to figure out that there were no black people here! Now THAT made me uncomfortable.

    By Blogger VeryApeAZ, at 1:08 AM  

  • One of the bloggers made a fairly decent point that alot of what is interpeted as racism is sometimes really just a misunderstanding. On the other hand, what could easily mislead one to think of a certain negative behavior that was directed towards an individual as racism could be motivated purely by jealousy, envy, and so on and so forth.

    By Blogger The Maverick, at 5:14 PM  

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