By Guest Contributor Fiqah, originally published at Possum Stew
A couple of weeks back, AJ Plaid and I collaborated on a humor piece for Racialicious about White guys who had received the Black Folk Stamp of Approval for Screen Time with Sistahs™. It was a mostly tongue-in-cheek piece that was surprisingly popular (if the number of comments are any indication of how well-received it was, anyway). As the comments came in with suggestions of who to add to the list, I noticed that quite a few actors were being noted as “hot” in their film roles as skinheads. Not the cool, Trojan skinheads. The regular, scary, violent, racist kind. Now, as a general rule, as I mentioned on the thread “hot skinhead” is an oxymoron to me, so this turn in conversation was one I found intriguing:
Hm. As a related aside, I find it interesting that the mainstream American film narrative allows for the (fictional) existence of the Hot Young WHITE Supremacist/Ideological Extremist…but NOT for the (fictional) existence of the Hot Young BROWN Religious/Ideological Extremist. Meh. Another post for some other day.
Over the last few weeks, I have watched people come running to defend the indefensible. I have heard and read defense of the officers who shot Marwa Sherbini’s husband as he was attempting to save his pregnant wife’s life, counterarguments to the blatant racism and sexism exhibited by certain senators during the Sotomayor hearings, dismissals of salient allegations of racist character coding in recent summer blockbusters , and protests justifying the removal of little Black children – babies, really – from a swimming pool on a hot-assed summer day. ( “Change the complexion of the pool”? Really? Newsflash: eumelanin doesn’t wash off. Good grief.)
I have to say that of all these, the story that has unsettled me most is the murder of Egyptian Muslim Mrs. Sherbini at the hands of White German Axel W. Typically, mainstream media frames the “lone (White) gunman” as an anomaly. However, in the aftermath of this tragedy, I have read comments on blogs defending – to the point of applauding - Axel W.’s actions. (I am not providing links for these threads, but suffice it to say that is indeed an interesting experience to feel chilled to the bone in the middle of July.)
The overwhelming sentiment on some of these threads is that the monster who killed Mrs. Sherbini was just like any other nice young man who was so disturbed by the changing “face” of his country that he just snapped. And the husband being shot, well, don’t all those men beat the women anyway? Really, Sherbini, by thumbing her nose at outward assimilation as dictated by her choice of garb, kinda brought all of this on herself.
The callous dismissal of Mrs. Sherbini’s fundamental human value, and the simultaneous public defense of her murderer, stunned me. What, I wondered, exactly IS “understandable rage”? When is acting out of frustration – to violent, fatal excess – forgivable? Is it ever? If so, then for whom? More urgently, how had the compassion of Axel W.’s supporters failed to be stirred by what to me is one of the tenderest representations of humanity: a pregnant mother?
The Black Folk Stamp of Approval for Screen Time with Sistahs™ got me thinking about film representations of skinheads, but what would it look like if we viewed representations of “Jihadis”* side-by-side with so-called dreamy Skinheads?