Cesar could be a brilliant strategist, a skill observable in agile, imaginative interaction with determined opponents, turning apparent weakness into sources of strength. But the film depicts him largely as a creature of impulse, committed to be sure, but not the brainy strategist who took special joy, as he put it, in “killing two birds with one stone…and keeping the stone.” He was a learner, a deeply curious autodidact who thrived on constantly probing diverse sources of information: books, people and experiences. When I met him in 1965, he was reading Churchill’s The Gathering Storm because, as a student of Gandhi, he wanted to learn how his opponent thought. The commitment to nonviolence was based both on his appreciation of Gandhi’s methods and the way in which the civil rights movement, and reaction to it, had been unfolding every day. But oddly, although a commitment to nonviolence was a condition for undertaking the strike in the first place, shaping the way it unfolded, the film portrays nonviolence as a reaction to events in the strike.
Events depicted as spontaneous in the film, such at the 1966 “perigrinación” from Delano to Sacramento, were, to the contrary, a result of sustained, careful planning. The “kick-off” was timed to take advantage of national media in town to cover Senator Robert Kennedy’s participation in hearings held in Delano, orchestrated by the labor movement. This “march” strategically linked efforts to promote the UFW’s first boycott, to deter farm workers from returning to Delano in the spring, to pressure then Governor “Pat” Brown to intervene on the UFW”s behalf and to rekindle the faith, hopes and solidarity of the 100 to 200 people at the core of the movement and their supporters. Cesar did not hear of RFK’s death while driving somewhere in his car—we had been in LA doing the “get out the vote” that won him the primary, and some of us were with him in the ballroom when he was shot, on his way to thank the farm workers for their help. Similarly, the “fast” was not a reaction to a few unruly farm workers, but a strategic tactic, backed with a team of organizers, of which I was one, undertaken at a key time in response to court actions alleging violent tactics, renewing commitment several years into the fight and drawing attention to the grape boycott in time for the new season. The creativity, organizational discipline and courage that produced the events depicted in the film is lost entirely in the incoherent jumble of what the film makers must have judged to be “dramatic moments,” which presented out of time, place or sequence are robbed of their real drama.
– From “Not the Cesar Chavez I Knew,” by Marshall Ganz
By Arturo R. García
One of the arguments surrounding the #CancelColbert campaign has been that it has effectively given some white people “passes,” among them the target of the Stephen Colbert “Foundation” bit that inspired the tag in the first place, NFL owner Dan Snyder.
And that’s a fair point. But it’s also inaccurate to suggest that the campaign did not deal with “real racism.” Because, as we’ve seen over the past few days, a quite verifiable strain of hatred — at times veering into racism and misogyny toward activist Suey Park, as well as others discussing the issue — on the part of people who claim they’re not just defending Colbert, but comedy itself.
(Note: This post is image-heavy, with coarse and NSFW language under the cut.)
In this February 2010 piece, Thea Lim examines how “Avatar” exemplifies a disturbing type of faux-progressive filmmaking.
By Deputy Editor Thea Lim
How do you know when a story is allying, versus appropriating?
In other words, if someone of privilege writes a story about the political oppression of a group they do not belong to, what is the difference between:
a) a story that brings marginalised voices to a wider platform and advocates for their rights, versus
b) a story that simply appropriates a political conflict for a writer’s own end, taking advantage of the fact that communities who experience marginalisation are rarely ever allowed to speak for themselves?
Apart from the fact that a story that appropriates usually winds up grossly misrepresenting a marginalised group, this is my yardstick for telling friends from foes: one of the central purposes of a story that acts as ally, is to use one’s own privilege to tell another’s story, in the hopes of ameliorating the others’ situation. Meanwhile, a story that appropriates just wants to spin a good yarn, get some adulation, and uses another’s story in order to do so. An ally story is giving, an appropriating story is taking.
Quit jabbering Thea, you may say. It’s easy to tell the difference between stories that appropriate, and stories that ally! We don’t need a yardstick!
Not true. At least within mainstream opinion, it is startling and depressing how many stories that appropriate get passed off as political progressive, as allies. Like Not Without My Daughter. Or the documentary Born into Brothels, which purported to tell the story of the children of sex workers in Calcutta, but really just seemed more interested in showcasing the magnanimity of the American photographer who worked with the children.* Or another documentary, Paris is Burning, about the black trans/gay vogueing community of New York City, which brought immense praise on the white outsider director, but painted the community as tragic and hopeless, while bringing little benefit to them. I’m sure you can think of loads more films like this.
Including…(drumroll)…Avatar. Which I finally saw last week, in all its headsplitting 3D glory. And it fulfilled all the negative press I had read over countless months, from anti-racist and anti-ableist camps among many others. But seeing how my esteemed peers did a lot of the deconstructing work for me, I was left to ponder another question. If Cameron is as leftist as claimed, why didn’t he tell the story of an actual conflict between big business (or colonialists) and an indigenous group? Why use blue allegory?
Hollywood films have a generally untapped power to sway how people think about political events. Packaging a political story within the rhetoric of emotion (and also I guess, within face-blasting special effects) is often the best way to get people to swallow arguments they would otherwise reject. Hence a movie that – at least at face value – is very anti-war, anti-military and anti-capitalist is demolishing box office records with hardly a peep from conservative viewers.
Can you imagine the impact that a movie like Avatar could have, if Cameron had used all the CGI to recreate (for example) any area of the Americas the way it looked before first contact with the Europeans, and instead told the real story of an indigenous group struggling to protect themselves from genocide? Imagine the kind of support it could create for indigenous rights.
By Arturo R. García
Yesterday, Colorline’s publishers, Race Forward — formerly known as the Applied Research Center — released a two-part report covering both the common media mistakes when it comes to approaching race and the impact of racial justice initiatives looking to set the record right.
We’ll have a more in-depth look at Race Forward’s findings in a few days, but for now, here’s the great Jay Smooth with a video preview discussing one of the failings discussed in the report: media outlets’ tendency to talk about race in an individualistic fashion, rather than addressing the systems that enable it to thrive.
By Arturo R. García
SPOILERS AND TRIGGER WARNING FOR THIS POST
It’s possible Shonda Rhimes, writer Peter Nowalk and the Scandal creative team intended for Mellie to dominate the water-cooler talk after this episode, and explicitly set out to “out-do” not just Quinn’s descent into B613′s clutches, but the confirmation that Olivia’s mother is still alive and Fitz’s realization that Olivia’s father is the man atop B613.
It’s also apparent that they succeeded. But not without going to a highly questionable place.
Again, TRIGGER WARNING for subject matter under the cut.
By Andrea Plaid
I’ve always given side-eye to Fashion Fair Cosmetics ever since I started wearing make-up. To be a part of the Johnson Publication empire–the people who bring us Ebony (and its online equivalent) and Jet–their make-up was not only too rich for my wallet but never quite fit my skin tone. (You’d think, of allllll the companies, Fashion Fair would have a shade that fit the full spectrum of Black folks and well, right?) And, to be honest, the brand itself made me think of its relevance to my mom’s generation–the fresh-off-the Movement, up-the-corporate-ladder Baby Boomers–not mine.
Of course, it would be award-winning director Ava DuVernay who would make Fashion Fair relevent to my mom, me, and younger generations.
By Arturo R. García
A real hero came to San Diego on July 20, as Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) arrived to unveil the first volume of March, a three-volume autobiographical graphic novel telling his own origin story.
“I hope that hundreds and thousands of young people across America and around the world, pick up this book and be inspired to engage in non-violent direct action,” Lewis said. “When they see something that is not right, something that is unjust, that they be moved to protest.”
Co-written by Andrew Aydin, a member of his staff, and illustrated by Nate Powell, the first volume of the story, due out on Aug. 13, flashes back to Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, and his eventual journey into what we now know to be the Civil Rights Movement, but was initially called “the Montgomery Method.” Under the cut is my live report from their jam-packed session at the convention.
By Arturo R. García
This month’s issue of Uncanny Avengers served as the most explicit follow-up to the much-maligned “we are all humans” speech written by Rick Remender in an apparent stab at “colorblindness.”
Instead of taking to heart the critiques directed toward him, though, Remender seemed intent to “prove his point” via a debate between two of the book’s mutant characters, Rogue and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). But don’t let the cover fool you. This may have been intended to read like a battle of wits, but Remender neglected to arm either combatant.