By Guest Contributor Ajené “AJ” Farrar; originally published at Elixher
Five years and a tenuous honeymoon period later, the country is still wholly in love with our First Lady. Her reception by mainstream media outlets has been surprising not just in its warmth, but in its breadth: She has graced the covers of magazines ranging from Vogue to Good Housekeeping to Time. Her approval rating has soared higher than most First Ladies of the the past century—at one point, even exceeding the highest approval rating of Eleanor Roosevelt. Virtually unassailable, she is Maya Angelou in a sleeveless dress—and the surprising new face of all-American regality.
Yes, the country loves our First Lady at least as much as past First Ladies, and it has been a welcomed relief. A chocolate-skinned, relatable, stylish, Ivy League standout, Mrs. Obama represents to black women the President’s resounding rejection of the colorism, racism, and ageism commonly seen not only in elite white circles, but among our most powerful black men. Still, her lasting influence remains in question. Will her acclaim result in a tempering of the racist sentiment maligning black women of all walks of life, or will it merely validate America’s stubbornly misguided campaign of “color-blindness?”
By Arturo R. García, Kendra James, and Joseph Lamour
Samuel L. Jackson (l) and Quentin Tarantino. Photo via Film Buff Online.
Golden Globe Awards: I didn’t enjoy my Django Unchained viewing experience. Just putting that out there before I admit that, while I generally find Quentin Tarantino to be in extremely poor taste, I think he’s a great screenwriter. Reading his screenplays for Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (two movies I don’t actually enjoy watching) were a much-needed respite in the first film class I took in high school. While I haven’t read the screenplay for Django yet, I don’t doubt it’s any less well written than his others and, for that reason, I didn’t have any problem with him winning the Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay last week …
… until he went backstage and pulled a Typical Tarantino, dropping the N-word 30 seconds into his press conference much to the discomfort of every other sensible person in the room.
Mr. Jackson, come get your boy.–KJ
And it’s that space in between utter colorblindness and cancerous racism that Hollywood—not to mention other sectors of society—seems to have so much trouble with. Most of us aren’t saints who are wholly untainted by racism or Klan members. Instead, we grow up with ingrained and historically determined conceptions about race that influence our behavior, we learn that those ideas are social constructions rather than immutable truths, and we grapple with those realizations. Many people of color in this country are fortunate enough not to be subject to violent hate crimes but not fortunate enough to be free of more subtle and pernicious racism. And if you’re white, as I am, your life is affected by your race, too, but in ways that have been treated as if they’re natural and unremarkable. All of this seems rather unsurprising to me and very definitely interesting. But so often in Hollywood, it is dangerous territory.
It’s a good thing that white writers have become conscious of the idea that it’s bad to speak on behalf of people of color in a way such that people of color’s perspectives are treated as unnecessary. But to become afraid to speak about race at all is to minimize the importance of race’s substantive influence on our lives. If “Deception’s” creators think being nuanced about race would crowd out other issues they said they want to explore like family, they haven’t thought hard enough about the ways that differing attitudes about race can divide white families even today. And if they don’t want to consider how growing up as a black woman in the family of her mother’s white employer affected Joanna, they are missing out on opportunities to give her specific insight and strengths. Addressing racial difference, in other words, can be a way to unearth narratively interesting pain. But being willing to see racial difference can also mean coming into contact with new ideas, perspectives, and cultural and historical traditions that make a show and a character–or a life–fuller and more unique.
–Alyssa Rosenberg, “NBC’s ‘Deception,’ And Why Colorblindness Is Not Progressive”