Black Jesus cartoon too discriminatory

June 8, 2012

Poke fun at Christian beliefs all you want, but cut the racism. That’s what I say.

Times Live reports on a short cartoon that featured a black Jesus:

The two-minute animation, created by Johannesburg company Mdu Comics, depicts a “black Jesus” attempting to commit suicide after his doctor “diagnoses” him as a Shangaan.

In the clip, which has had 49000 hits on YouTube, “Jesus”, who speaks Zulu, consults a doctor after breaking his toe. After a DNA test, the doctor says: “Jesus, there is no easy way of telling you this … You are Shangaan.”

The character then scrubs himself with bags of oranges to rid himself of his “shangaan-ness” before leaving a suicide note.

Shangaan part of an ethnic group in South Africa, the Tsonga people.

According to the Tsonga, there exists a strong relationship between the creation (ntumbuloko) and a supernatural power called Tilo. Tilo refers to a vaguely described superior being, who created mankind, but it also refers to the heavens, being the home of this creature.

The Tsonga believed that man had a physical (mmiri) and a spiritual body with two added attributes, the moya and the ndzuti. The moya is associated with the spirit, enters the body at birth, and leaves at death to join the ancestors.

The ndzuti was associated with the person’s shadow and reflected human characteristics. At death, in the spirit world, it left the body. This meant that the spirit was attached with the individual and human characteristics of that person. Inherent in this concept is not only the belief in life after death but also that the dead retain very strong links with the living. Passing over into the spirit world is an important stage in the life of a Tsonga.

The country is rife with racist notions of certain tribes being better than others and the woman who initially lodged the complaint has heard many a slur against her Shangaan roots. Caroline Sithole thought this particular cartoon was worth taking to the Human Rights Commission after an acquaintance sent her to look at it.

“The [animation] came from a colleague and friend who said: ‘I am happy you will be Zulu soon’, referring to the fact that I will be getting married to a Zulu man.

“Well, it is sad that in this democratic South Africa you still have people who really believe Zulus or other tribes are more superior than Shangaans and that Shangaans are non-human or sub-human,” Sithole wrote in her complaint.

She said the animation carried many upsetting stereotypes.

“No wonder my son refuses to be Shangaan. I grew up being ridiculed by schoolmates for being Shangaan and I was not sure where this hatred was coming from.

Nowhere logical or scientifically factual, I’m sure.

Mdu Comics founder Mdu Ntuli denied the cartoon was offensive.

“It is purely fictional . Every nationality has a joke on each other and that’s just how it is. For me, it is just ridiculous for any Tsonga person to take this personally,” Ntuli said.

“Just how it is” is just what the problem is. So long as people refuse to see the problem with that kind of attitude, the longer the attitude will persist.


Kentucky church rethinks interracial couple ban

December 3, 2011

There’s nothing like world-wide exposure to show a community just how out of date, backwards and positively racist its practices are. The story came out last week about Stella Harville’s experience in August. At her rural Kentucky church, she and her fiance from Zimbabwe, Ticha Chikuni, had an opportunity to perform some music there but were later told they’d never be allowed to participate in the church as an interracial married couple.

The vote to ostracise couples of different races was held at the Gulnare Freewill baptist church last Sunday. It has prompted a bitter dispute in the local Pike County and thrown up hatreds and antagonisms that had been hidden beneath the surface of the community for years.

The vote was held on a motion brought by the former pastor of the church, Melvin Thompson. He proposed that people in interracial marriages should not be “received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions – with the exception being funerals”.

His motion added that it “was not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve”.

Doesn’t sound very unifying to those left on the outside of the church, frankly. I don’t know how common interracial marriages are in general, let alone in Kentucky. I suspect they still must be a bit eye turning to some people, going by this debacle alone. Growing up in my smallish (predominantly white) city, it was novel to discover an interracial couple, both of whom were teachers I knew in junior and high school. I don’t remember if I had any classes with their son but I think he was fairly popular, and probably would have been even if his parents hadn’t been in the same building. He was that kind of exuberant guy. But I digress. Saskatchewan isn’t Kentucky and I have no idea if the couple would have been church-goers at risk of running into any blatant racially-motivated conundrums, or even subtle ones. I hate to think my city would be like that but I didn’t think my city had a gay bashing problem either…

Anyway, the Kentucky pastor had stepped down for “health reasons” supposedly but still kept insisting this ought to happen and of the 40 parishioners asked to vote on it, nine agreed, six disagreed and the rest abstained for some reason. Harville states in the article that she’s disappointed more refused to stand up against the bigotry, but this is sometimes the way groups work. It’s far harder to stand up to your friends than it is your enemies.

Yesterday came new word about this issue. The Gulnare church has been inundated with angry phone calls and emails denouncing the proposal and ban. Although no examples are provided, it’s not hard to imagine how many must be filled with vitriol over the overt racism of it.

“We are not a group of racist people,” said Keith Burden of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. “We have been labeled that obviously because of the actions of nine people.”

The former pastor, Melvin Thompson, swears he isn’t racist, either, but when AP pressed for a different explanation for why he pushed for this, he refused to give them one. If it quacks like a duck..

After giving interviews earlier this week, the church’s current pastor, Stacy Stepp, and several other church members did not return phone calls Friday. One of the members said they were shocked. Stepp said he voted against the measure and would work to overturn it.

The national group distanced itself from the resolution in a statement Thursday, saying it “neither condemns nor disallows” interracial marriage.

It said the church was working to reverse its policy and added, “We encourage the church to follow through with this action.”

Harville, who is now engaged to Chikuni, said earlier this week that she felt betrayed by the church.

“Whether they keep the vote or overturn it, it’s going to be hard for me go back there,” she told AP.

Begging the question, why would she want to go back there? Hard as it might be to leave the people she does like who accept her decision to marry a foreign black man, maybe it’s the best option. There’d always be a few hard feelings and undercurrents of distrust and wariness. It wouldn’t be comfortable for anyone in there after this has gone on, not for the couple, and certainly not for those who voted against them. It doesn’t matter what Stepp might later preach about tolerance and forgiveness, the memories of pariah status would remain. Maybe if everyone got a bit of relationship counseling…

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites, overturning bans in 15 other states. But while interracial marriages have soared since then, many churches remain largely segregated.

Curtiss Paul DeYoung, a professor at Bethel College who has studied interracial churches, said church members opposed to a more diverse church usually just go somewhere else.

“Rarely today do you see it so blatantly come to a vote. Usually people just leave but they don’t say much about it,” DeYoung said. “I think this is still one of the last hurdles around race for a lot of folks in this country. It’s just rarely stated this bluntly.”

I think in this era it’s depressing to see it still stated at all. Why the hell do people have problems with this? A particular religious upbringing can’t possibly be all that’s behind it, but it’s probably the bulk of the reason.

In terms of my extended family, my uncle married a woman from Thailand and only knew her for two days or some crazy thing. The short courtship was a bigger surprise than his new wife’s heritage. That was in 1990, I think, and they’re still together. His daughter from his first marriage married a man of Indian descent and got to do two wedding ceremonies: one traditional for his family and one Canadian. Her husband has a picture up on his Facebook page of how she was dressed and calls her a “Bollywood princess.” No doubt! Gorgeous woman. You can totally tell we’re related…

The Free Will Baptists trace their history to the 18th century. They emphasized the Arminian doctrine of free will, free grace, and free salvation, in contrast to most Baptists, who were Calvinists and believed Christ died only for those predestined to be saved.

There are some 4,200 churches worldwide. The National Association of Free Will Baptists organized in Nashville, Tenn., in 1935 and is now based in Antioch, Tenn.

The group said in its statement that the denomination has no official policy regarding interracial couples “because it has not been an issue.”

Perhaps it’s because few dared do it and attempt to remain with the Free Will Baptist Church.

As troubling as this has been for the couple, it’s overall good that they made some waves. If that church has been a stagnant pool of antiquated thinking, it’s high time for the waters to stir and generate some positive changes. That congregation needed to realize they don’t live in a vacuum, too. The whole world can watch what people do now, not just their God. It should put a bigger onus on everyone to think carefully before they commit to something that’s bound to be a bad idea. Of course, browsing The Smoking Gun and other pages FARK links to every day, it’s clear we’re not there yet…


So that conference is over.. but re-education has to begin

March 19, 2011

Growing up I must have known people who were gay, but if they were, they were completely and totally mum about it and I remain ignorant of their number to this day. Even into high school, I have no idea how many gay students might have been there. I didn’t know many in university either and even among those people I know now, I don’t make it a habit of asking anyone what kind of people they’d be into. Growing up, I was ignorant of the possibility of my friends being gay. Now for me, I don’t feel like I need to know – not because I don’t want to know, it just feels like a non-issue. Okay, you’re gay. Now where are we going for dinner? I don’t know if I’ve explained what I mean very well… I’m accepting, I’m accommodating, I’m okay with it, you know? Why is this such a big deal?

Because it’s a big deal for a whole lot of other people, that’s why. And that’s why the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education has been putting on this Break the Silence conference for 14 years and will continue to do so. This year was the first I’d ever heard of it, let alone attended.

The first talk today featured Emily Carr and Shawn Sanford Beck who shared their experiences as ministers at a local Anglican church and their Wardens freaking out over Emily’s recent marriage to her same-sex partner. They both wound up resigning voluntarily rather than stay in the hostile environment created by these members of their congregation who wouldn’t accept her as is. Shawn used to bless same sex partners at the church but I think he said he’s now teaching theology on campus and Emily has an even bigger role with the church than she did before, coordinating with their Bishop on youth related projects of some kind. I scribbled pages and pages worth of notes into my little book, some of which I can’t even read now; I was in such a hurry to record key points.

One thing I can read off my notes, what lesson did this congregation learn here? They weren’t all against Emily, but Shawn wondered if their decision to leave let the Anglicans off the hook as far as the need to challenge and change a homophobic atmosphere. Then again, why willingly stay around people who think like that?

The second talk was by Constable Hal Lam who discussed hate and bias crimes in Saskatoon and Canada. He revealed some incredibly appalling and stupid things done here, one to Muslims where people smeared ham all over their cars and another to a Jewish family where high school kids got it into their heads to build a cross, burn it, and leave it on their front lawn. He explained how difficult it is to prosecute for hate crimes, but also how important it is for people to report any and all of them anyway. If prosecutors and judges are aware of a history of complaints about that person, it might suggest that escalation to violence was only a matter of time, and that will play in the victim’s favour when sentencing comes down.

These kinds of events against anyone, be it due to religion, or race, or sexuality, have long lasting, long reaching implications for a person’s feeling of worth, and a community’s sense of safety. He brought up a massive protest in Calgary a few years ago on Anti-Racism Day when an aryan group massed a protest against the first group. He showed a news clip of that, and another of a lesbian couple in Ontario who got assaulted at a school when picking up their kid – by a larger man who’d come to pick up his own kid and didn’t like the look of them. Ontario Court Justice Katrina Mulligan felt Mark Scott’s self-defense story bordered on ridiculous and he was declared guilty.

After that was a “Good News” session to promote Camp Fyrefly, a LGBTQetc event for youth in Saskatchewan and Alberta. PFLAG Canada passed on some news about their movement, including the donation of My Princess Boy to every Catholic elementary school library in the city. I nearly cried reading that book and I don’t even have kids. They also talked about Day of Pink which runs April 13th across the country because discrimination hurts everyone. There’s a rally at the Roxy Theatre for fund raising tonight, actually, starting at 6pm (which is right now as I write). And a student from my home town got up to talk about the Gay Straight Alliance that now exists there thanks to her and some help. Yay for Swift Current. After hearing her story, it’s about damn time, too.

And then it was lunch time. Part 2 to come later.


Banned Book Club – To Kill a Mockingbird

December 17, 2010

Saskatoon Freethinkers started up an extra group within the group a few months back with the intention of reading books that have been banned or challenged for various reasons.

The first book we focused on in October was The Satanic Verses and it has occurred to me that I never bothered to write up anything about that meet. To very briefly summarize, I think we wound up wondering what motivated Rushdie to write it – how much of it was truly meant as criticism of religion and whatever else, and how much of it was Rushdie trying to inject himself into the elitist British society through the publishing of it, thus creating in reality the life’s ambitions of one of his book’s main characters.

It’s hard to understand the intentions of people when you have no access to the thoughts in their heads, yeah? And it’s very easy to make snap judgments about people and let misunderstandings and stereotypes stop progress.

That was one of the themes we wound up discussing in terms of Harper Lee’s classic, as there are many characters in the book who are multifaceted, mysterious, and misunderstood. For those who’ve never read it (for shame!), it’s told from the perspective of Scout, a young girl whose lawyer father, Atticus Finch, has been assigned the duty of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. Being an unfair kind of world like it is, what looks like a deserved win results in a jury voting opposite, sending the harmless, polite and disabled Tom Robinson to prison. The case makes the Finch family a target for hatred, brought about by, you guessed it, misunderstandings and stereotypes.

The story as a whole focuses on Scout and her elder brother Jem, how they see the world they live in and the people who populate it. Fortunately, they’ve got a father who gives a damn (another theme we touched on, as there are a couple good examples of shitty parenting in there) who is keen on teaching his children to think and be rational and open minded. He’s put a lot of effort into being a good role model for them as well and it’s paid off. They’re intelligent, curious, well adjusted, and well aware of injustice and inequality by the end of the book.

Another thing we hit on was Lee’s choice (for lack of better wording) to keep things so black and white. The white trash is really, really, white trash and there isn’t a bad black man in the lot. I think there were some other examples brought up..something about so many other characters being superficial caricatures of various stereotypes. Was Lee falling into the trap Finch himself wanted to keep his kids out of, or was it merely a convenient method to set the stage as simply and succinctly as possible so she could concentrate efforts on fleshing out the characters who really mattered to her instead?

We also got into a discussion about the role of men in society. What makes a man a man and have gender roles and ideas about appropriate behaviour for men changed much since Lee wrote the book in 1960? And how much does behaviour depend on who might be watching?

One of the guys brought up an interesting example of that via a scene in the book involving a mad dog and the need to kill it. Finch had been a sharp-shooter of some skill in his younger days, a role he’d set aside once he’d married and become a parent and a lawyer. Now he’s being told by a friend/neighbour/fellow townie that it’s essentially his duty to kill this thing and he’s handed the gun. Scout witnesses this and sees him take his glasses off (a physical manifestation of evolved rational thought?) and they break when they hit the ground. I seem to recall that both kids are there when he reluctantly regresses into a violent (less evolved?) past to deal with a potential danger to his kids.

There was also a bit of a debate about how to read the book. Should we read it and reflect on its historic significance as a snapshot of an earlier time and mentality, or should we be looking at the story and how it relates to us now and how we feel today about racial issues in our society? Should groups be up in arms today over Lee’s use of the word “nigger” if it was a commonly heard term in the period her book is set? Or do they have a legitimate beef because Lee used it too much when other phrases or descriptions could have been used instead?

And we briefly touched on what Lee really feels about the book’s continued success – something we can’t know because she’s a recluse who rarely grants interviews (none at an essay contest in 2006, one in 2010 where she didn’t want to talk about the book at all, one in 1964). I knew it was somewhat inspired by her father’s law career, but I didn’t know until the other night that the young character Dill is a nod to Truman Capote, a lifelong friend of hers.

The next book we’ll be talking about is one I hadn’t heard of called Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. It won the Man Booker in 2003 so it’s not going to be crap and it appears to be a black comedy/satire about school shootings and suicide. Hardly my usual fare, but hey.


“disabled children are God’s punishment”

February 22, 2010

That’s the voiced opinion of a Virginia State Delegate, Bob Marshall. He’s of the mindset that disabled kids happen because their moms aborted their first kids and now God’s punishing those moms.

He made that statement Thursday at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

Christians like him, at any rate. I wonder where he found that statistic.

Marshall and 20 other religious numbskulls were involved in a rally against Planned Parenthood recently. A petition is circulating in Virginia right now demanding the state to stop funding the controversial group. Jonathan Falwell and Pat Robertson have both signed the thing.

According to Marshall, Planned Parenthood receives “about $500,000 a year” from the state.

But Jessica Honke, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said the only state funding Planned Parenthood receives is from Medicaid reimbursements. That amount was about $35,000 in the 2009 fiscal year, according to the Department of Medical Assistance Services.

I’m sure if these people read some stats, it’d be easy to see that they give more people condoms and birth control pills than abortions. From a press release on the Virginia site:

Today, 45.7 million Americans do not have health insurance, including approximately one million Virginians, of which 130,000 are Richmond residents. VLPP is the single largest provider of preventative, routine gynecological services for low-to-moderate income women in the metro area. Planned Parenthood provides family planning counseling, birth control information and supplies, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, sex education and medical services.

“For the past 65 years, VLPP has delivered vital and relevant education programs and health care services to the Central Virginia region,” said Paulette McElwain, president and chief executive officer of VLPP. “We work collaboratively on an ongoing basis with a broad coalition of schools, organizations, parents, elected officials and policy makers to encourage and promote strong families and communities.”

Whether or not you approve of abortions, Planned Parenthood is doing good things. What kind of person their founder was has little to do with how they operate today. Dean Nelson, executive director of the Network of Politically Active Christians,

suggested that the organization be called “Klan Parenthood,” saying that the group’s founder, Margaret Sanger, made racist comments in the 1930s and that the organization has shown a “willingness to take donations from people who are racist.”

I think the group is willing to take donations from anyone willing to donate, but some groups like to link Sanger’s work to Hitler claiming that her ambition was always to stop black kids from ever being born. There’s an anti-abortion group in Atlanta that made headlines recently with their endangered species billboards. While statistics indicate more black women have abortions, many of them do so because they know they can’t afford to raise the kid and still make ends meet.

The findings indicate “we need to figure out efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy, not only among teenagers but among all women, and in particularly women of color,” she said. “A lot of policymakers are stuck 30 years back when most women getting abortions are teenagers and college students, and that isn’t so much the case these days.”

Others said the findings underscore the need to increase access to contraception for poor women.

“Birth control is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” said Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Unfortunately there’s a large number of uninsured people in this country, and if you are uninsured you are less likely to have access to affordable health care, including affordable birth control.”

Which is why Planned Parenthood is so vital in low income neighbourhoods. I wouldn’t doubt the state is aware of the necessity of providing such services to help those who can’t afford the alternatives that rich and middle class folk almost take for granted. Bob Marshall comes across as a deluded nitwit who shouldn’t be allowed near a microphone. Hopefully he’s never in a position to really change things.


Desire for “Christian community” not fair to Muslim Americans

February 1, 2010

Or any other group, for that matter.

I don’t have the chops to do this story justice, I’ll admit (go see Paliban Daily’s take on it), but I thought it was interesting enough to write about anyway.

Lancaster residents were urged by Mayor R. Rex Parris in a state of the city speech to support a city ballot measure that would authorize daily prayers at city council meetings.

In his speech, Parris said “we are growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that,” according to the Antelope Valley Press.

Ideally, prayer shouldn’t be a part of any government business. God should not be in government. It’s divisive and unnecessary.

In a later interview with the Daily News, Parris expressed surprise that some religious leaders object to prayers to Jesus at city meetings, and blamed opposition on activists who “want a fight,” the newspaper reported. “They want their 15 minutes of fame.”

And if they can’t have fame, can they at least feel some equality?

Kamal Al-Khatob, head of the Islamic Institute of the Antelope Valley, told the Daily News that the mayor’s belief that Lancaster is a Christian community alienates Muslims. “This is not what America is all about. America is for everybody.”

He’s as big an idealist as me, I think. I also think he’s right to remind people of that. America might have been founded by theists and religious pilgrims but “We the People” shouldn’t be read as, “We the Christian people” and mayors who encourage communities to play favourites based on what god they love best should get a slap down.

One week ago, Lancaster city council member Sherry Marquez wrote on her Facebook page that the beheading murder of an Islamic woman by her husband in New York shows that vicious murders are what Muslims embrace.

“This is what the Muslim religion is all about — the beheadings, honor killings are just the beginning of what is about to come to the USA,” she reportedly wrote on the Web Jan. 23. “We are told this is a small minority of Muslim’s (sic) in America, but it is truly what they are all about.”

You know what else they’re about? They’re about 400 years or so behind Christianity. Christians did their share of beheadings too, and it wasn’t just kings. It really isn’t fair to judge the whole pile of them based on what a few do. Would local Muslims feel comfortable running for council seats knowing Jesus is the only god allowed in the room? Is this going to make them proud to be a part of that community? Or is the mayor ultimately hoping that they’ll pack up like unwanted gypsies and bugger off to someone else’s property?

I wonder if this is happening in other places. American Christians love to claim they’re facing persecution in their schools and workplaces just because they can’t wear a necklace but then stories like this pop up. How is this not worse?


edit Feb. 2 to add Paliban Daily link. It really is a good post.


Producer wants white Jesus for play, anti-racist campaign gets into the act

January 27, 2010

It’s out of the Telegraph. Bonnie Greer, apparently the writer of the play, Passion of Jesus was appalled by the “depressingly insular view of the world”:

“I thought we had got over the idea that Jesus always had to be a tall, white man with blue eyes and long, blond hair,” she tells me [the journalist]. “Jesus was almost certainly a Palestinian by descent and precisely the kind of man that a lot of people would have a problem admitting into the country these days.

“This is symptomatic of what I see as a general return to conservatism in this country. I am surprised the law allows this.”

Jesus was not a Nordic, although the producer apparently disagrees.

Peter Hutley, the producer, asserts: “Jesus was white. If I was advertising for an actor in Sanders of the River I would specify a black man….

A quick title hunt gets me a movie from 1935 based on stories by Edgar Wallace. The story of the film involves a British officer utilizing Nigerian tribal leaders loyal to the Crown in order to battle gun runners and slavers. According to Wikipedia, Paul Robeson, the black actor who portrayed the lead Nigerian character, later disowned the film:

He felt that if he could portray the African leader, Bosambo, with cultural accuracy and dignity, he could help audiences- especially Black audiences-to understand and respect the roots of Black culture. The filmmakers even took an unusual step towards authenticity by sending a film crew on a four-month voyage into remote areas of Africa to record traditional African dances and ceremonies. These would be interwoven with the studio scenes.

After the filming, Robeson was asked back to the studio for retakes of some scenes. He discovered that the film’s message had been changed during editing; it seemed to justify imperialism and upholding the ‘White Man’s Burden’; the finished film is dedicated to “the handful of white men whose everyday work is an unsung saga of courage and efficiency”.[1] Bosambo was changed from an African leader to a servile lackey of British colonial rule. Robeson was furious…

So, thanks for providing a good and shining example of the problem, Mr. Producer man. Rather than aiming for accuracy, he’s promoting his own ethnocentric world view.

…We want a cast that is appropriate to Trafalgar Square in 2010. When we perform it in a black prison in Alabama or in Uganda we will have casts appropriate to the area.”

Appropriate to the area? Dig the hole deeper, Mr. Producer man. We can still hear you.

Not being one who attends plays, let alone auditions, I have no idea if this guy is an anomaly, or the usual. Does his insistence on a white Christ tweak a nerve with you, dear reader, or does it not seem that big of a deal?


So when I went to Avatar…

January 2, 2010

I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for my bus after the film and I sent a message via my iPod to Facebook to tell friends it was just like FernGully, but for grown ups. Now, thanks to Scanners, I see someone else had the same thought I did, but with way more tech talent behind the eyeballs than I possess.

And it’s not the only one.

Like Jim Emerson, I will also quote a bit from Racialicious who quoted from a comment left at io9.

when you go out of your way to suggest that people should be thinking less — that not using one’s capacity for reason is an admirable position to take, and one that should be actively advocated — you are not saying anything particularly intelligent. And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.

Moff was writing this about people who claim a movie should be enjoyed, not ripped apart by critical thinkers mere minutes after the studio sign appears, as if it’s somehow unnecessary to think about a movie while watching it. Now I’ll quote from io9′s review of Avatar and Annalee Newitz’s impressions of other films like it (some breaks added):

This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it’s like to be a Na’vi because he always has the option to switch back into human mode.

Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very different lesson. He’s becoming alien and he can’t go back. He has no other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what? He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely because he’s hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a “cure” for his alienness.

When whites fantasize about becoming other races, it’s only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and nobody will let you be a leader of anything.

When I was watching the film, my mind kept returning to FernGully and the industry vs ecology aspects of both films, but I see what Newitz is getting at here and she might be right. I enjoyed District 9 when I saw it, too, and came out of it with a lot of questions, some of which others wrote about and discussed.

Newitz also mentions remingtons’ review of the film and the fact that the white-American Sully character wasn’t even necessary to make the picture fly. Why have a cultural interloper as the main draw? And,

when you hear Sully talking about “our land” it just makes you cringe, especially if you’re a white dude from the United States. We should not make such claims to cultures; even claims to fictional ones are in bad taste.

Cameron may be king of the world–but it’s a world that, though beautiful, doesn’t really exist. And underneath it all is an ugly racial dynamic that reminds us Americans why we’re seen as the bad guys on and off the screen.

But this type of thing could extend beyond alienesque war movies, too. Think about every sports underdog movie that’s come out – especially the Disneyfied biopics that are keen on showing the “very first black player/coach/teacher ever to…” whatever. Are they meant to be real movies showcasing a real issue and steps beyond racial stereotyping, or are they more like “we white people acknowledge your struggle on and off a football field and commend you for being as good a person as a white person…”?

Thoughts?


Did anyone think this through? No WAI!!!

November 21, 2009

It’s tactless, but funny in a way, too. I mean, you have to wonder what was going through the math teacher’s head when he looked at this picture and said, that’s perfect for my pre-algebra students. A surprised black man missing teeth. What a great idea…

Good idea? No wai!!

I’m assuming the mother of the only black kid in this class is the one who took her complaint to the newspaper, because what her son really needs is more recognition. Anyone in that school will have heard about this anyway and if they hadn’t, the paper fills in the details.

School district spokeswoman Karen Smith said the math teacher, Matthew Curran, frequently uses photos and other illustrations on his work sheets to engage the students.

Curran reported, through Smith, that he found the image by doing a Google Images search for the phrase “multiply and divide.”

“I chose it because it said ‘no way,’ which is a comment my students make when I require them to show each calculation,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I had no idea that I might offend anyone. I am very sorry for any distress that this has caused my students and the community.”

The boy’s mother said she spent much of the weekend angry and in tears.

“It’s very stressful to be an African-American in the community and you want to fit in and you want to embrace all of the things Central Bucks offers you,” she said. “Who’s protecting us here?”

Why didn’t the teacher take a few minutes with some other photo of a shocked looking cat or something and do the same?

(via AP in a roundabout way) I’ll admit that took more than a few minutes. But still. Cute or what?

Monday night, after meeting with the boy’s family, NAACP Bucks County President John Jordan issued a written statement denouncing the events.

“It brings into question whether all of our children are being provided a safe and fair environment in which to learn. What happened here is unacceptable, and we will take steps to make sure it never happens again.”

NAACP Bucks County Executive Committee members plan to meet with the principal and the teacher involved in the incident at Lenape Middle School “in hopes of amicably resolving the issue,” the statement went on to say.

When the assignment was handed out to the class, several students expressed their disapproval of the picture, according to the NAACP. But the teacher told them to do the work anyway, according to the boy’s mother.

So what, putting a white hillbilly missing a few teeth of his own would have been better? Stereotypes are stereotypes and a teacher should know well enough to avoid them, including the stereotype that math is problematic..er, too hard for people to understand.

So, I’ll end with a quote that teacher could have considered instead of that crazy ass picture:

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple. — S. Gudder


ChristWire writer wants to buy a Canadian?

November 12, 2009

First, quoting from Amber in all her (hopefully) satirical glory. First there’s a bit of a tirade about Mexicans and then:

Thinking about this, one thing popped into my mind. Why can’t I own a Canadian?

Think about it. Racism is ugly and trusting one’s neighbors is Christlike, so we should also let people from ALL the lesser Americas to come visit us to work as well. Canada is a country full of snow-bound savages who are good at chopping wood and light industrial tasks.

Pause for LOLS.

Reminds me of those hilarious questions the tourist industry shares about ignorant Americans (and others) about this great land that’s really big.

But I digress.

TBear offers a sensible comment to counteract all the asshattery:

It may be a joke, but how do you feel when you read “jokes” told at the expense of American values and stereotypes or about the enslavement of a fellow human being. Nobody anywhere should use slavery as a joke. It is a disgusting part of North America past that sane minded individuals are happy has ended. Using slavery as a punch line undermines severe oppression slaves endured.

Additionally, I am a Canadian, but I have lived in many countries. What this article promotes is found around the world. Canada is a thriving country with an excellent economy and an amazing democratic system. Yet these “jokes” are pervasive on the internet and in other forms of media, and they restrict Canada from gaining the respect it deserves.

Jokes may be intended to be light hearted, but when you are the subject you are never happy about it. I acknowledge that this article must be written in jest, but I still reserve my right to be grossly offended at the content and the intended or unintended propagation of negative stereotypes.

I agree.

I don’t think ignorance and stupidity need to be tolerated, not this kind anyway. People need to be taught, not humoured. It’s beyond inappropriate to encourage this kind of thinking, even in jest.


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