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October 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jajasoon Tlitteu <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 28 Oct 1994 01:17:09 -0500
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (106 lines)
J Roberson wrote (in excerpted form):
>I don't deny that there is a distinct African-American culture. What I
>would prefer to do is divorce ethnicity from culture.
>The point is that race can play a part in identity, but race is so nebulous
>a term that I'd just as soon drop it from any definition.
> I don't
>like to partition people out on the basis of skin color, except where
>there *is* a difference - and in an identity I don't think your skin colr
>needs to play much part in your cultural identity. I'd rather partition
>people individually, based on thoughts, actions, and character - not
>sex, race, or other biological traits.
>Again, partition people and things on what *really* counts, not their
>skin or what hangs between their legs.
>>You're kidding, right?  Being black is not a hat that I can choose to
>No, I'm not kidding. You can't shoose the hat, but you can choose how
>you wear it.
>You are black - and I really do not care.
>Yes, it is a part of you. How you let it interact with the rest of
>your life is up to you though. If you want to be a man, be a man. If you
>want to be a black man, be a black man. But like I said, I don't care
>what the color of your skin is -I'm more interested in what people say
>and do.
>When you're in a meeting
>and someone asks you to prepare a stock report, your skin color and
>your genitals are simply not important.
>More accurately, the components of your identity are only as important as
>you make them.
>But you create your own identity. You are born with dark skin. Does that
>mean that all that you do will include or based upon your dark skin?
>Possibly. You're born without an arm. Does that mean that your writing,
>art, or whatever will reflect that lost arm? Possibly, but probab
>I agree that you'll get treated differently because you're black, but
>doesn't equality mean a world where only those deserving punishment
>(based on actions) get treated without respect?
>Well, then change your flesh - if you want to. You can't literall change
>it, but you can change the way you deal with it. Like I said - you have to
>wear the hat, but you get to pick how.
>This is not an argument for "being black sucks - don't be black." It's
>an argument for *be what you want*. If you want to be black, go right
>Aside from his skin color I
>hardly ever saw the "black" side of his personality - he was just like
>all the other computer geeks I knew ;)
>>beginning of this thread, was directed at how few others acknowledge the
>>racial questions raised by QT's films.
>Well, maybe that's because the questions aren't important to us, or
>simply don't exist for us.
>J Roberson
I don't mean to totally decontextualize J's comments, but I didn't want to
repost all 11K of them.  I notice that in this denial of race as a
significant factor in the film, in life, and in determining ones culture
and place in society, J is doing exactly what I'd said earlier on this
list: exhibiting the luxury to selectively see race as important granted
only to people who have "no race".  By no race, I am not suggesting that
whites are not a racial group, but rather that whiteness is the constructed
norm in our society and therefore race is not a necessary component in all
aspects of life.  People of other races (and women, who violate the norm of
maleness, and disabled people, who violate the norm of ability) do not have
the luxury to put on or off a racial hat.
True, one can try to choose the manner in which one wears the hat, but the
hat's meaning is constructed by the dominant and there are limits to the
abilities of a subordinate group to inflect meanings onto the fashion.
Realistically, people who are visibly not "the norm" cannot simply deny
their hats, the way the norm can selective view or not view them.
A good example of this is O.J. Simpson - he had masked his black hat well.
He was a well-respected black man, successful as an athlete, actor,
sportscaster, businessman, and lover of a white woman.  Some would argue
that he had tried (and maybe even succeeded) to deny his blackness, but as
soon as soon as he was suspected for the murder, he was reinscribed as a
black man (I've seen comments from African-Americans who said that when he
was on the run, O.J. had learned what it was to be a nigger for the first
time in his life).  O.J. was not in control of his own racial construction
no matter how he tried to deny his race.
I'm reminded of a quote by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall which (I
can't remember it exactly) said that no matter where he goes in this
country and no matter what achievements he accomplishes, someone will
remind him that he's a nigger before the sun sets.
jajasoon tlitteu  ([log in to unmask])
"Academic training was instrumental.  You have to understand the language
of society before you can start stretching and subverting it and ripping
and tearing it and burning it and watching the plastic drip on the ants."