Friday, December 02, 2005

So Much Gray In Between

It's Friday, I'm dressed for a party and I've got racism on my mind.

This morning, as listened to Smart Folks debate the immigration issue, I recalled a conversation with a conservative uncle I had recently. As a retired farmer in Iowa, he had some ideas about the browning of America.

"I heard that down there in Southern California the Mexicans are taking over," he said, with disgust.

"You mean taking it BACK?" I countered. Appealing to what he might know best, I offered that if one were to remove all the Mexicans from California, the state's economy would collapse. "Who is going to work in those fields? You? Your son? Me?"

Then, I boarded the bus and read about a little-known movie called "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America" which portrays an America in which the South won the Civil War. We're talking President Jefferson Davis, a truce with Hitler and slaves sold on QVC. There's even a shot of Neil Armstrong on the moon, a Rebel flag stands proudly behind him.

I love this kind of thing and applaud the crazy ass filmmaker who dared it. Ken Wilmott, a black man, is said genius and he states: "Hollywood doesn't make movies about racism because it makes us uncomfortable. Black folks get angry and ashamed, white folks feel guilty and afraid and nothing moves forward. And we won't talk about it until something slaps us upside the face."

As a white woman, I'm not supposed to have much of an opinion on these matters but they still bother me. Ever see "White Man's Burden?" Probably not. Hardly anyone did but it was one of the most provocative films I ever saw on the topic.

Written and directed by Desmond Nakano and released in 1995, it also turns modern history on its head. Starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte, all the black/white stereotypes are reversed. White folks are oppressed and living in the ghettos. Black folks are the elite and have all the money. White folks get profiled and beaten by unsympathetic black cops. Black folks hold high society fundraising events to benefit those poor dirty white children who just don't know any better. ("They are so cute when they're young, aren't they?" coos one bejeweled attendee.)

Even the small stuff. White people run faster and dance better. Black folks cultivate old money and whisper amongst themselves that "they" all look alike - "They just look like a bunch of ghosts, I can't tell them apart."

The night I viewed this film, I had a crazy dream. As myself, I was purchased on a whim by a modern black patriarch and brought home, still in chains. I was left on the living room floor and one by one, the family came upon me though none spoke to me directly.

The wife: "Harold, what have you dragged home now? What are we doing to do with THAT?"
The daughter: "Ewwww, Dad! Where is it going to stay? It better stay outta my room?"
The son: "Cool! I heard about those! How much was it?"

And so on. I never spoke nor was I spoken to. I was filthy and felt like it on the inside as well. There was a hot family debate about what to do with me and eventually, they grew tired and went to bed. Leaving me there, no food or water.

I escaped out the front door (they figured I wasn't smart enough to figure it out, I guess) and just started running at breakneck speed down the street. It was then I realized the mess I was in. Not only was I naked but I was in the middle of an upper middle class suburbia populated entirely by black people! Where the hell was I supposed to go? Who would take me in? There would be nowhere to hide!

Eventually I woke up but the nightmare is as real as it ever was, I can even see the designs on the front door and as I turned to look back. Chilling. Again, this must be the reverse to MLK's "I have a dream . . . " Do their dreams equal our nightmares?

But I digress. So, I'm on the bus this morning, having just read about the CSA film, when I overhear the bus driver complain to a passenger friend about people entering and exiting the bus through the wrong doors. "It's always racial," he spat. "Black folks always want to get on through the back door and white people always gotta exit through the front door. It screws everything up."

As I try to develop a theory for this, I notice a black-and-white placard, posted weeks ago, on every single MUNI bus in the city. It contains a photo of a black woman sitting in a bus seat, looking out the window, and it reads:

"Rosa Parks: 1913-2005"

We may have come far but we still have a long way to go . . . .

1 comment:

trillwing said...

What do you mean you're not supposed to have an opinion on these matters because you're white? I know you're probably saying this tongue-in-cheek, Ms. Cliz, but you of all people should be broadcasting your thoughts and ideas left and right. After all, aren't you about to go save the South or something like that?