I recently posted my reflections on a NY Times article regarding a number of notable 2012 films made by white directors with black lead characters, and subject matter related to race relations. You can read that article here.
In my post, I made a statement about the scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained where a bunch of white men in burlap hoods, think pre-KKK, plan a night ride on horseback to the camp where Django and the white bounty hunter who freed him are holed up, in order to kill them.
Here’s what I said about the scene:
The scene was a Mel Brooks style farce, with the hooded men arguing they couldn’t see because the eye holes weren’t lined up right, and blaming one of the men’s wives for sewing them so poorly. The audience laughed, and all I could think was, hmmm, that’s a little too flip to laugh at…and…hmmmm, if this mostly white audience was much more integrated with black film-goers, would the white people be laughing so freely….and, finally, would black people laugh at this, find it funny?
Well, you know what? Some black people did laugh and think it was funny. I was on Facebook the other night, and my friend Kelly, who is white, posted about Django Unchained. She wasn’t sure she liked it. A mix of friends responded with their opinions on the film. Then, a friend of hers, who is black, posted his opinion.
He began with how he liked Samuel Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting, that maybe the movie was too long, and then he posted this:
“Best part for me, well funniest part was the eyes in the sheet part, lol…We were rolling….”
Another friend on the thread, also black, agreed with Les.
And, there you have it. Lesson learned, again.
There I was using the term “black people”…”not so sure black people would laugh at this…” I know this, and still I do this, I make a statement as if the entire race of black people have the same sense of humor.
Another realization of a misstep I’ve taken time and again on this blog, zinged me at the artist’s talk I went to recently by photo conceptual artist, Hank Willis Thomas. During his talk Thomas, who is black, mentioned a public installation of a photo mural he made depicting his cousin’s funeral. The photograph looked like one of those “Priceless” Mastercard advertisements with phrases like: Three-piece suit: $250 9 mm pistol: $79 Picking the perfect casket for your son’s funeral: Priceless
Several people passing by the mural hanging outside an Alabama Art Museum were interviewed by a local news station since it seemed the mural was being deemed controversial for its subject matter. One passer by, a young black woman, was bothered by it because she thought it stereotyped black people as people that wore gold chains and went around shooting people all the time. This seemed to surprise Thomas.
A white woman was then asked if she thought the mural was offensive. …”well, I’m white, but I think that maybe a black person might be offended by it…”
Thomas joked about her calling herself white, ..”in case we didn’t notice…” and then said, “she was calling foul for the other team.”
That is what I’ve done. That is what I did in the post about the hood scene in Django. I’m always thankful when I catch myself, and when others help me catch myself generalizing, and “calling foul for the other team.”
Now, everyone go out there and play ball! For your own darn team.