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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Crash', self-indulgence, and white supremacy.

This magpie has to admit that I was royally pissed off when a second-rate film like 'Crash' won the 'Best Picture' Oscar over what most people thought was the obvious best film, 'Brokeback Mountain.' Given that, we were really pleased to read the excellent evisceration of 'Crash' by Robert Jensen and Robert Wosnitzer over at the Black Commentator. Their well-argued contention is that, far from being a thoughtful film about race in the US, it's actually a film that reinforces racism and white supremacy.

While viewing "Crash" may make some people, especially white people, uncomfortable during and immediately after viewing, the film seems designed, at a deeper level, to make white people feel better. As the film asks us to confront personal prejudices, it allows us white folk to evade our collective responsibility for white supremacy. In "Crash," emotion trumps analysis, and psychology is more important than politics. The result: White people are off the hook.

The first step in putting white people back on the hook is pressing the case that the United States in 2006 is a white-supremacist society. Even with the elimination of formal apartheid and the lessening of the worst of the overt racism of the past, the term is still appropriate, in ideological and material terms.

The United States was founded, of course, on an ideology of the inherent superiority of white Europeans over non-whites that was used to justify the holocausts against indigenous people and Africans, which created the nation and propelled the U.S. economy into the industrial world. That ideology also has justified legal and extralegal exploitation of every non-white immigrant group.

Today, polite white folks renounce such claims of superiority. But scratch below that surface politeness and the multicultural rhetoric of most white people, and one finds that the assumptions about the superiority of the art, music, culture, politics, and philosophy rooted in white Europe are still very much alive....

That ideology also helps white Americans ignore and/or rationalize the racialized disparities in the distribution of resources. Studies continue to demonstrate how, on average, whites are more likely than members of racial/ethnic minorities to be on top on measures of wealth and well-being. Looking specifically at the gap between white and black America: on some measures black Americans have fallen further behind white Americans during the so-called post-civil rights era....

What does this white supremacy mean in day-to-day life? One recent study found that in the United States, a black applicant with no criminal record is less likely to receive a callback from a potential employer than a white applicant with a felony conviction. In other words, being black is more of a liability in finding a job than being a convicted criminal. Into this new century, such discrimination has remained constant.

That's white supremacy. Many people, of all races, feel and express prejudice, but white supremacy is built into the attitudes, practices and institutions of the dominant white society. It's not the product simply of individual failure but is woven into society, and the material consequences of it are dramatic.

It seems that the people who made "Crash" either don't understand that, don't care, or both.

With their assertion that — despite what the film says — that more tolerance is not the solution to the problem of racism — that, in fact, white supremacy can happily exist side-by-side with tolerance — Jensen and Wosnitzer have written a powerful piece that's likely to upset a lot of people. Especially white people.

You should go read the whole thing.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:00 AM | Get permalink




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