Views From the Barber Shop : The Black Man’s Lesson
Recently I watched the movie; The Barber Shop; the last cut, and here is my view of the movie in the context of racism and inequality in relation to the black man or black people of America
Although the film did not really touch on the issue of Racism directly, rather it focused on other major themes that were quite as popular of which I would state herein
First of all, I must admit that everybody did a pretty god job in interpreting their character and presenting their arguments and counter arguments in the movie. I was surprised by Onika’s performance especially.
Like I said earlier, the film touched on other various controversial and popular themes in our world. Themes like feminism, street violence or gangsterism (which was the main theme of the movie), peer group influence among youths.
Also another “background theme” in the movie, I would love to add is the issue of how the world has changed through social media culture.
By social media culture, I do not refer to only Facebook, and other social media platforms. By this, I also mean the character, behaviour and attitude of young ones( that’s almost derogatory) or teenagers towards certain things, values, systems and institutions that were considered “respectable” in the days before the millennium or the advent of social media.
For instance, it is considered a disrespectful thing to talk back to adults especially older people. You will surely be gifted with thrashing ( even whites used to do it). Like one of the actors in the movie said; Thrashing was like a meal, and I was well fed”. Am not supporting child abuse, but am using this as a standpoint to point out the fact that, the scale of what is right and wrong is gradually dying a slow death with social media age.
Away from that, the issue I would like to deal with in this article in relation to the movie is the political substance of the movie which encompasses the racism and inequality theme
Although the analysis made by the actors was from a layman point of view / common man, which in my opinion was the perfect political standpoint for the film as the analysis and arguments were clear and original, so you could relate to the complicated issues discussed in your own simple way. The film gained the attribute of “thought provoking” with its political substance.
So in the dealing with the political substance of this movie, I would analyse the issues based on each scene that reflected it.
The first scene where politics was discussed was the scene were the “Indian immigrant” who was also a worker in the barber’s shop brought up the notion of black people’s need to be self-reliant given the equal opportunity present in America and stop blaming anybody for their misfortune or deprivation( As the argument the Indian brought up was a result of the comment by the oldest member in the shop stating the only “thing government could give you was syphilis” ( this implies government does not have anything good to offer except problems).
This scene was one of my favourite scenes as the political substance of the film was at its peak here, with the thought-provoking arguments and counter arguments expressed by the actors in the scene.
Then this guy who played the seemingly normal and the intellectual dude who was rather close to the Indian and was the only one who got a girl in the end, countered with the rational point of blacks having to suffer a setback in History in form of slavery so as a result it is still a lit bit hard for some Americans to come to terms in living along side former slaves or giving them the “equal opportunity” the Indian proposed and as Eve put it simply to the Indian “ Blacks were imports, you were immigrants” there is a huge difference.
Blacks were imports from Africa forced into America against their will, while immigrants, on the other hand, wanted to come to America of their own free will.
In essence, while the immigrants saw America has the promised land, imports saw it as “ camp” they would never leave
The Indian still countered the point with the story of how is father got to America with nothing and achieved the American dream but this point did not move his opposition. Stalemate.
However, the blacks almost emerged the winner in the argument when one of them pointed out the real life killings that happened in the country last year, some of which was broadcasted live to the world.
In 2016, African Americans watched Live as their fellow men were killed by compatriots and fellow countrymen and there was nothing they could do about it.
However, the scene ended when the originator of the debate concluded the discussion with the point that “there has never been a better time of being black in the country than now” and frankly, it is true.
So the discussion was a stalemate but with winning points.
The political substance of that film was, using the millennial slang “ lit” in that scene and they addressed one of the major issues that have ravaged America since 1776.
America is although considered the land of freedom or the freedom country, but that, in my opinion, is a white concept as blacks still face intimidation, inequality and other racist elements in their daily lives.
The black man is free but in many places and states in the United States of America in fear, where then is the freedom? Is freedom of same-sex marriage considered as freedom? Is Transgenderism considered freedom?
How can all these, which in my opinion is irrelevant privilege be considered freedom if compared with the weight of racism and privacy situation in the country considered as a free nation?
Blacks have a certain consciousness about the colour of a white person or anybody similar to white, as it was shown in the film when the Indian asked permission before he could say “Negro” while the blacks were free to say it.
This scene although was funny but in real life, Blacks are naturally defensive towards white people and any other similar in colour to them.
This feeling is very old as far back as the Richard Wright times and this brings me to one of the books of America’s foremost Black writers, The Native Son which centres on the story of a fictitious character named as “Bigger Thomas” who killed a white girl out of sheer fear.
Although there is no justification for murder and from the beginning you would likely hate the Character of “Bigger” but if you read and understood the history of relation with white people in his society, then you will understand that this “relation” was the real weapon that killed the girl not Bigger Thomas.
Now, this is in relation to the hardened demeanour and nature of some African brothers or sisters, mothers or fathers, who naturally are on the defensive against White people especially ones who seem Hostile and some who have the ability to trample on their right without any question asked.
History has taught the black kid, man and woman to be on the defensive towards the white person.
Some of the black men and women who were killed in 2016, were sort of Bigger Thomases because they reacted in the natural way the American society has taught them to react( Shouting back, resisting slowly, submissiveness which sometimes gets them killed at times).
So in essence, America is not a level playing field for blacks and whites and is still, in fact, a racist hotbed given the incident of 2016 and previous years.
The only difference between the pre-civil war years and now is the number of those killed.
What History has taught Blacks?
Here are a few things, History has taught Black people;
Run or submit when you see a white policeman
Never act too smart in front of a white person.
Some might disagree that things have changed, but I believe those that believe this are the subscribers to the illusion that things have changed, that there is equal right in “everything” for both blacks and white in America.
This illusion is what some black people display which annoys the racist cop or racist American like Dylan Roof who’s imagination when he sees a black man walking with an “air of equal right in American society”, is that of “a slave walking freely on my land”. They get angry that you even have the rights and guts to argue with them.
For these set of people, the civil war outcome was not binding on them. Blacks were still Slaves walking free on American soil.
However, there are those who are not exactly racist but are reacting based on hearsay and have not found a level ground for interacting with Black people yet.
Black people over time have been stereotyped as thieves, gangsters, car jackers, and with other bad vices etc, especially for these set of people, that’s how they see mostly black Americans, because they rely heavily on the stereotypes the American society has created.
How can the stereotype be stopped?
For this scene, my conclusion is that there is no level playing field for the blacks in America although Obama got elected, which would make some argue that, what more playing field could African Americans ask for?
The answer is simple, Obama for long has fraternised with the elite, him being president was the perfect political move in history at that moment by the democrats. The victory was sure.
The issue of level playing field, equality, is in relation to the middle-class Americans down to the Wretched of the earth in America.
Do they have the same opportunities as the whites or Barack Obama?
Let’s fast-forward to the next scene, where the next step of discourse this time was instigated by a female hairstylist in the Barber Shop.
The lady opened Pandora’s box when she said: “What has Obama done for Us”? By us, she means the African American community. Although she got replies but there was nobody who could answer satisfactorily what the first Black American president has done for Blacks?
Except for the black government official, who made a statement about Obama providing birth control drugs, a statement which he couldn’t wait to back as it was meant to be a comical statement
From this scene, it is apparent that the racist flu is starting to penetrate the thick African skin because there is the absurd but rational opinion that , when Whites are elected, they make policies that supposedly put the interest of “the whole America” foremost but by the “Whole of America” they mean whites, so the African American thinks why can’t, for the first time in History of America, can’t a black president do something for Black people?
Ironically, it is worthy of note that, many Blacks were killed during the Obama regime ; a black president
Analysing the 8-year regime of Barack Obama is not the issue here, but the question is, what can the layman or middle class African American point out as an advantage they have benefited in terms of the fight against racism and inequality in America during the Black president’s regime?
As one guy in the barber shop comically put it using some “colourful language” referring to derriere section of women, he stated the that majority of black women voted for Obama the first time he came out for election despite never registering for any election before.
This statement is indeed true and in my opinion, the reason behind those women registering and voting for Obama was because, for the first time, they believed that they had somebody that would take their side against racist elements in the American society.
These women who voted never registered to vote before, but during the Obama election, the majority of them did the needful to achieve the aim stated above: The question however is, did the women get what they wanted from the Obama regime?
The Obama election was based on race rather than intellect, the blacks against the whites and the activists. The blacks voted for Obama, The white majority voted for their candidate, but the activists who are majorly white largely voted for Obama based on the fact and believe that the blacks had been treated wrongly long enough that they deserved compensation in the form of the election of Barack Obama.
Was the compensation worthwhile?
The next scene I would like to venture into is, the blacks on blacks issue and like the Barber said in the movie, “these kids love killing each other” and to be frank in the younger days of the character of the Barber, street violence was rampant as well, but there was moderation. The only difference between now and then is the progression of the numbers of those getting involved.
The issue, in my opinion, am afraid might be a lost cause, as there is in the DNA of a black teenager to put on a strong front or prove himself to others especially to his fellow blacks.
In order to look strong, they take on their own people( the blacks). They bully them, they harass them, and they discourage them( both young and old) anytime they see them achieving som thing that looks like what a white man would do and the reason for this is because although the black teenager would not admit it, he is intimidated by the white person.
Thankfully, with Social media which is the only level playing field in the world, that intimidation has reduced.
However, I think in my opinion, with the continued positive effort of people who these black teenagers look up to as role models, a few might change and they might actually save the Streets.
It is almost impossible to do, as the issue is a psychological thing just as racism is.
To change the preconceived ideas of a man is one of the toughest tasks a social engineer can venture into.
In summary, these were the scenes that held the political substance or message for me, if you have a contrary opinion, please share in the comments section, I will gladly reply.
Also, it is important to note that, the barber shop didn’t expose anything we didn’t already know and there are two major lessons or points the film tells us,
First, That there is consistent killing if blacks by whites and fear of racism/ segregation perpetrated by whites and as a result there is still a level of mistrust generally between both racial compatriots.
Secondly, Blacks kill Blacks; this is a cold hard fact as the movie showed through the death of the responsible kid who was killed by some gangs. This seems to be the central theme of the film, as it was evident that there was no love lost between the Black gangs as the movie showed thereby leading to the loss of innocent loves.
First, the gun policy should be reviewed or our rightly abolished, for what is the essence of a law or policy if its disadvantage outweighs it advantage?
Secondly, on the issue of the racial killings and issue of police brutality, strict laws against the law enforcement officials should be made, as this would make a policeman rethink before he guesses in deciding to end a life based on paranoia.
We know there are situations whereby the fear of losing your life overcome professionalism, so in that case, there should be increased training, review of safety procedures in such situations.
Killing out of fear of losing one’s life is perfectly natural( self-defence) that’s why there is need to improve safety procedure trainning but Killing, when there is nothing to fear , and blaming it on the excuse of fearing for your life, is unforgivable and should be given the ultimate punishment.
For instance, if your body cam or you are recorded to have killed somebody and the reason after the investigation for the killing is obviously unprofessional; many years behind bars should be the final judgment or something worse.
Also on this same point, although some already do, but some don’t understand that not all white people are racist, and not all white people are against racism( In fact some still believe the segregated way of life should be returned).
On this note, I must state that, for those who are racist, it’s a psychological thing, they don’t like you, and there is no need to argue with them or attack them verbally. You can never change their minds about black or the African skin, they need to understand and come to that realisation themselves.
So if you notice a racist policeman, for example, there is no need to argue or exchange words, just use the old method of submission or try to plead your case calmly. AM NOT SAYING BE A FOOL, AM JUST SAYING BE DIPLOMATIC THE WAY YOU DEAL WITH THEM.
Finally, on the issue of blacks killing blacks , like I said, it is no alien thing but yet it is bad and there is no completely stopping it, as it hard to change, it is man’s nature and also it is very hard to change the values and beliefs that an individual holds dear.
The only thing that can be done to reduce the situation is for “ responsible individuals” who might have made it in a field that have made them popular to not only give back to their community( not paparazzi philanthropy), in my opinion, they need to be part of the change they want to see in the neighborhoods or community.
Using the example of the Barber Shop, you as a celeb can be the rallying point of opposites in your community. Use the respect you have earned to change your community and with this, the trend will reduce as this will make them rethink what they want to do with their lives.
Share your Success and Struggle stories with them.
Use your story as an example, Do not lecture them and try to force your opinion on them and the need for getting educated being the first thing to them( it’s boring and old), you could put education as the last thing on the list and explain the need to get educated in the most “funky serious” way possible.