[reflections] This student’s thoughts on BEREFT WHITE PEOPLE, the OSCARS, and whether I should apply Bleach to my Yellow Skin
“How come there’s no Oscar for them very hard working little yellow people with tiny dongs,” he said. “You know, the minions.”
The original article that spurred this post from me can be found here: http://www.upworthy.com/the-nasty-asian-jokes-at-the-oscars-highlighted-hollywoods-other-big-race-problem?c=ufb1
“So … yeah. That’s an “Asian-American men have small penises joke,” folks. At the Oscars.”
It’s absurd that Asian and other racial jokes can be made on primetime national television in such a cavalier way in the year 2016.
But I’m not here to write yet another complaint. I think what we need as people is an effective course of action. Most of my associates and friends hate talking about race because it’s complex, institutionalized, and daunting. Even if America is politely racist, what the hell am I supposed to do about it? I’m writing this post in order to suggest one tangible action:
Control your dollars.
Minority viewers make up 38% of the population and are responsible for 46% of movie tickets sold in the US in 2014. By refusing to consume WHITE content, you are 1) affecting their financial bottom line which trumps other agents of change like racial sensitivity and tolerance that are good but not something we should be waiting around for and 2) affirming a personal existence defined on your own terms.
Earlier this year, I committed to not watching Hollywood movies because they’re almost entirely produced by straight WHITE people, written by straight WHITE people, directed by straight WHITE people, and made for the straight WHITE MALE viewer. It’s been two months now and I can say that I haven’t missed them one bit.
I ask myself why these white people get up on stage and crack jokes at people who are of a different color. I’ve always understood that you should treat others as you would want to be treated. Only recently did I realize that it can be traced to a human psychological tendency called schadenfreude- or pleasure at the pain of another. White media consistently panders to the white viewers desire to feel emotions of power, control, and self satisfaction. The phenomenon of white people making jokes against colored people can be better understood as a manifestation of what Alex Tizon calls “racial schadenfreude”. It’s an unmentionable topic but white people get an ever so small but enjoyable kick out of all these jokes that trivialize people of color. It inflates their ego.
To conclude this post, I want to make one more comment. I want to shift the attention for a moment away from the afflicted and onto the aggressor. Here are excerpts from an article Zeba Blay wrote last year on “how racist ideology affects white people as much as it effects people of color.” In it she quotes Tony Morrison.
“Don’t you understand that the people who do this thing, who practice racism, are bereft? There is something distorted about the psyche. It’s a huge waste, and it’s a corruption, and it’s a distortion. It’s a profound neurosis that nobody examines for what it is.
Morrison’s final thought in the clip, which has been shared widely via Youtube and Tumblr, is probably the most important. She says: “What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Still smart? Do you still like yourself? …If you can only be tall because someone’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”
There have been times where I have speculated on what it would be like to be white. All these issues that I have to think about and face in my day to day life are rather tiring. I try not to think about these things because I’m a very busy person. I’m first and foremost another human who is ambitious and has dreams and visions of the future- not the victim of a racialized society. I’m a student who has the same hopes that we all have. I want to be an entrepreneur, screenwriter, politician, teacher, community leader, and a friend. But moments like this Oscar incident force me to pause my other activities and ponder race yet again. After a long journey of reflection I realized that these experiences will at the end of the day make me so much stronger and that I would never bleach this yellow skin of mine. Yes, if my skin were alabaster white perhaps this whole fiasco could merely be an uncomfortable thought easily pushed away in the flurry of day to day routine. But my identity has been forged through these flames. I’m intimately aware of how it feels to be judged and ostracized on the basis of superficial externalities and constructed mythologies. And so I have a deeper and more complete compassion for others. Or at least this is true to the extent that I am capable of releasing the resentment and channeling it into an alternate, redeeming emotion. Elisabeth Ross captures this sentiment ever so well.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I hope this post opens up some new perspectives on media representation and race, generates a conversation or two, and perhaps even influences the way you consume white media.
I’m incredibly optimistic about the future. Colored media is an emerging force to be reckoned with.