A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend a free screening of a new documentary called Babies . It follows four babies from around the world from their first breath to their first steps. Here is a preview if you haven't heard about it:
I thought it was a cute movie: the babies laugh, they cry, terrorize their little brothers and have meltdowns when things don't go their way--just like us adults.
The thing that I thought was interesting was when I saw publicity about the movie (interviews with the director, reviews, etc.) I noticed that there was a tendency for people to describe three of the babies as being from their city/country and one from their more general continent. I'm guessing you can guess who was who.
Yup, we typically had the Mongolian baby, the Japanese baby, the American* baby and the African baby. Even if the person started out describing the Namibian baby as Namibian, they would eventually fall into a pattern of calling her the African baby.
I think this comes from a tendency of people to see Africa as this large, homogeneous mass even though it is a place with lots of different countries and cultures like Europe. And I am guessing the average reader can tell me some differences between Greece and England, but not Kenya and Chad. Let us all ask ourselves: what are the reasons for that?
Comments? Questions? You know what to do.
*I hesitate to use the term "American" even though it is generally accepted that this means not North America or South America, but the United States of America. This is related to the main point of this post--that the language that we use is an indicator of how we see others in relationship to ourselves, and also how we see ourselves in relationship to others.
p.p.s. The title of this post comes from what I thought was being said in the first line of the song from the trailer. I looked it up, and apparently the first line is "everything is lost." I like my interpretation better.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Today, I want to talk about 16 and Pregnant. Yes, I am a little late since the show had its season finale a few weeks ago. Luckily for all of us, what I have to say is not really time sensitive--issues relating to race and inequality rarely are. These things seem to go in cycles. So, even if I don't comment on the most recent thing, all we have to do is wait a few weeks/months/years and the same issues will come up again, with just a few of the details changed. Not to mention, what's the harm in commenting on something that happened a long time ago, particularly when there is rarely any sort of resolution to the situation ( Henry Louis Gates, anyone?).
Okay, I am getting off on a tangent. For those of you that don't know, 16 and Pregnant is a documentary/reality-ish series on Mtv that follows a different girl each week who is 16 and pregnant. The second season just wrapped, and I have to give the network props for making what I saw as some very important changes this time around.
In the first season, almost every girl they featured had a loving, supportive boyfriend who stuck around after the baby was born. This season...not so much. We had a guy who loved to tell everyone how the people at Mcdonald's told him he was "overqualified," another guy who texted his ex wanting to know where he needed to go to sign away the rights to his "mistake," and yet another guy who repeatedly told the mother of his child not to call him unless it was to talk about the baby. Hopefully seeing these less than stellar outcomes will make girls think twice about getting knocked up in an effort to keep a guy in their lives.
MTV also made a point in every episode to have a scene where each girl talks about what her birth control situation was at the time that she got pregnant. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the girls were not using any sort of birth control when they conceived their kids.
This is really just mind boggling to me. It's like, "You realize you are in freaking high school and taking a huge risk with your future (not to mention your physical and emotional health,) Would it not maybe be a good idea to try to be responsible and take some precautions? And if you're not mature enough to go into your local Planned Parenthood and get some free birth control pills, or stop by the nearest Kwik-e-mart to pick up some condoms (or preferably both,) maybe your easily embarrassed ass is too immature to be having sex."
Okay, I'm getting off on another tangent. The reason I wanted to talk about this show is because the last episode of the season featured a girl named Kailyn. Kailyn was pregnant and living with her boyfriend and his parents because (for some unknown reason,) her mother was living in a hotel with a boyfriend of her own. As a viewer, I was left with the impression that Kaylin's mother wasn't the most stable of mothers and hadn't really given Kaylin a lot of guidance and direction in her life. Kaylin never had a relationship with her father, and so her boyfriend's parents were nice enough to let her live with them, for what seemed like an indefinite period.
What was interesting about this episode is that Kaylin and her parents were white, and her boyfriend and his parents were not white. I don't think they were black, but I can't really pinpoint what race/ethnicity they were. Here is a picture of her boyfriend's mom and the baby:
If I had to guess, I would their say their ancestors came from one of the Pacific Islands. But for the purposes of this post, the most important thing is that they were not white.
Why is this important, you ask? It's important because we rarely see examples in the mainstream media of people of color helping out white people. Can you think of any movies, tv shows, news stories, etc. where a person of color is reaching out to help a white person down on his luck?
Now flip that: how many examples can you think of where a white person helps the sad, pitiful person of color? The movie The Blind Side is probably the most recent example. I have to say, I haven't seen this movie. But all the white people I know who have loooved it. Like, "I loved this movie so much, I am going to tell people who don't even ask me that they should go see it."
Diff'rent Strokes is another example, and there are many more. In fact, there are so many that there are even names for it: the white knight/white savior phenomenon. If you want to read more about it, just google "the blind side" and one of those terms and you'll get a lot of articles to choose from.
Now, I am not here to criticize the white family that took in that black football player, nor Mr. Drummond for housing, feeding and loving Willis and that adorable scamp Arnold. I am willing to bet both the real family and the fictional family had very good intentions when they did what they did.
What I am here to do is ask several questions. One, what do you think is the psychological impact for a person of color consistently seeing people who look like him never as the helper, but always as the helpee?
On the flip side of that, what is the psychological impact for a white person of always being represented as the helper? Or, if he is represented as the helpee, being helped only by people who look like him?
Also, why do we see so many representations like The Blind Side and so few like 16 and Pregnant? Some would chalk it up to the racist/racish media. I think that is part of it, but not the whole story.
I think the explanation is this: There are many more white people in the economic position to help black people than there are black people to help white people. And most black people who are in an economic position to help somebody are going to choose to help other black people (sorry, poor white people--them's the breaks.)
So those are the two most important questions we should be asking ourselves, imnsho.
Why are most of the people with the spare bedrooms and gently used clothes and non-working vehicles that can be donated for a tax write-off white?
And why do many the people of color who find themselves in a similar situation feel compelled to give that extra stuff to people who are the same color as them?
I have my ideas, but of course I want to hear yours. Leave me some comments.
P.S. Like my title alluded to, I'm pregnant. Baby is a boy and due in August. I'll write more about that later (: