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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Black. White. Episode 5

It's the wierdest thing. Since Tucson doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, it's really weird to be watching Black. White. an hour earlier than usual. We open the episode with the Sparks and the Wurgels at such odds that they have to get a shrink in to help air out the issues. It serves as a nice recap for the conflict between the elder Sparks and Wurgels without actually resolving anything. Are the producers trying to make a comment about their skepticism in psychological therapy? Hmmm... I wonder. Although Rose seems to have approached this project with the most "open-minded" attitude, she still has her moments of sheer painfulness. In this episode, Rose is further hanging with her poetry class, and we are introduced to her crush (I didn't catch his name). With her treatment of Nick and now this guy, are we wondering if perhaps she has a bit of a Sambo fetish? It's taking her a few notches down in my book. Also, I'm disturbed by her "I want to bond on a soul level where colour doesn't matter..." comment -- it's just naive to imagine that such a place can exist. As I type, Rene has brought "Black" Carmen to the black hairstylist. Again, Carmen displays some dehumanizing, "you people exist for my bemusement" attitude, especially when she approaches one of the hairstylists and asks to touch her hair. I'm reminded of Carmen's "beautiful, black creatures" comment, one more time. Meanwhile, Brian and "Black" Bruno have a little social experiment in which they stand by a car and ask White passersby for a jump. Brian is hoping to show the differential treatment of Black people by stand-offish, terrified White people. I know Brian is thinking that Matrix adage: racism cannot be told, you have to experience it for yourself, but this is not the way. Brian is forcing something that has become so deeply ingrained, so subtly grating, that if you're just obstinant enough to explain away everything, you're not going to see a problem. The problem with Bruno is that "Black" Bruno is bending over backwards to be a House Negro, and even those who are genuinely Black, acting like a step'n'fetchit are happy to ingratiate themselves to the White Man and ignore the racism that they face, so of course, Bruno, acting the same way, will accept the racism that he sees as par for the course. If Uncle Ruckus of Boondocks infamy really existed, he would strive to be Bruno. Back from commericals, and now "Black" Rose is also going to the Black hairstylist. As Rose makes some pretty typical outsider comments, the camera catches the hairstylist making some hilarious expression. Then, Rose finds out that her poetry class is mad at her because she skipped a visit to her poetry class' performance space for their upcoming performance. While I type this, White Rene is off on her "paint the town" adventures doing what she thinks are "White" activities. She tries Bible study. She tries knitting. Sorry, she hasn't picked "White" activities -- she's picked boring activities. I'm not White so I don't know if that's culturally White, but I know that no matter what colour I were, I would find that shit boring. Let's lighten the mood! We're back to Bozo "Black" Bruno. Brian confesses in his personal confession that he wants something drastic to "Black" Bruno -- is he hoping that Bruno will get lynched, because I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Even Bruno. Again, nothing ends up happening to "Black" Bruno, or at least if it does, he doesn't see it so the editor doesn't even bother editing it in. Rose has some poetry class friends over, and I think her crush's name is Devon, but I'm not sure if I've put the right name with the right face. Rose is sitting around shooting the shit with her new Black friends, who're telling her about their troubled personal histories. At least Rose realizes that her experience is vastly different from everyone else, but I think I'm detecting a tinge of envy in that she wishes she had a childhood abuse story of her own so that she could relate with these African American youths. It's a mark of privilege that anyone might be so blind that they might consider, for a second, giving up what they have had for a moment of kinship with another community; it indicates how little you truly understand oppression or how little of it you've actually experienced. Rene has gotten back on the horse, and has decided to try scrapbooking. Again, what is she looking at? The Michael's catalogue of White women activities? At least Rene makes a breakthrough with the organizer of the scrapbooking party (White women have scrapbooking parties?), Debra, the Scrapbooking Guru, who seems to be a personable White woman who Rene thinks would be a nice friend to have. Rene is won over when she is introduced to Debra's young daughter, scrapbooking with her (*gasp*, *shock*) Black friend. Ohmygosh! Interracial interactions outside of the Black. White. project! Personally, I'm more shocked that Debra managed to corrupt her daughter to the Dark Side of scrapbooking so young. Oh, the humanity. Meanwhile, "Black" Rose goes on a date with her crush (Devon?) , and they seem to be vibing. She calls it such an honest experience, but I can't help but see it as tainted considering she's walking around with him in blackface. Rose mentions that she's excited that Devon is willing to "teach her". Teach her what? Actually, I don't think I want to know. So Debra invites "White" Rene to attend a line-dancing party, and after this, I definitely think I don't know White people like I thought. Line-dancing?!? Who thinks this is fun?!? Meanwhile, I've just paused typing to watch as Rene stands around watching Debra put a White guy in the country bar in his place for defending racial profiling by cops. Debra has now established herself as Wonder White Liberal, defending innocents everywhere wearing her Tiara of White Allyness and wielding her Scrapbook of Truth and racism-ricocheting Bracers of Privilege. (And for you comic geeks out there, the guy in the bar would probably be the equivalent of Maxwell Lord. Or perhaps I've pushed that analogy too far. All non-comic book readers, I hope you just skipped this bracket and moved to the next paragraph. Please. I'm not a nerd! Really!) Alright, as I was trying to be funny for the two people who read this blog who'll understand what I just said, Bruno and Brian got into an argument in which Bruno basically told Brian that slavery was so long ago, stop "using it as a crutch" or whatever it is that dumbass, racist White people say to Black people. Brian was describing (but not defending) the reparations movement. Bruno says, "we've all been enslaved?!?" 'Scu me? Bruno thinks that someone in his history is equivalent to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade? That must've been edited in out of context, because that makes no sense. What did piss me off was the general racism surrounding the "chaos if we gave all Black people a blank cheque" comment. What a moron. Maybe he does deserve a lynching. Okay, I'm going to Hell for saying that... I don't mean it. Really. "White" Rene goes back to visit Debra at her home, and meets her husband. Okay, I just wanna say that I don't believe this is a real White experience because they are not using coasters. Yeah, call it my prejudice, but the only time I've ever had to worry about using coasters is in the home of a White family. Inevitably, Rene struggles with the de-skinning thing. We know she'll tell Debra, and Debra will not freak out in the slightest. And it will be barely worth the film it's shot on. Because you know we're really watching this show to watch the dirt, not the interracial harmony. So Brian has also gotten back on the horse, and has brought "Black" Bruno to a dominoes game. (Okay, Bruno just referred to "Black-nacular"... What?) I love this line by Bruno: he dislikes "smoking, drinking, loud-talking, ebonics-speaking Black people". The emphasis is added by me. According to Bruno, the proper behaviour of Black people is to... be quiet? Brian does vocalize a good point: we do have to wonder what bothers Bruno -- the smoking? The drinking? The dominoes? Or, what is most likely true, the number of Black people "being Black" around him. After all, despite Bruno's whining about being indoors with all that smoke, two or three episodes ago, we saw him at in blackface, in an all-White (Confederate flag-bearing) country bar: an enclosed space full of smoking, drinking, billiards-playing, line-dance-dancing White folk. And he loved it. So, by cross-reference, it's either the game of dominoes or the skin-colour of Bruno's immediate peers. And I really don't think some thumb-sized plastic pieces with Black dots ever hurt anyone before. Or maybe it really is that Bruno loves pool -- after all, in that game, the White ball gets to knock the Black ball clear off the table. Well, Rene deskins herself and, as predicted, Wonder White Liberal doesn't care. Uhoh, cut to Rose and Devon and her confession cam. They're sitting on her bed. I'm wondering if I'm going to be subject to a Paris Hilton-esque sex video. Oh Lord -- now he's taking off his shirt and showing her his tattoo. At the very least, this man has some game -- either that, or Rose is exceptionally easy. I'm pretty sure it's a bit of both. Okay, so Rose comes to this "we are just who we are" conclusion and my heart sank. Because, again, it's the type of conclusion which suggests that one can overcome racism. Or that one can walk into a room and not see skin colour, or imagine that your skin colour will not affect the way people treat you. I'm sorry, but after I celebrated Rose's last, teary-eyed statements, this oversimplification is downright sucky. It once again excuses White people from examining their White privilege by imagining that they don't have to associate themselves with a race. And Rene and Wonder White Liberal continue to bond. And thus endeth the episode, reinforcing this "colour doesn't matter" message. Alright, so next week is the series finale of Black. White. and I've gotta say I'm both relieved and kind of saddened. It's hard to imagine that I started writing these recaps only a month ago. And while I'm glad this disaster will soon be off the air, the direction this show ended up taking makes me wish there were a few more episodes left so that it could take a sharp left turn back in the direction it was headed last episode. But, enough from me. What did you guys think?

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are my random musings on the show:

Where the hell was nick? (hopefully working on getting his GED).

This episode was probably the most ridiculous of them all. The producers ideas of white activities (knitting, bible study, scrapbooking) were not white--they were old peoples activities. And again I have to wonder what the other participants think about the film crew following the strange looking "white" lady. And the black activity (dominoes) was ridiculous because who the hell goes to a stranger's apartment to play dominoes with a film crew in tow? (although the guy sippin a can of Miller Highlife through a straw provided one the most classic sites in TV history.) The set-ups on the show are becoming so contrived its painful.

And what is it with white folks wanting to touch black people's hair. As if we're an attraction in a damn petting zoo. Any black kid who has gone to school with white kids has probably been asked if their hair can be touched. I just never would have though a grown ass woman would ask try that.
I think for once, Brian did a good job of expressing a black point of view to Bruno (regarding the arguments for reparations.)
Regarding Rose/Devaughn--she actually managed to express her crush on him without seeming to fetishize--so for that Rose gets props. I'm actually glad devaughn is on the show--at least to counteract the poor showing young black males are getting through Nick.

4/06/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger jose said...

And it will be barely worth the film it's shot on. Because you know we're really watching this show to watch the dirt, not the interracial harmony.

It's no different from MTV's The Real World and most other reality shows, in which people who are bound for conflict are put together. To think that something constructive could have come out of this, I am not sure whether to ascribe to naivete about American entertainment or sociological idealism. I am very relieved we are reaching the conclusion.

Regarding Rose/Devaughn--she actually managed to express her crush on him without seeming to fetishize--so for that Rose gets props. I'm actually glad devaughn is on the show--at least to counteract the poor showing young black males are getting through Nick.

Devaughn was a welcome change compared to Nick. As for Rose, I think she's right where the average, young, open-minded white girl would be, in terms of the amount and types of encounters she's had. I agree that her crushes seem to avoid fetishization, and it's hard to differentiate between Rose basing it on the novelty of a black boy's experiences or him just being an interesting person. In any event, for her to progress to the next level of race-consciousness, she needs to continue immersing herself but she needs to stop relying on her poetry group for education. If she's willing to self-educate then she'd be on the path to becoming an ally (if one believes in such possibilities).

Debra's interesting, and the closest to an ally we've seen. +1 point for that, -1 point for the scrapbooking. I have to forgive Rene's fawning over her, as it is probably her first encounter with such a person. The best part of this episode was Maxwell Lord explaining how his cop friend admits to racial profiling and certain people not belonging in Glendale, thus justifying pulling them over and "finding a reason". Should POC be justifiably paranoid about the police now that the Constitution doesn't seem to apply?

Bruno. I'm amazed Brian is still trying. At this point, he should just ask Bruno to put together a race-based musical and let him make a fool of himself like he did with the rap video.

Carmen is forever stuck in that comfortable, safe position, surrounded by white guilt. She cannot acknowledge race, except in what she considers "positive" terms, because to her, mentioning race in any other capacity is racism. She really needs a workshop to work on that guilt, and somehow needs to come to understand why colorblindness is a fallacy.

And what is it with white folks wanting to touch black people's hair. As if we're an attraction in a damn petting zoo. Any black kid who has gone to school with white kids has probably been asked if their hair can be touched. I just never would have though a grown ass woman would ask try that.

It's always about the hair, isn't it? In the current brouhaha over Rep. McKinney, talk radio and the media are talking about her hair. Neal Boortz said she looks like "a ghetto slut" since her hair was like "an explosion at a Brillo pad factory". Who knew white people could be so bothered about other people's natural appearance? They don't want to deal with any differences, and they'd rather have us completely assimilate.

4/06/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

And for you comic geeks out there, the guy in the bar would probably be the equivalent of Maxwell Lord.

Wait a minute... She got to snap his neck? On TV?

Did anyone record this?!

4/06/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Wait a minute... She got to snap his neck? On TV?

Did anyone record this?!


Hahaha... if only....

4/06/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger jose said...

Wait a minute... She got to snap his neck? On TV?

Hey. Spoiler warnings, please!

4/06/2006 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

It's interesting that you point out the poor choice by the producers of venues for being "white" or "black." I guess they have to find something that's not universally fun.

I think most people, in my experience around the world at least, like: watching TV, talking to friend/family, occasionaly having a party, reading books, etc.

Most of the things we do on a daily basis are either alone or with the people we already like, regardless of their race. I guess the producers had to come up with something to differentiate the experiences... and maybe that's the whole joke of this show... our daily lives aren't THAT different due to race.

Although I admit, the Sparks should try using coasters before they can claim the TRUE white experience.

4/06/2006 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Sly Civilian said...

just found your place...and wanted to say thanks for doing the black/white summaries...i've been too afraid of the trainwreck to even watch.

and yes...coasters are one of the most critical ways of understanding white bourgousie culture. strange, but true.

4/07/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the things we do on a daily basis are either alone or with the people we already like, regardless of their race. I guess the producers had to come up with something to differentiate the experiences... and maybe that's the whole joke of this show... our daily lives aren't THAT different due to race.

This is very true--but there are somethings we do separately, for example Church is one of the most segregated institutions around, and no one cares. (I know they already went to a black church much to the enjoyment of Bruno--I wonder why not a white church as well?) I guess besides the country western bar, I can't think of any "white only" activities (besides maybe being President or attending Bob Jones Univ.)so I shouldn't be too hard on the producers.

4/07/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Piig said...

Maybe it's because I'm White, but I'm not getting the whole coaster thing. Wouldn't a person of any color want to protect a wooden coffee or end table from water rings and other kinds of water damage?

4/07/2006 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"If Uncle Ruckus of Boondocks infamy really existed, he would strive to be Bruno." - Jenn

Jenn, you haven't listened to Larry Elder or Alan Keyes recently, have you? If the Grand Church of the Self-Hating Negroes is ever formed, and not absorbed by Bishop T.D. Jakes' Potter's House, Larry Elder and Alan Keyes will be ordained by Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson to spread the anti-melanin Uncle Tom gospel they so love to preach on Hannity & Colmes.

Honestly, I didn't think anything the Sparks' had to say could insult me anymore; after watching Brian and Renee lament their wayward Black-in-skin-tone-only charge a few episodes back, I didn't think they could get any worse, but Renee's Searching for Carrie Fischer antics were just too much. Bible study? Knitting? Scrapbooking? Is this so-called sister high? It's bad enough that her whiteface makes her look somewhere between a chubby Mariah Carey and an albino penguin, but her insinuation that authentic Whiteness can be characterized by the geekiest activities known to man is as disgusting as Brian's idea that traveling with Bruno's faux Black conservative skepticism into economically depressed West Coast Black leisure activites will help whitewash Bruno's bigotry. I mean, everyone associated with this show needs psychological help, but these nutty Negroes deserve Arkham Asylum.

And seriously, everyone associated with this show needs help. That includes the sellouts in the poetry class, and Wonder White Liberal too. I'm sorry, but given the makeup woes, that entire scene in the country-western bar where WWL dressed down Max Lord seems fake, because a) she didn't really attack his view, uncovered his unapologetic anti-minority bias, and b) we really don't know if WWL thought of Whiteface Renee as a White woman or not. I'm convinced that if a liberal like WWL thought in the slightest that Renee was in the least bit colored, she would have responded like we saw, so Renee's use of that incident to expose liberalism in a "all-white" situation does not compute for me.

Finally, that boy Devon showed the weakest "gotta-bang-a-White-girl" game I've ever seen. Sadness over bracelets that remind him of slavery? Exposing his chest to discuss a tattoo? OJ would have been running from the cops by now! Damn, I hate this show....

4/07/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got to respect Brian for hanging in there and trying to get through to Bruno. In Brian's place, I don't think I'd be talking to Bruno at all by now.

I like Rose, and while she seems naive (how stupid is it to tell somebody her hair reminds you of Halloween?), she seems like a decent person who really wants to learn something. The adults all seem like they're in it to prove something, and Nick -- well, I'm not sure Nick ever had a reason for anything he ever did.(To Nick's credit, though, he does seem to be learning a little something, even if Brian has to pound it into his head.) But Rose really wants to come away from this project with new insights. The only thing that might screw that up is if she's trying so hard to have new insights that she mistakes some bogus half-assed notion for real insight. Her thing about race not mattering bugged me, too. Yeah, it matters. In America in the 21st century, it still matters. Forget that at your own risk. But maybe she's just warming up for her "I'm a girl, and you're a guy" speech to DeVaughn. :-)

About DeVaughn: Look, he's handsome, intelligent, talented, and he's gone out of his way to be kind to her. Any young girl is going to have a crush on DeVaughn.

It makes me uncomfortable just to watch Carmen. You know she's going to do something stupid and off the wall, but it still amazes you when she does it. I think her heart's in the right place, but she doesn't have a clue. About anything. I mean, it took going on the show for her to realize that her boyfriend is a jerk, and you get the feeling she's going home with him anyway.

I've been thinking Renee really IS a bitch. I can respect that. Being a bitch saves you a lot of time explaining things and putting up with people you don't like. But my heart kind of went out to her on this episode, because it was kind of pathetic how bad she wanted to prove she could be friends with a white woman. All of a sudden she was like this awkward little girl trying to fit in at a new school, and you got to see her more vulnerable side. Interesting.

But for me, the show is all about Brian and Rose. Oh, and DeVaughn. How long till he gets his own show?

4/08/2006 02:46:00 AM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

You know I love your deconstructions of this show, Jenn, but what you said here really bothered me:
At the very least, this man has some game -- either that, or Rose is exceptionally easy. I'm pretty sure it's a bit of both.

It implies that DeVaughn (as the male) is either "tricking" her into having sex (if she's a good female, she won't want it) or she is a willing participant and therefore "easy" (ie. a slut). When you slut shame, women (and men, too) lose and the patriarchy wins.

4/09/2006 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I see what you're saying tekanji, and I would agree with that except that the "game" that Devon/Devaughn exhibits is really lame. I see nothing wrong with a woman being free with her sexuality, but I do think that Rose's rationale for being attracted to Devon/Devaughn is unexplored or really shallow.

And personally, I think it smacks of racial fetishism, suggesting that both players are playing off the sexualized, racial stereotypes that they inhabit in order to "get it on".

And when I said easy, I didn't intend it as a "shameful slutty" kind of way. I don't think I put any particular positive or negative spin on that characterization of Rose. If there's nothing wrong with being sexually free, than there's nothing wrong with characterizing a woman as such.

Nonetheless, I do think there's some sexism involved in this relationship because Rose is playing the dumb, "teach me everything, you strong smart Black man" role and Devaughn is using that to his advantage. No one gets away clean here.

4/09/2006 03:48:00 AM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

I see what you're saying about the "game" and the reasoning behind it (racial fetishism, etc). Yet, I don't think the correct way to examine that - or the sexism involved in the relationship - is to play into the "player"/"slut" stereotype without offering a criticial examination of it (what you've said in the comments makes your intent more clear, but not everyone reads comments).

The paradigm is so ingrained in our culture, that people will see what you wrote in the original post, assume the stereotype and think nothing more of it. It is, after all, "common knowledge" in the Western world.

Not that I'm pushing you to edit your post or whatever (reading through this comment, I realized that it sort of seems like I am), but rather making a case for awareness of the way sexism plays into our language and perhaps taking measures to curb it via usage of different terms and/or clarification if we choose to use terms that are typically used in a negative way.

4/09/2006 04:17:00 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Before I read comments I am going to talk because I am a white person, who wants to have the first word, no--seriously--I want to offer my impressions before I am influenced by the intelligent insights of others. No really, I mean it, I am really impressed by the comments you get.

I felt totally manipulated, or more like, they wanted to manipulate me from a place of seeing differences to seeing none. I think it has as much to do with the editing as with the desire of the Sparkses to eliminate color as a factor, therefore it strikes me as very white editing.

It really really bothers me to see Rose go from verging on getting it to verging on sexualizing it. Because that is what I did in my own journey--and it set me back to negative 5 on a scale of 1-10 of "getting it."

Carmen in the beauty parlor was excrutiating to watch. Just excrutiating. I wanted to get in there, rip off her wig, grab her by her real hair and tell her to STFU.

Rose acts a lot like her mother. She is still young and wide eyed and somewhat open but as I said in a prior comment, I don't expect her openness to last. Nor do I expect sexualizing her fascination with being black to help.

Oh she will really piss her dad off with her experiments, that I can guarantee. Can you imagine having him as a FIL? EW!

But hey, I could be wrong, maybe she will move into a black neighborhood and raise mixed children and live in interracial harmony ever after. I kinda doubt her folks will visit much. Or maybe she will find a black man who wants to move to the burbs with her, and gets along with Bruno. A very scary thought indeed.

Where oh where was Nick? I have been thinking a lot about Nick since #4. I would love to ask his parents if they taught him to ignore playground teasing when he was young, to take the high road, and the high road became so ingrained that his deep denial backfired in his parents face when he blew off the N word.

I have also been thinking about how privileged Nick has an uncomfortable amount common ground with transracial adoptees who are raised without contact with class differences, without a diversity of influence from their "own" people, learning over and over from their "well-intentioned" parents not to respond, understand or feel the effects of racism to the point where they become completely numb. The only difference being that their white adoptive parents would praise them for not reacting to the N word, not send them to their room!

Thanks for this forum. It is the only way I can stand to watch the show. But I am not sure why I need to watch the show. It is just showing me too much that I already know and hate about white liberal racism.

4/10/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

OK read the comments, I see that there are those who are still thinking Rose is trying. And I agree. I also know the quickest, easiest entry into a community of color for a white woman is sexual. At Rose's age, it is completely understandable. One of the saddest fallouts for me was that I had some good connections with black women until I started "doing" their men.* After that those trusting friendships were over.

So sex is a way to "get in", but once "in" you can easily get stuck on one level and perpetually feel locked out of the community. Plus the whole concept of "getting in" through sex is dicey. In my time, it was hard to say if I was truly attracted to black men for who they were, or for their color and culture. Now I understand that it was indeed, racial fetishization.

*this made more confusing by bisexual transracial encounters WHICH I will back off trying to analyze in one comment

4/10/2006 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

My final comment: ROTLMAO about the coasters.

4/10/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Ahem. I don't see how Rose's antics in this episode were anything but easy. But I'm not the kind of person who accepts the wide-eyed liberalism of her demographic with compassion and kindness, so I admit to my own bias here.

But make no mistake - anytime a person conflates racial education with sexual education, they invite fetishization and repressive sexual identities. There is no way for a person to "enter into" a foreign community through sex that respects anyone, and as long as people like Rose persist with their belief that they can fuck their way into enlightened Negro Nirvana, they allow critics to logically describe their antics with words like easy. The patriarchy does not benefit - no one does; Rose's ability to make her own sexual choices is far from the only political issue presented by her sadly inevitable decent from wide-eyed African American apologist to sloe-eyed sterotype-salivating sycophant. Her racism matters. It'd almost be funny, if it wasn't so pathetic.

4/10/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

James, I'm sorry but I disagree. By condemning Rose's bad behaviour with a word that directly participates in controlling women's sexuality (in this case by shaming us for wanting sex), it is not only doing women as a whole a disservice (by perpetuating this harmful myth), but actually obscuring the real context surrounding the problem with Rose acting like she does.

Of course her racism matters - but when Jenn used the word "easy", the racism of the entire thing took a back seat to her gender (eg. her slutdom). Just because her bad behaviour makes it easier to call her gendered slurs doesn't mean that it's useful, or feminist, to take that route.

4/10/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Tekanji, I don't think it was possible in the context of that episode for Rose's sexualized racism to take a backseat to anything, much less a gendered slur like easy. I guess the problem here is that to condemn Rose for expressing a sexual attraction, however fetishized, for another person is to condemn feminist sexual choice to some degree. So the question becomes whether that's cool or not.

I think it is.

You are right that bad behavior should not engender oppressive slurs from other people. But they do, especially in a show as politically incorrect as Black. White. Sometimes people act like the slurs they should avoid. I just don't perceive the word "easy" as a gendered slur. But that's beside the point; the real problem here is that we don't have ready-made terminology for White women who discard personal standards or basic reason to present themselves as willing and eager receptacles of Black male lust, however tawdry and dehumanizing. Where are feminists on that issue? Feminist sexual choice should not include an uncondemned ability to sexually fetishize people; I'd rather Rose and White women like her were ashamed and reprimanded by themselves and others when their desire for Alabama blacksnake overpowers their reason.

4/11/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

...we don't have ready-made terminology for White women who discard personal standards or basic reason to present themselves as willing and eager receptacles of Black male lust, however tawdry and dehumanizing.

What about the word we've been using to describe it? Fetishization. What about words like "objectification"? "Dehumanization"? How about saying things like she buys wholeheartedly into the stereotype of black males being more sexual than white males? Or what about saying that she's living her mother's comment about "beautiful black creatures"?

How about saying that her treatment of this man as some sort of base creature of lust reeks of what some privileged upperclass white people call "slumming" (an ugly term itself) and in the process degrades not only herself (which seems to be her point! ugh.) but especially the man she's going after.

I could go on. There are many, many ways to condemn her for her actions without, you know, perpetuating the harm against all women. Need I point out that black women, subject to the same kind of fetishization as black men, are disproportionately affected by the word "slut" and its synonyms? That they are the ones who are most likely to be called "bitches", "hos", "sluts", "prostitutes" because it's assumed that they, as black people, must be sexually active and therefore they have brought the degredation on themselves.

And, James, maybe one reason you don't see "easy" as a gendered slur is because you haven't had it lobbed at you with the intent to shame, nor have you seen it lobbed at other innocent girls (who may or may not have been sexually active) in order to deride and degrade them. I have. It is no better than a euphemism for slut. And neither of those words are feminist. Hurting all women because one woman has done something worth criticizing is not feminist.

Sometimes it's better to stop and think rather than to defend -- there's nothing wrong with saying, "Well, I know why the term was used, and it wasn't with a bad intent, but maybe it wasn't appropriate to use in a oppression-fighting context." I mean, if I had called someone a "beautiful black creature" on my blog and you came over and took issue with it, how would you feel if I defended it with things like, "I don't see it as a racial slur," and "but what else could I call it?" It is kind of hurtful to see people I respect, namely you and Jenn, casually throwing around a word that has been used to hurt and degrade me, and then getting on the defensive rather than considering that maybe words that are used to hurt oppressed groups might be better off unused, especially when one is trying to raise awareness about oppression.

4/11/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Piig said...

I finally got around to watching this episode, and feel like I can join in on the discussion beyond the coaster thing (which I still don't understand btw). I agree with most everything that has been said, but have a problem with the negativity being directed at the White scrapbooking woman. I definitely don't think she should be congratulated for calling that guy out on his racial profiling views, White people have a duty to point out racism to other White folks, but why poke fun of her as Wonder White Liberal? We all would have critcized her had she not said anything and allowed her silence to be construed as approval of this jerk's racist views. Is the criticism really that she's not an anti-racist activist? One thing that I have learned that I didn't understand during the height of my activism in my twenties is that for varying reasons not everyone can be an activist. Many of those reasons are valid ones. If a person can't be an activist in the overt sense of the word, then they can at least do their best to live their life in a way that supports their ideals. That Ghandi quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world," comes to mind. For this woman, in the glimpse of her life we were afforded, teaching her daughter to respect everyone equally and not allowing racist comments to go unchallenged is the contribution she is capable of at the moment. We have no idea what her life has been up to this point. Her challenge may not have been a strong one, White women often find it hard to challenge the authority of men, but at least it was something.

4/12/2006 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Piig, the reason why I poke fun at it is because it seemed like the show and Rene both wanted to give the woman a cookie for doing what anyone should do.

She's no superhero, in my book, for doing what you're supposed to do.

4/12/2006 02:18:00 PM  
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