SO all over my FB wall are posts about the movie RED TAILS. I am a strong advocate of supporting films with black actors in general, and i don't even hate on George Lucas cuz I like the original Star Wars trilogy :) Yoda is a life philoshoper...lol..
but I have serious reservations as I've been on a hollywood ban of any story about black people or people of color that insists on promoting either black subordination or white hero syndromes (Avatar, Blind Side,The Help, Precious, etc).
But the different opinions on this i've seen have been pretty interesting...As a student and teacher of AFAM history, I am particularly interested in our racialized understanding of not only that time in history but hollywood today...
This note is a reply to one FB post about Red Tails.
"EXTRACT RACIAL PRIDE FROM THE DISCUSSION AND "RED TAILS" IS JUST A MOVIE ABOUT MEN KILLING PEOPLE."
part of my reply =
Context is EVERYTHING, and there is NO extracting from it. while i honestly do appreciate your humanist bend, ignoring "race" (which is a social construction) in a totally racialized world and history is not the answer. one of the reasons there was racial pride in the Tuskegee airmen = Jim Crow ruled at home and lynchings were commonplace....remember those? and trust me RACE MATTERED in lynchings. So black folks of that era lived in a context where their skin could truly be their sin still. so for you in one flip remark to say that folks should not feel pride in the history they have endured and still [I] rise above it all (literally for red tails )speaks more to your issues than theirs. The only reason you can now talk all the shit you talk so freely is because of SACRIFICES of PROUD BLACK PEOPLE that came before you that endured pain you'll never understand because of an "unreal" thing such as race that had very real consequences for their lives.
personally, i wasn't planning to see Red Tails because i don't need to see any more hollywood movies that insist telling stories of our history by throwing in white main benevolent characters to make it "marketable" and palatable to "mainstream" audiences...read white.
There is a movie i just watched (again) that is of the same era and gives you a great sense of why race matters...The Great Debaters.Whites played the roles they should have played in that story...as subjects in black life: as oppressors, as authorities (sheriffs), as fellow community members that they lived amongst in the South (sharecroppers) but there was NO white hero...no significant white character. And unlike Red Tails, Black women were represented.
But even more importantly, a serious message was conveyed...and lynchings, organizing, and civil disobedience were the juxtaposition of that message. On the one hand, it showed the efforts to organize sharecroppers (white and black together) into unions in the 30s...class consciousness. It also showed the reality of college students in the south, well accomplished and affluent but still powerless when it came to Jim Crow. Coming upon a lynch mob with a black man's burning body hanging from a tree...all they could do was hide in their black professor's middle class car and hit reverse before they suffered the same fate.
And upon reflection of that lynching event at the final debate in the movie, the youngest debater in defense of civil disobedience explained that there is no justice to depend on for a black person in the Jim Crow south. As black people we have chosen to try to excel in the system (like these debaters and the tuskegee airmen) or fight it through words and civil disobedience (like Frederick, Martin, Malcolm, SNCC etc)...The young man recalled the lynch mob they came up on, seeing the black body (strange fruit) hanging and having to run away before they were next, powerless to help that brother came to the conclusion that...AMERICA SHOULD BE GRATEFUL THAT WE CHOOSE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AS OUR MEANS OF PROTEST...that's the truth no one is ready for...but the reality of our humanity shines. you should show due respect for that humanity.
From the Great Debaters
James Farmer Jr.: In Texas they lynch Negroes. My teammates and I saw a man strung up by his neck and set on fire. We drove through a lynch mob, pressed our faces against the floorboard. I looked at my teammates. I saw the fear in their eyes and, worse, the shame. What was this Negro's crime that he should be hung without trial in a dark forest filled with fog. Was he a thief? Was he a killer? Or just a Negro? Was he a sharecropper? A preacher? Were his children waiting up for him? And who are we to just lie there and do nothing. No matter what he did, the mob was the criminal. But the law did nothing. Just left us wondering, "Why?" My opponent says nothing that erodes the rule of law can be moral. But there is no rule of law in the Jim Crow south. Not when Negroes are denied housing. Turned away from schools, hospitals. And not when we are lynched. St Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all.' Which means I have a right, even a duty to resist. With violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.
Recommendation for the week: (Re)watch The Great Debaters.