Since moving here to Nashville, I’ve had the pleasure to meetsome amazing, incredibly talented individuals. Of which, one of whom I consider a close, dear friend is my friend, Allan. We met in the 2-D Design class this past semester and well, to put it colloquially, we essentially bonded over our kindred dislike of the class professor, or as I might have called her in previous posts…the professor lady from HELL. Anyhow, he’s just this amazing, funny, super-talented guy…who also happens to be black. While I wouldn’t normally make the distinction, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to. And you’ll soon know why.
I’m not racist. Far from it, actually. Which is kind of an incredible thing considering the way I was raised, and more specifically, whom I was raised by. My grandmother is, well…she’s a tough nut to crack, to put it nicely. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an amazing, loving, strong woman–quite possibly one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever met–and I respect her immensely…but she’s a little set in her ways, if you know what I mean. She was raised in a predominately-white rural area in upstate New York, the daughter of a full-blown Italian, Catholic emigrate who–from stories I’ve heard–was an even tougher woman than my grams. Considering the era my grams grew up in, it’s not altogether surprising that she has a narrowed view or perception of people of color. While I don’t condone her somewhat-skewed views, I do understand it. That’s how she was raised. It was ingrained in her–and the rest of generation–early on that there is a distinction between white people and people of color. She was taught that black people can’t be trusted…that they’re lazy, ambition-lacking–and for lack of a better word–criminals.
While I wish I could say that we’ve come a long ways since those flawed times…I honestly don’t believe that we have. Sure, slavery was abolished. And through the work of brave souls like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks and the list goes on and on–we have made some strides and some improvement on the front-lines of racial equality…but not by much. We still have a long, long ways to go, a reality that we’ve been so blatantly reminded of in recent years. It just blows my mind when I hear people say things like “racism is a thing of the past” or “America’s not racist…we have a black President…”…things like that. It’s just so unfortunate that so many people are that naive…and that oblivious of an issue that, for all intents and purposes, has essentially turned into the human condition. And it has. It really has.
Personally, I don’t understand the obsession with the color of a person’s skin. I mean, it’s just skin color. That’s all. It doesn’t define a person. It doesn’t make a person any less worthy of respect and/or societal acceptance. It doesn’t make some less of a human being. And yet–that’s exactly what a lot of people think and believe. And they think that way because of how society and the world portrays those with different skin colors. And the bottom line of it all is that it’s wrong. It’s just so completely and utterly WRONG.
Despite her set ways and opinions and skewed perceptions, I don’t remember my grams ever being openly racist and/or prejudicial of people of color…with the exception of one issue, that being interracial dating and marriage. Her views on that particular subject have always been quite open and vocal. She doesn’t condone it at all. And while I’d never pass judgement on a person in a bi-racial relationship–to each his own–I personally have no interest in getting involved with a black man. Not because I’m racist or prejudiced or on some kind of “WHITE POWER” power-trip. Nor does it have anything to do with attraction. I mean that are a lot of good-looking, attractive black men out there that I would not at all mind spending 5 minutes behind-closed-doors with. Umm Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds?? Hello, that man is hands-down, out of this world gorgeous. Even so, it’s not a relationship I see myself entering in to at any point. A large part of my reasoning behind that has very much to do with the fact that it’s simply not the best or safest time in which to be a person of color right now. Especially here in America. It’s just not. And as much as I’d like to, I honestly don’t hold out much hope in that situation changing any time soon, or in my lifetime, for that matter. And while it might sound a little selfish, I have to be thinking of my future and the things I want. A family, for instance. Not right this moment, but in a few years…yes, I want to settle down and hopefully start a family. Eventually, at some point, I do want that. And honestly, as a mother–I’d be terrified of bringing a mixed-race child into the world being the way that it is. It’s hard enough as it is to be a parent these days and having to protect your child from the monsters that exist in the world and to keep your child safe without throwing in the racial, social stigma of a mixed-race heritage into the mix. I mean, people are just plain cruel and evil and yes, racist…even now. Even after the progress that’s been made.
These days, I can’t go a day on social media without reading about some racially-infused shooting or similar travesty of some sort. There’s just so many stories like that. From Trayvon Martin, to Michael Brown, to Eric Garner and hell, even just recently with Freddie Gray in Baltimore. It’s sad and tragic and utterly disheartening for me to read these stories on just a basic, human level. I don’t condone what’s happening, at all. I think it’s abhorrent and disgusting and it just makes me so furious that there are people out there who are so corrupt and prejudiced and evil that they literally have no disregard for human life because of some age-old, inherited misconception of skin color. That officer who shot Michael Brown should have been indicted on murder charges. He murdered an 18-year-old, unarmed citizen in cold blood, in broad daylight. Whatever Brown might or might not have done…whatever the events were that led up to what happened…whatever poor judgement Brown showed in arguing with and assaulting a police officer…it’s all irrelevant, in my opinion. Only one detail should have mattered and been solely relevant in that case and that is that Brown was unarmed and running away when he was gunned down. Let me reiterate…he was running away. It’s that simple. Or it should be, I should say. People can make excuses for and try to justify the officer’s actions…but there isn’t one. There just isn’t. There’s no justifiable excuse for chasing after an unarmed, fleeing suspect and shooting him half a dozen times in the back. If the officer was truly fearful of his life, the logical and rational thing to do would to have remained in his vehicle and called for back-up. There was no longer a threat. The threat was literally running away. Not indicting the man was a bad call that sent the wrong message…which is that not only are police officers are above the law, but their lives are worth more than that of a person of color. And people can deny it all they want that the Michael Brown case wasn’t about color ’til they are blue in the face…but I will not and do not buy it. I might not have been there, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the race card was definitely played in that case, in some way or another. I think the most unfortunate thing about what happened in the Brown case is that no one saw it for the lesson and wake up call that it was. People talk about change, but no one does anything to make that change happen. I mean, people complain and condemn the riots and the violence that followed–and to continue to follow–these incidents–white people especially it seems–but I get it. I really do. I completely understand the feelings of anger and frustration and distrust in the black community–and I’m not even black. There’s a big problem with racial inequality in this country…a rising epidemic that’s not going quietly away any time soon. Not until people stand up and stand together, united as human beings rather than white people and black people. There shouldn’t be a distinction between the two. We’re all human beings. We breathe the same air, we walk the same streets…we shouldn’t let society or anyone else dictate or pass judgement based on something as inconsequential as the color of a person’s skin. We’re better than that. That is, we’re capable of being better than that. But first we have to want to be. We need to break through those vintage perceptions, expose their weakest roots, and band together to make a change, to make a difference.
And that’s exactly what my friend Allan is trying to do with the film he’s currently making…a project that I am absolutely thrilled and beyond humbled to be a part of. He wrote the script and is directing the film…and it’s going to be just phenomenal! The script itself and the story is just incredible and intense and most important–it’s brutally honest. It’s essentially the story of three black men with diverse backgrounds and their struggle/journey towards finding their identities and figuring out what being “black” means to them in a world that is–for all intents and purposes–predominately white. We just wrapped up the auditions tonight and I can’t tell you how excited I am to start production next month. It’s such a beautiful project and eye-opening in respect to current events that I know it’s going to be nothing short of amazing. I’m just truly blessed and honored to become friends with such a talented, incredible guy like Allan and to be a part of something that means something…something that I truly believe will have an impact, somehow. It’s a short film, but it’s going to be huge. They already plan on entering it into Sundance…that’s how serious and confident they are about the message the film is going to send. As they should be.
It has to be said. Someone has to say it. Granted, I do feel a little uncomfortable at times to be working on a film (I’m doing the BTS photography, etc. on it, by the way) that is portraying a world as seen through the eyes of a black person…my being white. It’s hard sometime to not feel guilty or feel ganged up on, like I’m representative of the whole white race or something…it really is hard. And there have been moments when I’ve wanted to point out that the way the film is portraying a stereotype of the black race is the same way people are stereotyping white people like myself…but it’s really not my place and I’m sure it’s not intended. Sometimes, I do feel like black people think white people are to blame for all the inequality and injustices they and their ancestors were subjected to…but not all white people are bad. We don’t all have some secret KKK hood hidden in our closets. We’re not all judges. We’re not all racist. Again, it’s all about perceptions. And those aren’t going to change unless we try and do something to change them. It starts here. It starts now. Not just for blacks, but for whites as well. We’re all the same inside. And we’re fighting the same fight. We’ve got to come together as a whole and stop making destinctions and building new barriers between our races. There’s only one race that truly, truly matters…and it’s the human race. Not the white race. Not the black race. Not Asian or Middle Eastern…not anything. Just human. And it’s our responsibility…on all of us to do our part…to make a difference. All of us.
P.S. Here’s the KickStarter link to my friend’s incredible project/film. Please check it out, contribute in any way that you can, and share the message with everyone you know.