I wouldn’t be as pat as Fidel Castro. The former Cuban President thinks it is a “pure miracle” that Barack Obama has not been assassinated as yet, despite the deep racism that exists in the US. “Millions of whites cannot reconcile in their minds with the idea that a black man with his wife and children would move into the White House, which is called just like that — White.”
This is half the truth. Isn’t contemporary society equipped to at least deal with the issue at a deeper level? Why have outward symbols of identity become so very important? Is it because there is a greater resistance to them or has the resistance stemmed from the over-enthusiasm of proponents to push the envelope, so to speak?
I had once written about how racism has become a celebrity endorsement of sorts:
When Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart, a film on Daniel Pearl's journey as seen through the eyes of his widow Marianne Pearl, was first out on screen, all people seemed to be concerned about was that Angelina Jolie who enacted the part was not Black enough.
The film crashed at the US box office, and to pat themselves on the back they started saying it was because the American people had spoken out against this discrimination. Hello? Rodney King, are you there? The thought that xenophobia and a complete disinterest in the subject could be reasons were ignored. Black groups had been protesting ever since the casting was announced. They believed that Marianne is a woman of mixed race and any Black actress could have portrayed her; using Jolie amounted to "whitewashing of history".
This is another kind of reductionism. Pointing out these differences too constitutes covert racism. The world over people make choices and it would be ridiculous to suggest that having made those choices they become racist. We all have our preferences, and were we to choose Black or White or Brown or Yellow it need not reveal our racism. But if we emphasise these, then it does point to the fact that we are not untouched by these factors entirely.
This is what the Black groups are doing. If cinema is part of culture, then must we stratify it to necessarily have the benefit of an authenticated history that they are talking about? Angelina Jolie's 'whiteness' ought to be immaterial because she was performing a part; were she enacting the role of a homeless person would homeless people protest because she is a millionaire?