Tag Archives: bias

Sagging Pants and Pointing Fingers

ImageSince Don Lemon’s statements about sagging pants being the reason black men can’t get jobs, continue their education, stay out of jail, etc., I’ve witnessed a flurry of white fists in the proverbial air, mobs of white commenters on various blogs and forums saying “See? See? What I’ve been saying all along.” Torches and pitchforks. Pointing fingers. Sighs of relief as their own opinions—held however secretly—are given breath by a black man; the token voice they need for “permission” to air out their often ill-concealed dirty laundry.

This topic has been written on extensively. I have little to contribute. Lemon’s equation of fashion choices to the grossly disproportionate numbers of black men who are unemployed, criminalized, and institutionalized is almost laughable. But I do want to ask you this, Mr. Lemon.

Would you say the same about victims of rape?

If a woman is wearing a short skirt or a low-cut top and is the victim of sexual assault, is she to blame? When police officers arbitrarily dismiss her allegations as uncredible; when courts lambast her supposed promiscuity and wardrobe choices; when she is called a whore or that she was “asking for it”—is it her fault?

I am discussing a system of blame in which an oppressed group bears the brunt of its own brutalization; in which petty justifications like sartorial decisions are gestured to as the root of all said group’s misfortune. It reminds me of something… It reminds me of a boy who was wearing a hoodie on a rainy evening while walking home from the store, who was seen as dangerous, threatening, suspicious, out of place. A boy who was murdered as a result of it.

Is your memory so short, Mr. Lemon?

This is a society that would rather criticize hems and pants than its own distorted lens of bias and blame: its systematic inequality and inherited poverty.

A society that would rather point at hoodies as the problem rather than address its prejudice toward the skin of the hoodie-wearer.

A society that has a finger pointing solidly at the black boys with their pants riding low, steadily unaware of the four fingers pointing back at itself.

Black boys are being gunned down in front of their homes, and we’re talking about pants? We’re talking about PANTS?

Enough, Mr. Lemon. And enough, America. You need an intervention.

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Black Children and After Earth

ImageI saw After Earth yesterday. In an interview, Will Smith acknowledged that it was very much a metaphor for the way he felt about raising a son in Hollywood, sending him out into a vicious world to fend for himself. After seeing the film, I couldn’t help but also see it as a metaphor for raising a black child in America.

In the movie, Will Smith’s character warns his son as he sends him on a mission that will risk his child’s life: “Everything on Earth has evolved to kill human beings.” Yes, and the same could be said about institutions in America that more and more are revealed to be designed to destroy black children. The Ursa—the alien weapon-creature that the humans dread most in After Earth—was bred to destroy humans. The prison pipeline and the War on Drugs were designed with a similar goal when it comes to black humans. As George Zimmerman’s trial looms near, we are reminded—did we ever forget?—that being black in America is a risk. Like Jaden Smith on the terrifying future planet, black children are in constant danger in a hostile world.

As I left the theater for the film, my boyfriend and I witnessed a man roll his eyes and say to his friend, “Will Smith only made that movie for his son.”

To that I say, “So?” There is a startling lack of black faces in American film—it seems one must be a black father for a movie to be made in which black sons (and daughters) can see themselves represented onscreen…especially if the roles are to reflect something other than stereotypical caricatures about blackness and its meaning. And more so…what is so wrong about a man with the ability and resources to do so making a film that will uplift his own child? White folks do it all the time. If a black father wants to use his clout to make a movie that represents the tragically unrepresented–especially in a film as fresh as After Earth–why the hell not?

So I say bring it on, Will Smith. Bring us After Earth. Bring us Annie. I am so here for that.

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