I felt it was important to preface this diary with the disclosure that despite living on a tropical island half of my life, due to my inability to tan and my aversion to the sun, I am as white as they come. Therefore I can't say that I understand why some* blacks feel that having a "privileged white point of view speak up" on racial issues is a bad thing because I'm white. I don't face the same racial issues and have never been put in the awful and/or uncomfortable situations--big and small--that occur just because of skin color. So I can't say that I understand such a point of view. I don't feel that I have the right.
What I can say is that from my point of view as a white person who considers herself non-racist, I do think it helps to have even privileged white points of view out there hopefully opening some eyes up to the continued racial discord that continues unabated. An example and the why of this diary below the pretty, orange thingie....
* I don't want to generalize and say all do because I know that's not the case.
The point of the above (and I sincerely hope that I worded it in such a way as to not offend anyone--if I did, it was not my intention) was because I read something in my newest Entertainment Weekly (with Spiderman on the cover) that literally caught me off-guard--in a good way. It made me sit up and go 'Whoah!' I even re-read it back in a kinda shocked stillness that someone (a privileged white someone at that) just casually went there in an unexpected place. Max Brooks, who wrote the brilliant World War Z: Zombie Survival Guide (he's also the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), has a new project out; it's a graphic novel called The Harlem Hellfighters about the 369th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment of WWI who were terribly mistreated, but still became one of the most decorated Allied fighting units.
It's a Q&A interview and not political. The questions are about films, books, etc., where the idea for this book came up with, what was the studio reaction and so forth. After all, this is an entertainment magazine. The only even remotely political mention was that Woodrow Wilson screened The Birth of a Nation at the White House reflecting the attitudes of the time. And then we get to the last answer of the Q&A.
Entertainment Weekly (Journalist-Jeff LaBrecque): After years of rejection by studios, your story is now in development at Sony. Was it just a matter of having something tangible to hand someone, or did 12 Years a Slave perhaps represent some shift in Hollywood?And THAT is how the interview ended. I was shocked. I could not believe that I was reading an entertainment interview with a writer about movies and books and then he casually brings up the awful thing that Nugent called Obama, and then just drove it home like that. There are a lot of people who will be reading this who would have had no clue and will be sucker-punched by this. I knew and I was kinda sucker-punched by it. There will be people who watch Fox News and are aware of it but caught in the midst of the Fox ranting and it was in one ear and out the other and didn't really catch it because they aren't the hard-core awful racists who will be shocked and appalled by it. Because standing on its own like that so stark and pronounced? It's really awful and you really get the full measure of just how wrong it is.
Max Brooks: It's funny you ask that, because I get asked that all the time about zombies. Like, when I wrote Zombie Survival Guide, nobody was writing about zombies and now zombies are everywhere and why is that? Maybe it was a combination. Maybe it's a combination of The Butler, 42, and 12 Years a Slave. Maybe the Trayvon Martin case has brought racism back into the forefront. Maybe there's just so many times you can call the President of the United States a subhuman mongrel before people get angry. I mean, Ted Nugent called President Obama a subhuman mongrel. He's talking about race mixing. Race mixing, we have to remember, used to be a hanging offense in this country. On racism, I think we've made unbelievable strides, obviously. But clearly, as Ted Nugent reminds us, we still have a ways to go.
Many of us here are politically aware and and aren't surprised anymore by the terrible things the Right Wing nuts say, but there are many, many more out there who aren't political at all and have no idea just how casually awful so many of them are. And to read something like this, I believe, will be a shock to those types of people who will be reading an interview like this from an author like this talking about an upcoming graphic novel. Will it do any good? Well, it may open a few eyes. I don't know, maybe. If it does.... If it makes even a couple of people stop and think, start to pay more attention especially as election time rolls around, well, it's something and every little bit of something can help. It could be a vote. Maybe a couple of them. And certainly every single one of those can help.
And for me, that is why as important as it is that black voices need to be loud and strong and clear and proud, white voices (privileged or not--cuz heaven knows I ain't privileged) need to be loud and strong as well. We all need to work together to shout down the voices (and actions) that not only continue to keep racism alive and kicking, but also those voices that claim that racism is no more. And voices like Max Brooks, even if he is white and privileged, can do some good.