Monday, December 05, 2005

Intent, Perception and Sensitivity...

A bitch had a wild and crazy weekend! My ass went to a gala at The Fabulous Fox Friday night with his Pontifical Greatness, Brother Rob Thurman, followed by an evening of Wicked…in the front row! Fantabulous! A certain notfornothing and Gatsby’s Ghost were in attendance. Twice in one week for you both, oh my...

Damn…that’s a lot of socializing in one weekend. Double damn…this town is too small for it’s own good!

2 cups coffee followed by Splenda, Excedrin Migraine, Sudafed, Claritin and cigs…

Lets just jump right in, shall we?

A bitch was amazed to see so many comments to my post on King Kong. Clearly, folks have strong opinions about that movie…which is cool, because this bitch FUCKING HATES THAT STORY TO HELL AND BACK! Which is, a bitch has been told, a strong opinion.

In reading the comments and some other comments posted to fellow bloggers who link to a bitch’s Kong post the issues of intent, perception and sensitivity jumped out at a bitch.

Intent…
The notion that filmmakers were ignorant of issues of race and class in the 1930’s is full of shit. Birth of a Nation, which was released in 1915, brought the issue of race in America into film with a fucking explosion. The film, which is widely held as the most racist film ever made, resulted in a boom in KKK recruitment. It also resulted in an organized campaign by the NAACP to ban the film, which didn’t work. Following the release of Birth of a Nation, race riots broke out in the North. Southern communities, already moving into Jim Crow mode, lashed out at blacks that were portrayed in Birth of a Nation as lazy, highly sexualized, drunk, drug addicted and generally dangerous. This is a film seen by thousands and discussed by millions...in 1917. By the time King Kong came out in the 1930’s, America was well aware of the black man…why the black man should be feared…that the black man coveted white women…and why society needed to enact controls and laws to protect the innocent.

Argue the merits of King Kong if you will…but do not try to tell this bitch that America was ignorant to the power of film and imagery to shape public perceptions about race, class and gender. For class look to Chaplin, who’s The Immigrant came out in 1917 and brilliantly confronted America with the reality of immigrant life versus our perception…there’s that word again…our perception of our nation as the land of the free. Chaplin’s Tramp encounters a harsh and bigoted America…and thousands of Americans encountered The Immigrant…in 1917.

Face it…film makers were aware of and utilized popular stereotypes in films from the jump. The beautiful blond, the conquering hero…and the sexualized wild black primate.

Perception…
The American Red Cross is on a minority recruitment blitz to counter complaints that their workers were bigoted and insulting during the Katrina Disaster. One complaint stated that Red Cross volunteers treated evacuees like cattle…coldly herding them and dismissing their concerns in favor of red tape. The Red Cross responded by saying that these complaints were an issue of perception and not racism.

The same claim came from the federal government, local officials and FEMA...'we are not racists, we just suck'. Most Americans were comforted to know that FEMA would suck just as bad for whites as it sucks for blacks...it has, according to my friends in Florida, sucked badly for many whites in the past.

And a bitch is sure folks want to believe that complaints about how minorities were treated post Katrina were an issue of perception.

Did the responses go something like this?

“You read me wrong. That’s not what I meant! I can’t help it if that’s how you interpreted my actions! I'm just an asshole, not a racist.”

Blah, blah and motherfucking blah.

All minority groups are confronted with this shit. There is a fine line between perception and reality...that six sense the oppressed have that alerts us to a bigot...that is hard to explain to someone who has never expereinced it.

A friend of mine took his partner to a company picnic. His boss asked who his partner was and he answered…"My partner.” At the blank stare he explained…"My boyfriend.” To which his boss looked shocked, then turned red, then quickly changed the subject to baseball. That same boss then spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding my friend and his man. The following Monday an e-mail was sent out from this boss to everyone who attended saying how glad he was to meet everyone and their significant other…expect my friend’s partner…who he left off the e-mail completely, not even bothering to mention that my friend had shown up with anyone at all.

“You read me wrong. That’s not what I meant! I can’t help it if that’s how you interpret my actions.”

"I'm just an asshole, not a racist!"

We all have prejudices and bigotries…a bitch included. My ass has put a lot of work into not assuming that certain people from certain areas are all complete assholes. It’s an ongoing effort. So, we all behave in ways that tell the story of our prejudice and/or bigotry…even if we don’t 'mean to'. This is not a matter of perception, but reality. Not wanting it to be reality doesn't mean a damned thing.

King Kong is an insulting piece of shit story that plays upon our stereotypes about women, minorities and black men.

Reality.

And a bitch wonders why that’s so painful for some. Does that make Peter Jackson a racist? Not on its own. It does make him an out of touch asshole who tends to latch onto images of dark/brown/black as evil and light/white/glowing white as good, but that just makes him typical. And his King Kong will remain an insulting piece of shit story that plays on our stereotypes of woman, minorities and black men.

Sensitivity…
A bitch, being a black bitch, has been accused of being overly sensitive my entire life. Most black women have had this experience…when trying to explain their frustration at being followed through a store, having someone grab their handbag when they enter an elevator or being ignored at the Presriptives counter at a department store for 30 fucking minutes while other customers come and go only to be confronted with shocked dismissal when they finally get waited on by some sharply dressed individual who doesn’t appreciate being confronted directly over their passive aggressive bullshit.

Whew. Y'all feel me?

Typically, when we relate these tales, we are told that we were “reading too much into the incident” are “too sensitive” and are “blowing said incident out of proportion”. Which are easy things to say when you haven’t been followed around a store by security, had someone grab their cheap assed Kate Spade knock off as if you would try to snatch it from them or been ignored while trying to get some fucking face powder during your lunch break. It must be nice…even blessed…to be able to chock such behavior up to poor service. Yeah…that must be really nice.

Anyone who has read a bitch’s blog for a while will notice that this bitch does not post daily about incidents of bigotry or racial bullshit. Sometimes, but not daily. Do not…do not ever…assume that a bitch lives in a world where that shit doesn’t happen to me. My ass is 32 years old and a bitch would be a rich bitch indeed if my ass had a dollar for every time someone has discriminated against me due to race, class or gender. Understand…a bitch doesn’t suffer bullshit, but my ass has to live this life black. So, no, a bitch doesn’t mention every fucking incident or put down, every moment when some middle classed heifer from West County reminds me that black equals felon or says something ignorant about my hair. In reality, a bitch is sensitive…this bitch resents the fucking hell out of being treated with anything other that full worshipful respect. Because the day a bitch becomes numb…the day this bitch is no longer impacted by acts of quiet racism…is a day when this bitch has given up. And that just isn't going to happen.

Regarding King Kong, a bitch is not being overly sensitive. This bitch is being accurate. As a black woman, this bitch is confronted with images of myself that are insulting, degrading, inaccurate and full of shit. A bitch is confronted with the absence of myself on television or in movies. A bitch is confronted with humor at my expense, exaggerations of the black female experience, sexualized imagery in music videos and degradation in music.

Empowerment? Pretty much missing in action.

Pride? Right here as always, baby.

Because this bitch has learned to find pride elsewhere. Perhaps Mr. Jackson should look elsewhere for his next plot, too...

16 comments:

ding said...

kudos.

Kim said...

"I'm just an asshole, not a racist"

Lord, is that ever on the mark. I have actually HEARD those words come from someones mouth.

My answer to him when he said it was "no, you're just a racist asshole".

tigerlilly said...

woohoo!! I'm pumping my fists in the office! So true of that sixth sense. Some would dismiss it the same way men (in GENERAL mind you) like to dismiss women's intuition. I'm always wondering why more people don't question why black women are the object of so much scorn. It's like so many people tacitly accept that stereotype even if they dont accept countering stereotypes of black men. Seriously, that's a lot of weight to carry and I still haven't figured out how not to let it weigh me down. I walk through stores consciously holding things out so that I am not suspected or accused of trying to take something. It's emotionally exhausting trying not to fit into a stereotype, and most people go through their daily lives not even realizing how stressful it is.

I want locs, but I have to find a good stylist to help me get through this transitional phase. I'm too scared to cut it all off right now, so I am thinking of going the Leela James route while it grows in.

PissedOffPencil said...

That's why I like you so much. You acknowledge your own prejudice but try to work with them, just like me.

Anonymous said...

i surfed here from salon. and am i glad i did! damn, i love a black bitch...

dmfinny said...

From Anonymous 10:26, Friday:

"Why couldn't the ape simply represent a primitive animal with human characteristics? "

He did. That's why Black people were considered 3/5ths human during the slave era.

Unrelated, but related, I never though about King Kong in terms of race, but it is interesting that Black male sexuality has been in the news for at least the last year, esp. the so-called "DL phenomenon," and why is it that Black men with HIV who have unprotected sex can find themselves in jail, but the White nutjob who posed as a firefighter on Halloween, set a fire outside a woman's apartment so he could gain entry, drugged and raped her all night has been spotted in NYC and Cleveland, and still ain't in jail?

Oh, and TigerLilly, the best natrual hair stuff I've ever used (waist length locks for 15 yrs) is an olive oil crean from Organic Root Stimulator. Happy Nappy, sis!

Hammer said...

ABB!

You sound really upset today. Sorry if the intent thing pissed you off. Though I think that some of the schmucks who responded were unusually harsh in criticizing your post.

I don't think you're overly sensitive. I think sensitivity to the issues is important. I think you already know that I appreciate sensitivity to the issues we all face.

Now, regarding intent. I think we hit a communication gap or something.

I in no way think that the director, etc. of the King Kong film were ignorant to the racial issues of the day. I in know way try to credit the production.

I don't think that the creators of the film intended to depict King Kong as any race. I think that's the way it turned out.

Don't get me wrong, I still think it served a purpose for everyone involved. I'm sure it perpetuated fear. But I find it hard to believe they sat down and said "King Kong = Black man; Woman= white women in the US." If you have data to prove otherwise I would be MORE than interested.

Again, I think the outcome has an impact. Perhaps not the intended impact. I don't know. Maybe it was intentional. I don't know. I guess that's why I'm discussing it. I want to know!

Anyway, you totally have my support! What a weird topic for everyone to get so fired up about. I couldn't believe some of those other 'disagreeing' comments. Sorry again!

Peace!
Hammer

PS: Food not bombs meeting this week...you going?

ATX Superstar said...

I was all set to go see this movie, as I saw there would be fight scenes between King Kong and a dinosaur and I love dinosars. But, for the monster lizard fix, I can always go revisit the old school Godzillas.

I never saw the original, never gave much thought to the story line or its obvious statements, but am now certainly skipping out on what will only be a perpetuation of the perfect blonde expectation and dark-skinned savage stereotype filmmakers and studios set upon us.

Thanks, ABB. I do agree.

smartalek said...

Another newbie from Salon.
So glad I came; absolutely brilliant.
Thank you so much.

sources4choice said...

What I don't understand is why Hollywood keeps rolling this horrible movie. It is not a good movie, never has been. Why keep remakinga piece of shit movie?

Locs for six years: I cut my hair down to 2 inches before getting it locked. I felt incredibly feminine. I havr never felt so great. It took a huge amount for me to cut my hair. I had real hair issues from childhood. But having to cut my hair to two inches helped me get through all that and looked great. Now 6yrs later my hair is down my back. It grows back that's the great hing about hair.

Akasha

J said...

ABB, You rock, definately. One more perspective on the King Kong thing, as a far from perfect blonde bitch myself, I'm tired of seeing white women as exaulted and perfect...perfect victims, that is. I prefer a deeply flawed HUMAN being character, any day. So add that to the list of reasons to not see KK. Lame story. Racist. Sexist. Stupid. So let's all pass it up and see something better.

Crystal-Lynn said...

Regarding retail respect, I've got to give a huge shout out to Nordstrom. Black bitches get MUCH respect there. A personal story from a recent spree at Nordstrom on Michigan Ave in Chicago: A bitch's sister and two co-workers took over a dressing room for an hour hooking a bitch's sister up with some new gear. The sales woman was very attentitive, found a bitch's sister several pair of jeans that fit a booty to try on and GET THIS - when a bitch's sister left her one-of-only-four Angry Black Bitch wristwatch in the dressing room, it was returned with a correspondence card in the bag left with the concierge. And I got a "it was nice to work with you and hope you got the watch" card at home. If you're shopping in the women's section, ask for Monique M and tell her a bitch sent you.

bamjamz said...

As an avid reader of Salon, I found most of the posts responding to a bitch's righteous anger about the KKingKong remake to be unenlightened, at best. I got over it however, when I'd noticed that some Salon-ers are posting in this forum, after having discovered your true bitchy brilliance! I'm also thankful for reading a bitch's post where she weighed the issues in an objective manner, while sticking to her gunnz!!

Anonymous said...

ABB--

I cant believe you had to go *back* to school with folks over King Kong! Grr! Argh!!

Anyway, Tiger Lilly, I cosign on the olive oil Organic Root Stimulator. It's done wonders for my scalp, and the company that makes it actually belongs to AHBAI!

bitchphd said...

Re. perception, I remember going to a grocery store with my (dark, kinky-haired Newyorican) girlfriend shortly after she had her baby. We picked out what we wanted for dinner, got in line, she handed me her purse b/c her hands were full of the baby, I pulled out her wallet to pay.

And this (white) woman in line behind her speaks *over my girlfriend's head* to me, asking, "so how old is your baby?" For the record, I am light-skinned and fair-haired; the baby was had light brown skin (fairer than his mama, darker than his papa) and dark hair.

And I go, "he's not my baby," and my girlfriend says, simultaneously, "he's MY baby."

And this stupid-ass woman gets embarrassed and without thinking blurts out, "oh, I'm so sorry, I thought you were the nanny!"

Now why would she assume that two women, the same age, at the grocery store chatting together weren't just friends?

Anonymous said...

I do not think you are being too sensitive. Maybe the problem is people are not sensitive enough. I do not think Peter Jackson knew that this movie would offend people, that is the problem; people don't think; they feel, I like this movie, I want to make this movie. The end.

As far as too sensitive, well if some developer said they were going to build a giant Wal-Mart where the World Trade Center in NYC used to stand, I'm sure there would be HUGE outcry, with people accusing Wal-Mart of not being sensitive. When you become an adult, and when you have power, what you do affects others.