Saturday, March 27, 2010

Movie Review: "The Blind Side" Debate - Did the Movie Illustrate Institutional Racism?

My husband and I watched "The Blind Side" on On-Demand movies last night. I thought it was a pretty good feel-good movie. Afterwards, my husband said to me, "That was nice of her, to adopt the young black kid, Big Mike, like she did."

I said, "I liked the movie, but it did seem a bit condescending to me. We didn't learn anything about what was going on in Michael's head, just that some white lady saved him and taught him football. I wonder how Black people felt watching this movie. You know, a white person saving a black person, relieving her White guilt. I wonder if a part of her saved him so he would go to ole Miss, like the movie said."

He responded, "Well, it was a true story. Regardless what the reason, she did save him. I wonder what would happen if all rich white people adopted a poor black kid."

I said, "Why would they do that? Black people don't need to be saved by White people. Black people should be able to help themselves. They do you know."

He said, "But they do much much poverty."

I said, "And white people don't? Come on. You know the USA has the highest drug rate in the world. Every group does drugs. Every group has poverty. Go watch Cops or Intervention for Heaven's Sake. It's all there."

At this point, we stopped the banter. We both decided I should look up info on the backstory while we watched the MSU basketball game. After the great win by MSU, we picked up our conversation again.

I shared the info on the backstory. The biggest difference between the true story and the movie was the fact that Michael was already a highly skilled football player and was named Lineman of the year before he met the family, so the part of the so-called "true story" where Momma taught Big Mike football, was NOT true. However it was true that they were Michael's foster parents (he had several during this period) and Momma took him into their home as a family member, which is a very nice thing.

Many of the reviews/comments about the movie indicated the audience was split, 50/50. About half felt like my husband did, and half (mostly minorities) felt like I did. The 50% on his side seemed rather angry that the other side even voiced a concern.

The other side (commenters) explained their perspective. One person in particular was concerned that out of all the positive minority success stories in our country, Hollywood chose this story and "it is being turned into a glittery hero story wherein the white lady saves the black boy from his destitution and we all applaud her for her white knightery."

The commenter continued: "we cannot forget the institutional racism which still exists and prevents everyone from being treated EXACTLY the same way...(same privileges, opportunities for success, same treatment...) and within the historical context of slavery and the subsequent white guilt, this means something. It means something that Hollywood considered this to be a hugely marketable story worthy of the star power of Sandra Bullock over, say, a story of a white lady adopting a white boy and changing his life."

My husband and I both sat back after reading both sides of the argument. We both had rough childhoods. We both lived in poverty. We both know many people who made wrong choices in their lives and went down the drug-ridden paths of life.

I was lucky to have both parents, hard working and focused on making a better life for their children. They insisted that all their children complete their education and obtain good jobs/careers. I remember supportive teachers. But I also remember some teachers and counselors who tried to steer me away from college saying I would wind up pregnant anyway so I should take vocational classes which would benefit me. My husband didn't have it much easier, coming from a family of divorce with very little guidance or structure.

In every social structure, there are dominant and oppressed group. The dominant group in our society are the haves, those with power, privilege and influence. The oppressed are those that live in poverty. For centuries, minorities fell within the ranks of the oppressed. Since the Civil Rights movement we have gradually seen a number of minorities break the barriers. It is difficult, however, to break through these barriers. The Civil Rights movement was only 50 years ago and racism still continues to raise its ugly head. That was the problem with the movie. It took us back 150 years.

I actually liked this movie. It is a bag of popcorn movie you cannot take too seriously nor literally. The problem however is it takes us 150 years back into our history. We applauded Miss Scarlett for helping Big Sam who was her protector, just like we applaud Momma for helping Big Mike in this movie.


ultima said...

Dee wrote, " Black people don't need to be saved by White people. Black people should be able to help themselves."


However, this seems to be a little inconsistent with the commenter's statement: "we cannot forget the institutional racism which still exists and prevents everyone from being treated EXACTLY the same way...(same privileges, opportunities for success, same treatment...)"

I look at this a little differently. The so-called institutional racism might just as well be called: homophilia which is not the hate of other races and cultures but a certain uncomfortableness with those who act or behave differently, rather than anything to do with race per se. Most people feel very comfortable with folks of all races who are their peers, educationwise and culturally -- especially with regard to manners, courtesy, respect for another person's point of view. I have nothing in common with drug dealers no matter what their race or ethnicity.

ultima said...

So how are you doing unemploymentwise? I understand benefits will come to any end soon for 200,000 unemployed because the Congress is on Spring break and didn't deal with this matter before they left town.

Dee said...

I am glad we agree that all groups, all individuals, should help themselves and not expect other ethnicities to adopt them.

I've been thinking a lot about the 2nd issue: the privileged vs the oppressed.

You might call it homophilia. I agree that people feel more comfortable around people like themselves. (e.g. Tony Soprano at Bada Bing) Where this is not ok is where it excludes opportunity or access purely based on race/ethnicity.

Example: I remember an incident back in my hometown about thirty years ago. A rich, well-known, prominent black businessman sued a local, all-white country club for not allowing him membership. The man was a local city councilman. He took the case to court.

The whole city was divided, talking in whispers about the case. I remember my husband talking about the case. He asked "Why should he even want to go where he's not wanted." Indicating the councilman was above going to a place he wasn't wanted. I argued that he was opening doors for the next guy. He had to fight the fight. Otherwise those doors would always be closed.

And don't say this is ancient history. Remember Tiger Woods has gone through several of these type of incidents. Example: Fuzzy Zoeller, after Tiger's first Master's win, saying the "Boy" should be taken to a Chicken and Collard Greens dinner?

Whether you are different in race, ethnicity, or income level, I think it is important doors be open to all. These doors mean access. They mean income. They are stepping stones to upwardly changing your status.

Dee said...

Regarding employment, I have my pension and contracting job. I don't know how long the contracting job will last, but I will find another when it does end.

Regarding my husband. It hasn't been so easy for him. He is still looking.

However we both realize that AGE is a big factor for both of us. We aren't spring chickens any more. If I were an employer, I'd much rather hire the 30 year old vs the 55+ person. I get it. I don't blame them.

I think our issues are replicated across America and those impacted most by the economy are the 50+ people impacted by outsourcing. The young, strong people can find a job anywhere which will sustain them until the next opportunity. I see plenty of those jobs everywhere.

MMPete said...

Of course there is still racism among us but it isn't just white people this time around.

There is no sense in using isolated incidents of racism today and try to claim that things are just like they were 30-50 years ago because they are not.

Minorities have had AA at their disposal for some time now. Time to lay down the victimhood hat and move on.

Anon-az said...

Dare I mention 'white Liberal guilt'?

It is a condition where some 'white' people feel guilty for being more successful or just having more.

So, they try and deal with this guilt be helping 'minorities' get a step up.

It's racist.

If you helping 'poor black people' as opposed to helping 'poor people' you have decided to help those based on race instead of an actual economic need.

Maybe I'm just weird....

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