Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Art Reflects Life

My hometown is still hurting.

Sure, the news people have mostly moved on, and we seamlessly hosted the NBA All-Star game with all its ghetto glamour, but things really ain't sweet down here. Besides the massive rebuilding efforts we're still undertaking from that federal fuck-up known as Katrina, we've got rampant violent crime, ridiculously corrupt politicians and a brand-new homeless city beneath our main interstate.

Things are kinda hard in the Big Easy.

Now, I personally can't complain too vociferously about life down here because I'm healthy, my family is prospering and the storm actually brought some amazing blessings into my life. But, for a lot of people things have only gotten worse since Katrina, and those huge smiles that used to be a New Orleans tradition like snowballs and bared boobies, are becoming more and more scarce. Folks are getting tired, and the fatigue is wearing on their ability to "let the good times roll."

Just like many solidiers in Iraq, I think many people feel like the world has forgotten about what happened to New Orleans. When floodwaters turned American citizens into refugees you couldn't go 50 feet in this city without bumping into a television personality. But, now that there aren't false stories of child rape and elder abuse to report, New Orleans news isn't sexy anymore.

I was reminded of how quickly people's sympathies dry up when I read an article recently about the Sundance film festival. Seems that there was an amazing documentary about some Katrina victims at the festival that captivated audiences and even won an award. However, despite that success and glowing review in the New York Times, the film is still struggling to find a distributor. Now, that's probably due to a variety of problems, but according to a rumor floating around the festival at least one of those problems is related to race.

Negroes apparently don't do well in indies.

You know, for years black people have claimed that the racist out in the open is preferable to the one skulking in the bushes. We figure that it's easier to protect ourselves from the bigots who spit in our faces than the ones who shake our hands and call us "bro."

Truthfully, it's hard not to have a certain respect for someone who will say that they think you ain't shit, and then deal with the fallout without whining.

Unfortunately, after enough white folks caught ass-whippings or retaliation because of their bold racism, they realized it was much easier to hide their true feelings behind a facade of respect. In fact, most black folks will tell you that it's the white folks who love to tell you how "liberal" and "open-minded" they are that should be watched the closest.

The anecdote in that Sundance story reminded me of how dangerous it is to believe that everybody touched by prejudice drives a pickup truck with a Confederate flag license plate. The simple truth is that most white people are uncomfortable or uninterested when they don't see their realities or fantasies represented. Now, black people have the same preference, (How else do you explain Tyler Perry's success?) but I would argue that we've had to learn how to make due without getting what we want a lot longer.

In fact, the thing that bothers me the most is not that this movie is struggling to find an audience, but that so many white folks would prefer to blame those struggles on anything but their own bias. Look, it's ok to be biased, in fact it's perfectly human.

Contrary to the popular myth, driving a Prius does not provide an innoculation against bigotry. Just like the rest of us, liberal white folks notice skin color and make decisions based on it.

In fact, I know many of them feel bad that folks in New Orleans have had a rough time, but they just don't feel an emotional attachment to folks of a darker hue. It's hard to get worked up about injustice that involves folks you might cross the street to avoid late at night.

There are better ways to spend $10 and three hours in the dark.

(Sidenote: Looks like even Jay-Z can't avoid this problem.


Big Man said...

Just cause I hate that goose egg.

Deacon Blue said...

I had been trying to think of something deep and pithy to say earlier, but I really couldn't think of a thing to add. But I know what you mean about the goose a lot of them around my blog lately, too. Visitors but not many comments lately.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about the film. But whenever positive black films come out they never seem to do well at the box office. Black people don't support positive black films, in large #s. Compare American Gangster's performance to Great Debaters performance.

Raving Black Lunatic