Thursday, March 09, 2006

Black and White.

Last night I watched that "30 days" show again and it was about a white family being transformed into a black family and a black family being transformed into white family. They then go out into society and see what it feels like to be the other race.

It was interesting. The white guy kept insisting that as long has one was polite and nice, it didn't matter what skin color one was. He said on his first day of being black that he was treated no differently. (He went to a car dealership and to a clothing store) He kept insisting it so much that the black guy started to get ticked off. I started to get a bit irritated myself. The white guy had a point about attitude being a part of it and about seeing prejudice where there is none, but there is no doubt that prejudice still exists. For example, The black guy, disguised as white, takes a job as a bartender in a bar in a local neighborhood. He asks a white guy sitting at the bar what the neighborhood is like. The guy tells him it's a great neighborhood. One of the last "white" neighborhoods around the area, a place where it was actually safe to raise your kids.

Pretty appalling.

The black woman, disguised as a white woman, sits in on an all white discussion on race. One guy admits that when he shakes hands with a black person his first reaction is to wipe his hand. He says he doesn't like to feel that way, but he does. Imagine how that made the black woman feel.

I think the show illustrated how both sides don't see what the other side sees. Not to make excuses for the guy at the bar, but how is it different to say that a white neighborhood is safer when the black man admits the crime problem in black neighborhoods?

Another thing I felt strange about was when the black guy said that while he was working as a white guy he had to "articulate more" or as he said "talk white." Why should speaking well be a white thing??? Later they show his son disguised as white with the white girl saying he wasn't going to change his speech patterns. "You can't watch your slang?" asks the girl. "I gotta be who I am," he replies. He already believes that using black slang is "who he is." I don't think using proper english should be considered a "white thing," do you?

I chaperoned a dance recently where another mother was discussing how glad she was that there weren't many blacks at the school. I said, "how can you say such a thing?" She rolled her eyes, "I'm just being honest. With them comes drugs, crime, and godawful music." I just walked away.

I realize that high crime and high illegitimacy rates in black neighborhoods have garnered this kind of thinking. But is that fair to the many blacks who are successful? Honestly I think that with many of us, both white and black, we don't know how to react to each other, so we avoid each other. We certainly avoid any discussion of race. It's too easy to make waves. It's too easy to offend. Many white people feel they can't speak out against the crime and illegitimacy without sounding racist. Many black people feel they can't speak out against it or they will be called an "Uncle Tom." Recently Spike Lee slammed Condi Rice. What does it say to young black people to have someone they admire, like Spike Lee, slam an incredibly intelligent successful black woman? And then to have the rap song "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" win an oscar? Talk about a mixed up message!

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of "Black and White." So far, it just seems that neither side understands the other, which may just be the way it really is.