BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Color of Freedom

Another quick movie review:
Color of Freedom is about the apartheid in South Africa. It follows a white prison warden and his family as they struggle as to overcome their prejudices to ultimately reach a new enlightenment and save the day.

Oh yeah and Nelson Mandela is in it too.

Typical, huh?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Black Hawk Down

Though Black Hawk Down was released in 2001, I am only just now getting around to watching it for the first time. What an ugly movie. Columbus has a high Somali population and apparently they aren't entirely welcome here. I wondered where the nasty stereotypes were coming from. I don't wonder anymore. As popular as this movie was, I am sure it contributed.

For a small taste of some of the issues on cinematic portrayal of the "other," check out the trailer for the movie. Note how "exotic" music and dark color is used to signify the "other" aka the 'enemy' aka crowds of angry/poor black people (notice how the music changes when the American soldiers appear). The whole movie is a mess of poor judgment ranging from the subtle to the blatant.

Maybe this leads into a post soon about how the media treats Africa...or maybe I will just direct you here for starters. I am going to bed.

See Also:
Color of Freedom
Freedom Writers
Ballet Requiem

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Katelin in China

Imagine, if you will, you are an exchange student living in China for a semester. You are attending classes there and you are one of ten white kids enrolled in the school. You walk through the hall. Look at the all people around you. What do you see? What do you feel? Maybe a couple of kids stare at you. Maybe a lot of kids stare at you? Maybe they avert their gazes and don’t make eye contact. Do you feel like initiating a conversation with them?

You are new to the school, so you get lost and are late to your first class. The professor rolls his eyes when he sees you appear and a student in the back makes a comment about Yankees not being able to tell time.

The class period is spent talking about Chinese musical technique and how superior it is to that of Western countries. You remind yourself of all the superb musicians you know back home, but feel a little less confident in your own abilities. One kids piped up "yeah...I mean, if Americans were such good musicians, there would be more of them in the music honors classes here!"

Every head in the room turns to you. They want to know what you will say, how you will react, if you will lash out in anger or get on a soap box. The teacher asks you “what do you Americans think about these issues?” Like you can speak for the whole country.

You want to reminded them that there are only ten American kids in the whole school, that six of them ARE in the honors classes. But the discussion moves on before you can fully articulate your arguments.  Do you feel like raising your hand to answer any more of the teachers questions? Do you feel you will have the motivation and confidence to do well on the upcoming exam? Do you feel it will be graded fairly?

Saved by the bell, you find your way to the cafeteria. There, across the room you see two kids sitting a table wearing jeans and t-shirts. The one in the Reds baseball cap is speaking English in stead of Chinese. You feel some relief at seeing them. You sit with them for lunch that day, and the day after that too. You are there in your island of safety in a sea of potential hostility.

After school you go home and plop on the couch to relax in front of the TV. You turn to a sit com. It shows a happy Chinese family and their daily life as normal Chinese citizens. They have this goofy American cowboy neighbor that is always good for a laugh.  During the commercial break, there is an ad for a new toy showing happy Chinese parents and their happy Chinese son.

Next, an add for shampoo “to bring out your deep black natural color and emphasize straight beautiful hair.” Your hair is blonde and curly. The next commercial finally has white people in it. They are advertising good old American pie, but the actors on the screen are dressed in overalls and say things like “aint that there a mighty fine piece o’ pie.” Who actually talks like that?

You turn off the TV and take a walk outside. Not too far down the road, a complete stranger stops you. “Your nose is humongous!” what? She pauses, and tries again in a way that you might understand better:
"aint that there a mighty fine schnoz." She wants to touch it. She gets offended when you don’t want her to: “I was just appreciating your heritage.” And even though you think the lady might have meant it as a complement you can’t help wishing you could hide behind a scarf. 

Now imagine you're not in China. Imagine you are in your own country, where you were born and raised. That country has a history of institutionalizing racism, and you get the short end of it. This isn't vacation, this is home. This is everyday.

This post isn't trying to rag on China, in fact most of my time there was wonderful and I was welcomed and treated well. But those moments when you are reminded of how different others think you are can become exhausting. All the rules seem tailored for someone else and you feel out of place.

I have never had to know what it is like on a daily basis to live in a system of discrimination. A short trip isn't that big of a deal when you know you can retreat back to your comfy white American middle class home at the end.

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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