I wrote this after seeing The Butler….
AUGUST 24, 2013 1:54PM
Conversations with my Mother on The Butler
“The part that really made me angry was in the cotton field. We had to pick cotton when I was a girl and it was horrible. And things like that happened …..” I could hear the tears in my mothers voice over the phone as I listened. ” It’s just we had to say “yes maam and no sir” to all those white people and the white kids who were our age just called our parents by their first names! It just made you feel angry, but you couldn’t say and all that hate could just build up in you. I’m just so happy that I found the Truth (her religion) and that you (meaning my siblings and I) did not have to deal with all that.”
My Mom and Dad who are in their late 70’s and early 80’s went to see the movie The Butler yesterday. “I told your father..we are on a date!” My Mom laughed, “We got candy and popcorn it was really nice. And that story, we could relate to it! The relationship between the father and the son… your father and I were both in tears during different parts of that movie.”
I went to see The Butler on Opening day with my boyfriend. The movie got to both of us. For me I cried a bunch but I cried tears of joy at the end because these are the kinds of stories that need to be told and that I wanted to tell when I was acting full time.
Now, these stories are being told, truthfully and it’s fantastic.
You see, racism has developed it’s own kind of diversity. In the past it was pretty basic. In the South there was blatant segregation, Whites only and Blacks only, a clear division. In the North there were no “signs” to divide by race but the segregation was still there in a more subtle tone.
Racsim has evolved in this 21st century while keeping it’s blatant roots in ignorance. It’s become savvy stating things like,” Oh we have a black president so racism is over we don’t need a voting rights bill.” While southern states work to change voting laws to prevent as many people of color from voting as possible.
We have white people proudly saying they are “colorblind” and “my best friend is black” or “my husband is black” or “I grew up with black people I know…” while not even realizing how what they are saying is connected to their own issues and ignorance regarding race.
One of the things I loved about The Butler was the complexity of the relationships connected to race. You had white characters who did awful things to black characters then turned around and did something to help another black character while still operating in a totally racist system. The movie’s focus was from the perspective of the Black characters with no great white “savior”which was a perspective that is not usually shown in Hollywood.
The movie showed our humanity when it comes to race.
I’ve always said that we in this country need to begin the conversation about race to heal the scars from slavery. 150 years since emancipation of the slaves 110 of those years we had Jim Crow in the South and subtle segregation in the North and West.
In my opinion some white people today do not want to talk about race because they do not want to address the fact that we in America today are living with a caste system and White people, because of the color of their skin, are at the top of the caste.
For example in the Yoga and spiritual communities here in NYC, many studios speak of oneness and unity yet happily segregate themselves and tier their practices to appeal to wealthy white people. Just think about it, how many of you have actually taken a yoga class from a Yoga teacher who is from India? Or even an American who is of Indian heritage?
I’ve known 3 in over 17 years of practicing yoga.
The most exciting thing about this time is that we have the internet and social media, blogs, television, facebook, twitter, film and we are able to engage with hundreds of thousands of people to discuss issues, hold debates argue and have this difficult conversation about race. I strongly believe that being able to have honest discussions about injustice is how we heal the wounds of slavery.
The first step to healing is feeling the pain and recognizing that there is a trauma instead of ignoring it, pretending it doesn’t exist, trying to explain or justify it or cover it up.
It seems that in America we want the simple answer to complex situations and it always causes huge dysfunction. Think about the food industry. Many practices in the farm and food industry that were done to make food prep easire in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are causing diabetes, obesity and cancer today.
It seems like America wants a simple answers to communicaing and dealing with racial bias and class issues in the US but there are no short cuts to this stuff.
Then the hard stuff begins…recovery. And it’s not just a “Black thing” this is an AMERICAN issue.
A friend of mine shared this piece with me it’s called “One Easy Thing All White People Could Do That Would Make The World A Better Place” on upworthy.com
I share with you .
Let’s start our collective recovery process, together.