Monday, June 08, 2009

Blackface vs Whiteface

Happy Monday Meltingpot Readers,

Once again I spent my weekend watching a video that I thought was fairly recent, only to find out it was released in 2006. Oops. It's that library thing again.

Actually, it wasn't a movie I watched, it was a television seriesthat appeared on the FX network. The series was called Black.White. and it featured two families, one Black and one White who were transformed through the magic of make-up to look like the opposite race. The Black family became White and the White family became Black. Oh, and through the course of this five-week racial experiment, the two families were forced to live together in the same house to try to help each other navigate the opposite culture.

I actually enjoyed the first six episodes as the families began to try out their new identities and are placed in different environments to see how the "other half" lives. I have to admit the "special effects" of transforming Black to White and vice versa were pretty cool. But then I got frustrated with the show and actually had to fast forward through several scenes because the family members, both the Black ones and the White ones, seemed so one dimensional and stereotypical themselves, I couldn't take it. Where, I began to wonder, did they find these racial guinea pigs?

My biggest beef with the whole set up is that the producers chose such stereotypical "Black" situations to throw the White people into as if poor Black teens who come from broken homes and Black men smoking weed and playing dominoes are representative of THE Black experience in America. Which of course made the middle class White people conclude that 'Gee, Black people are really different and no wonder they're so angry and I guess we'll never, ever really be able to have find common ground.'

Considering the rapper/actor Ice-Cube was one of the producers, I'm particularly disappointed with the show, because he's a pretty smart and savvy dude with a lot of great ideas and initiatives to tackle racial issues. Of course, as producer he was probably more instead in gripping television drama than true learning, so what are you going to do? (sigh)

Be that as it may, I still enjoyed many parts of the experience and think it could make an excellent teaching tool for high school and college educators who want to dissect race and identity with their students. And the video does come with a discussion guide.

I'm curious if anybody else out there watched this series and what they thought about it. Also, if anyone has heard any follow up about where the families are now, I'd love to hear it. Please share.


And speaking of sharing. The winners of the two autographed copies of Kinky Gazpacho in paperback are: Arienne and Beth. Ladies please send me your mailing address to and I'll put those books in the mail. Thanks to everyone who posted. Stay tuned for more giveaways this summer.



Ola said...

I remember this show. I can't believe it was just in 2006. I was initially excited about it but I stopped watching it after about 3 episodes (because I got annoyed for some of the same reasons you mentioned). I remember wanting to tune back in for the "debriefing" at the end but completely missed it. I also feel like they were on Oprah, but that could have just been my imagination.

Now I’m very curious to see how it all ended.

Professor Tharps said...


Not to ruin it, but the ending was a bit anti-climactic. And after scrolling around on the internet, I believe I read they were on Oprah too.

There was def. potential in the show. Dare we hope for Black.White. II: Blacker & Whiter?

currentsbtwshores said...

Oh dear. I missed this but it sounds like it had the potential to be about as challenging and substantive as a Facebook ethnicity quiz!

Lady Kinnks said...

I enjoyed this show at first and too grew tired of the one-dimensional families. I really liked the little White girl. She was probably my favorite character--she dared/and enjoyed being outside 'the box'. I also felt like Ice Cube went out his way to make the White folks look bad. I mostly remember a large part of one episode about how dirty the White family was breaking eggs and putting the shell back into the carton-back into the fridge. Wow we really are different, Black mom kept saying. Black mom did not look White at all! Thanks for sharing :)

Professor Tharps said...


Lady Kinnks,
Not to squelch your love for the little White girl, b/c I liked her the best too, but I've been reading that she's an actress and used the show to get her big break and hasn't kept in touch with any of her real Black friends.

Don't know if that's true or not, but (sigh) it doesn't sound too far fetched.