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 email@example.com and I'll put those books in the mail. Thanks to everyone who posted. Stay tuned for more giveaways this summer.