Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Maybe it's because I just had to re-read U.B. Phillips's "The Plantation as a Civilizing Factor" in which he encouraged a return to and reliance on the plantation system to keep black people from "sliding into barbarism"--on the plantation, they'd come into contact with the good white folk. He couched it in the terms popular during the Progressive Era in which he wrote--the plantation was like a "social settlement" in which the white planter and his family acted as guidance and examples.

Or maybe it's because Mark Krikorian's assessment that Haiti wasn't colonized long enough is still ringing in my ears eyes...

But, having seen Avatar and Blindside nominated for best picture Oscars...*

And, having read about the folk who were trying to smuggle children out of Haiti and set up an orphanage with said children, some of whom were not orphans...

My first thought was, "Goodness! How do white people, with that heavy burden and all, have time to do anything else?!"
*My co-worker/friend talked me into seeing Avatar this weekend. She's a sci-fi fan and wanted to see the images and such. I think our jaws remained on the floor 97.3% of the time until she finally said, "Really, elle, don't listen to the words, don't think about the plot. Let's just wait for the fight." I have not seen Blindside. I have, however, seen multitudes of "Captain Save-A-Negro" movies which, I would argue, qualifies me to speak :-)


Anonymous said...

Speaking just for myself — a white person who's also had to read U.B. Phillips lately ("The Central Theme of Southern History") — On the one hand I wonder if I could have stood the test of not having been born white. On the other, I feel sometimes like the lazy Magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians, a selfish man who muddles his way into defiance of the empire he serves. Speaking of burdens, Coetzee makes the Magistrate want "to live outside the history that the empire imposes on its subjects, even its lost subjects." I can relate.

The times I've been stupid about race are uncountable, and the times I remember are no fun to recall. White Americans, especially men, are socialized to assume that all the world is just waiting to hear from us on every topic. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that it ain't about me, and listening silence is often the best thing I have to offer.

So enough about me.

The single most striking detail, to me, in Avatar, was those braids that linked the Navi to animals, ancestors, and "nature." "Ecological Indians" with a plug-and-play interface. Bizarre.

Pop culture writers will be picking it all apart for years. I think it's a mistake to treat a film like this as if it arose organically from "the culture," as some movie writers do. I suppose we'll get some of that, though, mainly because it's such a commercial success.

summer of sam said...

quick question, since you're the sistorian. is it me, or is all this crazy race stuff happening starting to make the obama era look like reconstruction-lite?

elle said...

@alarob thank you for commenting! The Navi as "ecological Indians" mm-hmm. Then, they're aware of the plug and play nature of jake, grace, and norm and still put all that time and effort in Jake and trust him--I didn't understand that from the beginning along with so many other things.


Hmm. Black people perceived as having greater political power (through the figure of Obama).

White people, especially white southerners, freak and began to clamor for "home rule" and talk of "taking the government back."

They spend much time pointing out why black leadership is unfit, unamerican, and unchristian.

They are determined to do all they can to undermine the government and cling steadfastly to the idea that (federal) government is the problem.

Yep, you're on to something. They're no doubt waiting to get rid of "black rule" then produce generations of books and films talking about how horrible and unfair it was and how noble them restored order and home rule.

elle said...

Lord, and I didn't even mention the day-to-day encounters with angry, entitled white people that are leaving this black person exhausted.

Moira said...

I wish I could be surprised that The Blind Side was getting award noms for Sandra Bullock. It's exactly the sort of movie--emotionally manipulative, easily digested, nearly unrecognizable from the real events it's inspired by, and for the consumption of white folks without making us feel the least bit uncomfortable about our role in how race affects people--that gets nominated. Of course they had to rewrite the story such that Michael Oher was ignorant of football so the Nice White Lady could educate him but eh, details.

Anonymous said...

Summer's remark makes me think of another angle on the politics. Thomas Frank of The Baffler remarked that the right in the U.S. is all about government failure. When they’re out of power, they preach it. When they’re in power, they deliver it.

After decades of having this message (“government is the problem”) hammered into our eyes and ears, white folks (in particular) can no longer even imagine what a well-governed republic might be like. Older whites can still be persuaded that such a republic existed in Olden Days, when this was still, you know, a white man’s country. But for younger whites who are less willing to accept the old race card, there’s still the drumbeat of resentment of government, and paranoia about change. So it actually makes sense that Obama got into power because of a conspiracy to control our lives and tax us all into submissive poverty.

The end goal, I think, is to reduce the U.S. citizenry to a peasantry, convinced that all change is bad, and reliant on elite authority for some measure of security against dearth and danger. So we are schooled that representative institutions like Congress and the White House always fail, but the heroes of the military (and figures like Jack Bauer) keep us safe from bad foreign cowards. Meanwhile the police keep us safe from each other, 'cos there’s a serial killer lurking on every street. You wouldn’t want to knock on that neighbor’s door, or you might end up chained in the basement awaiting a slow, painful death.

As capital and assets flee the U.S. for more lucrative homes abroad, it's important to make the American people more accepting of their fate as a future low-cost labor market. They must not have confidence in themselves or each other. They can think whatever they like, as long as they don’t act on it.

What gives me hope is that the people who scheme this way are fallible and suspicious of one another, i.e., only human. There are no Illuminati or Bilderbergers running the world, and if there were, they would screw up frequently. Our would-be rulers can’t read the future any better than we can, and they are in for surprises.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...