The Ankhesen Mié Lexicon, Volume II

The Avatar Defense

When James Cameron unleashed Avatar upon the world and people of all skintones denounced it, the popular reply was, "It's just a movie--who cares?  It's got great special effects."

This is arrogant racism, and yes, this precise scenario has played out with other films before.  This is derailing in its rawest, most shameless form.  The people who analyzed Avatar did so intelligently; they voiced valid concerns, they provided references, comparisons, and overall in-depth critiques.  To tell all these people to ignore the healthy, self-examinatory, communicative dialogue they were having with themselves and others is a perfect example of the preservation of racism.

The Double Whammy (a.k.a., "Getting Hit Twice")

This occurs when someone of your skintone casually strolls up to you and starts "sharing" racist jokes/commentary in general with you about people who are most definitely not you.

First Whammy: Congrats, you're a victim of racism.

Why?  That person took one look at your skin and assumed they knew everything about you.  Now, POC already understand all this, so for the example, let's say you're a white guy and another white guy you don't know too well comes over to say howdy at work or in a bar, and somehow seques from hello to bitching about "nappy-headed Negroes."  This means Other White Guy is so comfortable with the idea of white solidarity that it never even occurred to him that you might have a black wife and some mixed kids at home.  It didn't even cross his mind that maybe--just maybe--you're not even into racist jokes.  Even worse, this person is invoking Same-Color Privilege, which means as a fellow wearer of your skintone, they're automatically expecting you to not correct, chastise, or contradict them in any way.  So much that when you do, it often ends unpleasantly.

Second Whammy: This person has also just called you a racist.  So Other White Guy comes over to bitch about black people, and he's--again--assuming you hate them too, in all the same ways that he does, and is basically trying to make you an "accomplice" in preserving racism amongst members of your skintone.

Tips to Combat the Double Whammy: Make members of your skintone feel "unsafe" about speaking such nonsense aloud.  Call them out on it every time.  Let them know you've offended them, and let them know that if you catch them continuing such behavior in the workplace, for example, you'll notify a superior.  Why's it important to rat these assholes out?  1) Because contrary to popular myth, they actually don't have a right to behave in that manner, or treat you that way, nor dishonor and misrepresent your skintone, and 2) because they're the ones who are likely to get your company bitch-slapped with a costly lawsuit some day, no doubt resulting the laying off of multiple unsuspecting employees.

(The Double Whammy also happens with jokes/commentary on homosexuals, women, people with disabilities, etc.,...just FYI.)

The Princess & Frog Defense

In many ways, it's very similar to the "Avatar Defense" in that has the "Who cares?" response when a person brings up a critical note about race in a film.  The crucial difference here, though, is that the most common defense for the inaccurate portrayal of race relations in The Princess and the Frog is that children are too young to learn about race.  Of course, the children in question here are always white.  Children of color don't have a choice.  They're going to experience racism whether they want to or not, whether they understand it or not, or whether they're prepared for it or not.  It's waiting for them on the playgrounds, in their schools, and in their daycares.  For a parent of color to withhold information about race from their child is akin to serving a lamb up for slaughter.

For white parents, withholding [accurate] information is to avoid having your child give you accusing looks and lose respect for some questionable statements or decisions you may have made.  Not talking to your kids about race doesn't magically make it go away.  Deliberately raising your children in all-white communities does not do them any favors.  Even more importantly, you're doing your children a gross disservice because as adults, they will have a harder time talking to and understanding people of color--people they'll be going to school with, working jobs with, and trying to go out with.  So while they may have learned from you that people "just don't talk about race", they're in for one hell of an awakening.

Happy Montage Thinking

This is delusional racism.  Whenever a person [read: white] goes on a tangent about how "colorblind" they are, how they believe racism is "dying out on its own" (or even go so far as to say it's already dead), or that people just need to have more mixed babies and everything will be okay, you can practically hear the sappy music playing in their heads as they envision a peaceful, post-racial world.  They've skipped to the end of the movie, to the wordless montage in the sugary sweet epilogue which screams, "And they all lived happily ever after."

People [read: white] often indulge the Happy Montage because they don't want to talk about the darker part of the film (accidental pun...keeping it!).  They don't want to discuss racism as it is right now.  They don't want to examine their role in its perpetuation.  They don't want to look at their families and communities with a more critical eye.  They just want to skip to the happy ending--which they will not see in their own lifetimes, by the way--while not actually doing anything to bring it about.  In essence, they're basically sitting back and letting everyone else--including other white folks--do the all heavy lifting.

Universal Desirability

The idea that the white (and usually Aryan) aesthetic is only valid aesthetic, and that everyone should defer to it.  If you don't, then "something" must be wrong with you.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed your insight, want to read you books. And it's a handsome page.

    The Boycott issue-- hope you're beginning by tweeting and writing actors, directors, and screenwriters of color. I agree we have to be open about why certain images disturb us. But we also to SHOW UP for those movies which contain images that as my friend Lucille says--delight us and inspire us. And to be honest: I don't want to watch this movie because I'm tired of films too eager to show me men of color beating the heck out of their black wives as the ONLY depiction of women of color overcoming adversity. There are in our culture women joined with loving men, who face adversity from out side their home.

    As to the Disney Cartoon, I couldn't find the Frog and Prince discussion detailing the instances in the movie where the "Princess" spends most of the movie as a frog-which would have interested me. (As opposed to the Beast in Beauty and spending most of the movie as a Beast) But yes, I expect to actually see a lot of the young Princess, as a princess interacting with the Prince in the film.

    However, on the discussion page you linked too there was much discussion about the Prince's skintone. What merit is there in complaining about the lack of melanin in the Prince's complexion, as this IS an American story? I know how fair some of my ancestors were in that time period. Why should the love stories of fair complexioned people of color be Ignored? Though yes, probably a great deal of them where, not every white man who fathered a child with a black woman was a slave master rapist, and not all of the children of these unions were female. What a wise man of color replied to the White racist fear of black men marrying their daughters, we black women can say also: White folks, we've been marrying your sons for years!

    My question to Disney would be, as you (Disney) wanted to produce a film about a African Princess, why not choose one of the many warrior queens/princesses of the black African nations?
    The first Chinese herione,Mulan, is based on a true story of a Chinese warrior, so there is precident for a African Warrior princess--with a fine African Warrior Prince or king at her side.

    I don't play into the dark skin/light skin argument I found at the link AT ALL. I have a multi-ethnic heritage and so do my grandchildren. Now, if in this film, I discover that all the darker complexioned persons are characterized as bullies, sweet, strong but dull witted, or comic relief then yeah-- lets flood Disney with letters and pickets signs. I would love to see a big, strong, man African man portrayed like the big strong African men I know: romantic, intelligent, refined, kind, discerning. However, debating the merits of Complexion among people of color is a self-hating debate if ever there was one. What next, in order to qualify as Black Americans will someone hold a paper bag to our faces, and if we're not darker than the paper bag, then we're not black enough to represent? Lets not go backwards. The film takes place in New Orleans, where we would expect to find a Portuguese Creole nobleman romancing a woman of color. And because of "Katrina"-- yeah I know, that old song __ they wanted children to celebrate the complex culture of the area.

    But again, if this is a story about a Black Princess why doesn't the action take place in Benin, or Ghana, or Angola, or Mali, or Cush, Or Egypt, or Carthage?

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  2. I really enjoy reading your lexicon. I read part one as well when I was playing catch-up. I hope you're doing well, Ankhesen Mié.

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  3. In Beauty and the Beast, I believe the original story states he was a beast. Princess and the Frog...I don't remember that.

    But that's not even what bugs me. I'm more perturbed with the bullshit notion that "kids are too young to learn about race."

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  4. Thanks for this post. It is crucial for us to point out racism whenever and wherever we see it. I have done so at work before, and I'm not afraid to again.

    I recently wrote a little article mentioning the whole "colorblind" issue, if you have time I thought you might like to read it:

    http://cchronicle.com/2010/03/will-you-enter-your-race-on-the-u-s-census/

    I think it's dangerous for us to raise our children to be colorblind, because it's teaching them to deny racism still exists.

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  5. Thank you all for stopping by. I'm grateful for the additional insights.

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