Saturday, March 02, 2013
Quvenzhané and the Wild Beast of White Privilege
I truly appreciate all of the people of color who've spoken out against the disgusting, racist, sexualizing of Quvenzhané Wallis. Tonight I watched "Beasts of the Wild". I was so proud to see this gorgeous brown/bronze black girl radiating a soul so bright that no one could deny her brilliance. This little gem who shares my hometown and culture(s) lifted my spirits. The other characters also reminded me of my roots...the accents, the names, the blend of Indigenous American, African, and French heritage expressed by their DNA. Even the poverty it depicted filled me with a sense of pride. That might sound bizarre, but it's OUR particular meld of decay and neglect and it can't be found anywhere else. So, it's also precious to me. All of it feels like "home".
Seeing Quvenzhané in the movie made these insults sting even more. I'm so furious that the forces and defenders of white privilege won't even let this one brilliant little black child experience a sense of dignity and strength without making sure she knows she will always be available to any white man who wants her, in any way that he wants her. It makes me feel really embarrassed and impotent, because I'm a woman who was once a little girl from New Orleans who grew up with white men who made sure I understood the same thing but I couldn't prevent it or shield her from it any more than I was able to shield my own child from it.
I realized that these "jokes" weren't just meant for Quvenzhané. They were meant to send a message to all people of color. They mean to degrade us by inducing feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. They behave as if we don't even have a right to our anger. Even the (mostly self-appointed) white allies push/demand this "benefit of the doubt" that we are supposed to extend to any white man who they are unwilling to confront or defy. It's not even a surprise anymore to see them grow indignant at the very idea that they should want to disassociate and withdraw support for their treasured institutions (e.g. hipster satirical "news" sources, Hollywood).
This shit repeats itself so often that people of color barely have time to recover from one disgusting episode to the next. I feel as if there's a certain amount of spiritual fatigue that we also have to manage like some chronic syndrome left over from the other diseases they've used to cull us into a more manageable state. When I feel as if I don't have enough words or energy to express my revulsion about a particular episode, it helps to see someone else giving it the warranted attention. When that person faces exhaustion from beating back the scourge of white privilege, my hope is that I can replace them on the front line.