Anti-Racism, Deconstructed

Story of the Grateful Negro

Who doesn’t like the age old narrative where good triumphs over evil?

It reminds us of how the world should be and eases the daily injustices we all have to face.

In that vein there’s a You Tube Video making the global rounds called “Stop Racism”:

On first glance it’s the world made right for a moment as a Grande Dame receives her new-world diversity comeuppance as we approvingly look on.

Second Glance

Under the guise of anti-racism the video presents at least four stereotyping themes:

Black and White

Young and Old

Male and Female

Masculine and Feminine

Economic class is also a subtext as the Grande Dame appears to be “well-to-do” if frugal.

An older woman serves the role of bigot perhaps to provide the element of surprise necessary to grab our attention though her actions and demeanor imply power and a sense of right.

How would it play out if the roles were changed up?

What if the young  black man was instead an older black woman and the bigot was a young white man?

Too predictable?


Black Power: Not Here

Are older (white) people threatened by young (black) males?

Not by our fellow.  He is every bit the student just off the train from Cambridge:  sweatered, bespectacled, quiet, and with book in hand.

It’s as if in order to be sympathetic or worthy of “mercy” he must be shorn of every vestige of masculinity and modernity so that he is non-threatening in the eyes of the dominant (white) culture.

Black men who read books are OK.

They even get moved to the front of the airplane!



In our age, presenting a young man, especially a black, as such a consciously emasculated and submissive figure as the one in the video is nearly as racist an action as the words  of his bigoted seatmate.

The “humble negro” is rescued by a young white woman who also implies authority as she deals directly with the “man” (see: captain) who can make things happen.

The video fails to move the race ball down the field because it chooses to present the apparent victim of racism as a benign, wholly unchallenging and therefore nonthreatening figure.

As presented he is an unequal player in his own drama, an implicit racist convention.

In fact, he sits quietly by as he is “dissed” by his elderly seat mate.

(Would you raise a child to sit by and not proportionately and politely defend themselves in such a situation?)

Yet with nearly three million views, the video purports to advance the principles of equality though in a way entirely acceptable to the dominant culture: a stereotype of the non-threatening black male.

It ignores race in the context of modern culture and its symbols which define our perceptions of (and reactions to) others.

Next time you are out and about, anywhere, scan the crowd for young males of any ethnicity and note the nearly ubiquitous presence of the accoutrements of Hip Hop culture.

They are so “main streamed” as to pass virtually unnoticed: Beats Audio headphones, sagging jeans, casual wear basketball shoes, flat-billed baseball caps, hoodies, bling ear studs, etc.

The true cause of contemporary racial equality would have been furthered by a ripped young male with dreads, hoody and dime-size ear studs who, when he got up to move, uttered (at least) a polite line of “Excuse me and I wish you a most pleasant flight” in impeccable Oxford English.

He would have made us really think, if just for a second or two, about our own perceptions of youth, power, race and culture.


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