Race Exists (Whether You Acknowledge It or Not)


Dear White friends,

I know you want to live in a utopia where race doesn’t matter. Every time the discussion comes up, you say, “Well, I don’t see color.” When there’s a riot or a speech by some activist, you decry them as the racist. “You’re the one bringing it up, making it all about race.” You sincerely believe that if we just stop labeling, accusing, or thinking about the topic, it will go away.

Well, you’re wrong. Race exists, and is important, whether you like it or not.

At the very least, it’s a factor that makes someone different. Maybe it’s physical, like someone who is left-handed, short, or deaf. You don’t ignore these aspects when you know someone, so why would you ignore their race? Maybe it doesn’t come up all the time, or it’s the butt of friendly jokes, or it’s a serious part of their lives. Yet it exists and people have to acknowledge it. You don’t ask your short friend to get something off the shelf or tell someone deaf to go to concerts; why would you tell your Black friend to not worry about situations where skin color matters?

On the other hand, maybe it’s an intricate part of their lives, rooted in culture, history, and development. “Race” is a social construct, as we’re all the same species, consisting of physical features, historical occurrences, cultural ties, and individual experiences. Someone who is Native American is more than their looks; their development may be influenced by the ancient teachings of their nation, historic oppression, modern poverty, and their personal views and relationships. If you ignore “race”, you are denying more than their skin color; you are ignoring history, society, and self-identity.

So, that makes me a “racist” because I refuse to ignore that factor? Well, no.

Racism occurs when you take those differences and aspects, and use them to denigrate another. Racists use “race” to label others inferior while making themselves appear superior. They use labels, traits, and culture ties in a harmful, exclusive manner. (There’s also “positive” stereotypes, which still constitutes a form of racism, but that’s a topic for another time).

You can acknowledge race, and all that comes with it, without being “racist”. All you’re doing is saying, “Oh, you’re different; maybe I should think before I say or do something based on that difference.” You already do this for friends because of their personal experiences or beliefs, so why wouldn’t you do it because of race? Why would you avoid casual use of the word “rape” around a victim, but think it’s acceptable to use the N-word because “Black people do it”? If you can support LGBT-rights, because they’re born that way, why is it so hard to acknowledge higher rates of police brutality against those born with non-Caucasian skin?

Now, of course there are those who try to argue about racism because they feel it’s been flipped back on White people. “If you give special treatment to Blacks or Latinos, then you’re a racist!” These same people often ignore the concept of equity versus equality, a topic I posted about in-depth before. The goal is to provide everyone with an equal opportunity, and that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is treated the same. Someone with a handicap needs accommodations to be able to do the things the abled can already do. The same is true for non-Whites in America, where they require things like race-based organizations, advocacy groups, months focusing on their history, and laws that discourage racist practices… all so they can get the same opportunities that Whites usually have. It’s not racism to require special treatment so non-Whites can have equal chances and to level the playing field; these are done because of racism, even if new problems may arise.

Also, that doesn’t mean that all Whites have opportunity and equity. There are still many other factors besides race that can cause oppression and injustice. Economy, crime, politics, etc. can all cause problems, and even the aforementioned race-based legislation or organizations may contribute (whether accidentally or not). The point of racial acknowledgement is not to deny the issues faced by others because of class, faith, etc… but to focus on the very real issues that exist because of race.

Also important is this: no one is asking you to feel guilt over racial issues because you’re White. Do you feel guilt because you can reach the top shelf and your wife can’t? Do you take it personally whenever a Sarah McLachlan ad about animals comes on? Well, you shouldn’t necessarily feel guilt… but I certainly hope you still feel. You acknowledge something in those cases, from the smallest home problem to the largest social issue, and you probably act. You buy a footstool for the height challenged or you feel anger or sadness at pet abuse. If you can recognize these issues, experience some sort of non-guilt emotion, and possibly change your perception or actions… why is it so hard to do the same because of racial issues?

The point of acknowledgement is not to continue the racial divide, make an issue out of a non-issue, or “oppress the majority”. The whole purpose of racial recognition is to help create a better society, one that is more open-minded and inclusive and strives to prevent racism. By sticking our heads in the sand and turning our back on the issue as if it doesn’t exist, we only contribute to the problem. A popular movie once said, “there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

Dear White friends, no one is denying your experiences, your problems, or your identity. So, why would you do that to others?

There Are No Bad Movies – A Different Perspective


I recently finished reading “There Are No Bad Movies (Only Bad Audiences)“, by W.E.B. Sarcofiguy (aka John Dimes). I met the author at a panel at Awesome Con 2015, where he had an interesting opinion about movies. Learning about his work, I was quick to order the book and look deeper into this concept of “no bad movies”.

The core idea is all about perspective; a movie is only as “bad” as you let it be. “Bad” is subjective, and what is horrible to some may be enjoyable to others. This is a legitimate concept, found in everything from culinary tastes to artistic criticism. The reason it’s important to apply this to cinema is because of the vehemence with which many movie-goers approach movies. There is such passion, particularly among the “nerds”, that a movie is often disregarded or attacked for trivial and subjective reasons. The advent of the Internet, allowing people to post to global audiences (not to mention anonymously), doesn’t help with this attitude.

Sarcofiguy goes further than saying, “it’s all in your mind”, by pointing out common fallacious criticisms by the ever-annoying armchair critics. I’m not going to discuss them fully here (I want you to buy the book), but several key ones felt important.

  • 1) Comparisons between books or original films is one of the biggest, wherein people judge a movie on equivalence rather than as it’s own film.
  • 2) Judgments based on visuals, from deriding the special effects to finding less focus on story.
  • 3) Armchair expertise, where the critic knows more about who should have been cast or what should have been cut.

All of these ignore the movie itself, and instead try to qualify the piece based on other artwork, personal tastes, and arrogance.

On top of this, Sarcofiguy mentions one more very important fallacy: “the movie was made for me, the fan.” Movies are artwork, and while some may certainly want to cater to audiences to make money, many more are beholden to no one but their own vision. If directors have been known to leave projects because the producers were trying to change their piece too much, why would they stick around and cater to audiences? The only person to blame if you feel slighted or offended by a film is yourself.

Now, one area I slightly disagree with the author is the open-ended statement “no bad movies”. Oh, there certainly are “bad” movies based on certain criteria: bad acting, bad editing, bad scoring, bad effects, etc. There are movies that will certainly go down in the annals of cinematic history as among the “worst” ever made.

However, like Sarcofiguy remarks, the final result is completely subjective and these movies may be “good” to certain audiences. From movies that simply cater to specific audiences (“Battlefield Earth”) to those that attract the opposite audience (“Reefer Madness”) to those that are so-bad-they’re-good (“Plan 9 from Outer Space”)… these movies can still be enjoyable. It’s all about the perspective you are bringing to the theater or couch when you sit down.

Now, one warning should you pick up this book (which I highly recommend you do). The writing style in it is rather… unique? Beyond merely train-of-thought, it’s also rather unconventional (and unprofessional). Written more like the ramblings of a blog or social media post, it’s full of misspelling, poor grammar, slang, and “in character” remarks. The sad part is, the very people the concepts should reach will likely focus on this writing style rather than the content. Kind of like the movies they’re always criticizing…

In the end, John Dimes diatribes about movie critics (especially in this age of Internet rants) holds no small ring of truth. Whether a movie is enjoyable is totally up to the viewer, not the movie itself. If you change your perspective and avoid some fallacious thinking, you may find much more wonder out there in the strangest places. Now, if you excuse me I need to figure out what today’s afternoon movie will be: Ultraviolet or Battleship.