April 2014
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There Is No Race Problem in America

Seriously! I mean, if things for the African-American were so bad in this country, we wouldn’t be subjected to the following review of The Return of the King by Andrea Lewis:

Like most, I was entertained and awed by the artistry and technical achievements of “The Return of the King,” but by the end of the film’s 3.5 hours I thought the final chapter should have been dubbed “The Return of the Patriarchy.”

The “Rings” films are like promotional ads for those tired old race and gender paradigms that were all the rage back in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s day.

Almost all of the heroes of the series are manly men who are whiter than white. They are frequently framed in halos of blinding bright light and exude a heavenly aura of all that is Eurocentric and good. Who but these courageous Anglo-Saxon souls can save Middle Earth from the dark and evil forces of the world?

On the good side, even the mighty wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) is sanitized and transformed from the weed-smoking, rather dingy figure we first meet in the “The Fellowship of the Ring,” into Gandalf the White, who, by the time of “Return of the King,” has become a powerful military leader complete with pure white hair and an Eisenhower attitude.

I know, I know: lots of complete idiots have complained in the past about the Lord of the Rings trilogy because there just aren’t enough people of color/individuals of tint/folks of hue in it, and making fun of them is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. This particular review, however, has the added bonus of including feminist terminology (“Return of the Patriarchy”), which truly makes it stand out. Perhaps a better name for the movie would be, “The Lord of the Plantations: The Return of the Potential Rapist.”

Anyway, the point is not to mock the author here (no matter how warranted the ridicule may be), but rather show that if there were truly race problems in this country, Ms. Lewis would have no room to complain on a website called “Tolerance.org” about the lack of black folks and liberated women in a New Zealand-made film based on a series of novels written by an Englishman in the mid-20th Century. The level of discourse that began with Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail has hit its lowest point with Farrakhan’s “Judaism is a gutter religion” speech and Andrea Lewis’ “Who but these courageous Anglo-Saxon souls can save Middle Earth” movie review. The gigantic disconnect here can only be the result of there being no more problems to solve, no more inequities to be reconciled, no more debts to be paid.

I don’t want to stifle anybody’s right to free speech here, but if we’re to have any serious discussion about race and gender in this country, individuals like Andrea Lewis and websites like “Tolerance.org” should probably be left out.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the pointer, and appointing Ms. Lewis’ movie review a Sontag award nominee.)

2 comments to There Is No Race Problem in America

  • Joshua

    One thing right, one thing wrong.

    One thing right: I admit, I’m only responding to the portion of the review that David posted. But this movie review’s kind of nonsense is EXACTLY what’s wrong with over sensitive academics thinking that everything and their mother has to do with patriarchy and racism. My goodness! Instead of reveling in perhaps the greatest trilogy of all time, they bitch there’s no black folks. Well, I can complain that in Spike Lee’s movies there are too many black folks. Ridiculous! These are pieces of ART. Not everything’s some social statement about the state of race and gender in America. Except for Spike Lee’s movies. Well, you get what I mean.

    One thing wrong: There is most certainly a race problem in America, but it is not as David defined. I think what they mean by “race problem” is 1) continuing discrimination of racial minorities 2) the debate about racial issues largely takes place in the entertainment world, and not the political system 3) when people DO talk about race, folks get all heated up… it is still a topic that brings tension and anxiety, no matter in what arena it is discussed. This tension is, in part, due to reasons 1) and 2) above. So, in my opinion, there is most definitely a race problem in America.

  • I probably should have made the sarcasm a little more evident in the post; yes, there is still a problem with regard to race relations in the U.S. Where we most likely differ is the intensity of the problem, but that’s an issue for another thread.