Race Matters, Part 4: The Hate that Hate Makes

dw.JPGFor anyone just tuning in for the first time, who might be reading this particular essay without a greater understanding of me, let me introduce myself. I am David Walker, the captain of the ship, the commander and chief and all-around HNIC of BadAzz MoFo. I am, for all intents and purposes a black man. Technically speaking, I am bi-racial—the product of a white Jewish mother and a working class black father—but I consider myself to be black (light skinned though I may be). What you are reading right now is the fourth installment in a series of essays I am writing that deals with race and racism in America. I am explaining all of this because there have been some new people coming to this party of mine, and many of these people have some preconceived notions about David Walker, and about who or what David Walker is.

Last week an article that I wrote about filmmaker Tyler Perry appeared on MSN. Having written about Perry in the past, I know how vocal his fans can be when it comes to negative criticism. Having worked as a professional film critic for well over a decade, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the most hateful, venomous things ever said to me came from fans of Tyler Perry, who were upset over a bad review I had written of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I never thought rabid fans could get more rabid than the fans of Star Wars, several of whom actually threatened to kill me for not liking the three most recent films in the series; but I actually had one woman send me an email saying she hoped my mother got raped because I didn’t like Perry’s film. (It is interesting to point out that this woman also claimed to be a Christian, which is something I may address later.)

The point of sharing all of this is because I wanted to convey that I was more than aware that anything I write about Perry would be open to considerable discourse, both from his fans, and from those brave individuals with the intelligence to openly admit that his films really do suck. But the inept filmmaking ability of Perry is not what I’m writing about at this moment—it is the reaction of his fans to my pointing out his inept filmmaking that I find interesting.

If you take the time to read any of the hundreds of comments left on MSN regarding the Perry article, you will see that there are several people who assume that I am white. The thinking of these people is that only a white person could not like, or would fail to understand the work of Tyler Perry. The deeper implication, and one that I find personally insulting, is that to not like Perry’s work is somehow a denial of my blackness.

Again, I do not want to turn this essay into an attack on Perry, or the quality of his work. But as a black playwright, Perry is no Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, or Amiri Baraka. And the fact that I have to defend my opinion of Perry’s maudlin talent, while simultaneously proving my own cultural literacy by referencing Hansberry, Wilson and Baraka opens up an ugly can of worms in terms of race and racism in this country. That “can of worms” is the pervasive notion that if someone does not like something that is black, or is critical of something that is black, they must automatically be a white racist.

As a film critic I was mistakenly accused of being a white racist on several occasions—usually by black people—because I did not like such films as Spike Lee’s She Hate Me or Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, or everything by John Singleton. And whenever I felt the need to say, “You know, I am actually black,” I was always greeted with, “Well, then you’re a sell-out.”

The interesting thing about racism is that it is commonly defined as thoughts, words or actions that seek to discriminate or denigrate minorities by the ruling majority. But that is only a part of racism, as the complexity of racism is much more vast and insidious than the common definition would imply. By its very nature, racism is a psychological social disease that can manifest either consciously or subconsciously. Perhaps the most dangerous notion of racism is that it can only be perpetrated by the majority ruling class upon members of a minority class. While this may technically be true of the “concept” of racism, the reality of this psychological disease is that it affects and infects everyone, to the point that even a member of the minority class that is oppressed by racism can either consciously or subconsciously have racist thoughts, words or actions.

There is an old adage that basically says “bigots are made not born.” The belief is that bigotry, prejudice and racism are traits that we are not born with, but learn as we grow older. I believe this to be true; but at the same time I believe that the disease of discrimination and hate is so pervasive and overwhelming in this society that escaping its ugly grasp is impossible. This is especially true for minorities, who, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, gender or religion can be born into hatred. So, while it is impossible to be born infected by the disease of racism, it is possible to be born affected by the disease of racism.

What does all of this have to do with Tyler Perry?

Well, I have publicly stated that I don’t like the work of Tyler Perry. This proclamation has led some people to accuse me—erroneously—of being a white racist, when the reality is that I am simply a black man with discerning taste in film. But in terms of the much larger psychological picture, the assumption that I am a white bigot for not liking Perry’s film is a dangerous manifestation of racism, and a slippery slope that many people find themselves maneuvering all too often. There are those in this society that believe any criticism of blacks is racially motivated—that not liking Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion or the culturally denigrating bullshit that passes for contemporary hip-hop is somehow a form of bigotry. Well, that is a load of crap. And any black person who assumes that a person who does not like Tyler Perry or Lil’ John is a white racist is just as guilty of the bigotry they are charging. Sure, it may not be the exact same type of prejudice, but it is still a chain of thought based in ignorance that only seeks to wrongfully persecute, discriminate and denigrate without the benefit of any type of intelligent discourse.

It is virtually impossible to live in this country and not be effected by racism and discrimination—this is especially true for ethnic minorities and women, who by the nature of what they are, have been born into a world that has long-established a different playing field. What the oppressed and discriminated-against masses need to understand is that not everything is an expression of racism/sexism. My dislike for Tyler Perry has nothing to do with race or racism, and is merely a matter of taste. The fact that I would rather listen to Johnny Cash than Lil’ Wayne does not make me either a racist or a sellout.

Those that have bared the brunt of racism and discrimination—and have thereby become infected by its disease—must take great care to understand the battle they find themselves in. We must learn to recognize the enemy both without and within. If we can not learn to see and recognize the disease that is inside all of us—and make no mistake, the disease of hatred, racism and discrimination is inside all of us—then the victimization of our humanity and our soul becomes complete. And the only thing more pathetic than racism is the person who, as the victim of racist thoughts, words or actions, becomes themselves an individual that discriminates and denigrates.

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One Response to “Race Matters, Part 4: The Hate that Hate Makes”

  1. D-nice Says:

    David, I could go on and on about this subject but it would become an endless rant that’ll strecth all over the place with little cohesiveness. Thinking for yourself ,forming your own opinions and not following the “herd” behavior will always be a struggle especially when it brings in question your “blackness.”

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