By Joseph Lindsey (Big Hollywood)
“Honky,” “cracker,” “whitey,” “spot,” “the white guy” and “my white nigga” are a few of the words and phrases used to describe me by fellow co-workers (along with a few white jokes told to my face on the set of a film) I co-starred in called “Caught Up” in 1998. I was in fact the only principal white actor on a set dominated by black actors, a black director, a black writer and a predominantly black crew. Not once did I think I was being treated in a racist manor. I just felt it was okay for blacks to describe me this way having been led to believe that I owed them this bit of racial jabbing because I, as a white individual, had something to do with the racism they’d experienced throughout their lives.
If the tables had been turned and a predominantly white cast and crew used such racially charged language to describe a black cast member, the Screen Actors Guild would have invaded that production and we would have seen headlines in the media “Racist Cast and Crew, Film Shut Down By SAG.”
In that film one of my scripted lines required that I use the word “nigger.” Before I shot the scene I pulled my fellow actor aside and assured him that this was not a word I took lightly and that I was aware of its historical implications towards blacks. He looked me over as if I were an alien and said “Give me a break, I don’t give shit, I’ve been a nigger all my life. I’m cool with it.” That response came to me as a mixed signal. Not one that said it was okay for me to use the word “nigger,” but one that said my efforts at trying to understand his side of race didn’t matter.
All us “white people” are now being told by the media, by former Presidents and now singer Dave Matthews that most whites have a negative racial element to their behavior, that we should monitor them and keep them in check, that our attitudes towards blacks should be sensitive. Okay, fair enough. However, lots of us so called “white people” live our lives with a sense of racial sensitivity and have for some time.
What could be helpful in having a racial dialogue would be specific feedback from the black community on what more they want us to do when it comes to understanding racism as they see it. That would be a more constructive approach to the topic than simply finger-pointing at “White America” as Dave Matthews did when he recently said this:
“Of course it is! I found there’s a fairly blatant racism in America that’s already there, and I don’t think I noticed it when I lived here as a kid. But when I went back to South Africa, and then it’s sort of thrust in your face, and then came back here — I just see it everywhere. There’s a good population of people in this country that are terrified of the president only because he’s black, even if they don’t say it. And I think a lot of them, behind closed doors, do say it.
Where is Dave Matthews meeting these “blatant racist Americans?” Is it amongst his adoring fans, or is this just happening inside his liberal head brought on by the white guilt he cultivated living in South Africa? We disagreed with Clinton over some of his policies, we also scream at him for lying to us when we discovered he’d used the Oval Office as his own private porn booth/cigar factory.
“Maybe I’m paranoid about it, but I don’t think someone who disagreed as strongly as they do with Obama — if it was Clinton — would have stood up and screamed at him during his speech. (Shakes his head) I don’t think so.”
When are those in the black community and its leaders going to address the fact that the vast majority of “white people” in this country try to do what’s right when it comes to race, that when we disagree with it doesn’t mean it has something to do with the color of someone’s skin, but may have to do with the content of the individuals character or views?
It’s time self-hating whites with big bullhorns like Jimmy Carter and Dave Matthews stop pointing the finger and start asking questions of the black community about what they’re doing to put a balanced eye on the topic, because if they are, I can’t see it.