Blinded by ‘The Blind Side’

Note:  haven’t seen the film.  However, I have been reading lots of different takes on it, particularly in the comments sections.  I feel I have enough of  a grasp of the basic premise to discuss some of the social implications of The Blind Side as they turn up out here in the news sites and blogosphere.

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What does the movie The Blind Side say to different people?

To well-meaning white people, this movie might be an invitation to celebrate a shining example in which white generosity and courage save the day for a poor, black male.  That feels pretty good.  In our yearning for racial equality on our terms, it is tempting to want to celebrate an example of black ghettoization successfully assimilated into white society – if perhaps not in these exact terms.

But who else is this movie speaking to?  Black people?  If so, what is it saying?  Nothing good, from where I sit.

And therein lies the problem.  “Blind Side” is a “for us, by us” movie for white people, designed to make us feel better about ourselves in the context of our racial privilege.  It assuages our racial guilt like a sin offering of snake oil.

But given the reality of ongoing racism, such self-affirmation is ultimately as fake and flimsy as a Hollywood backdrop.  We’ll need to do more than adopt a black child every now and then if we are ever going to build a just and free society.  In the meantime, patting ourselves on the back for (someone else’s) “job well done” may indeed be self-gratifying, but is entirely counterproductive.

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“That one” double-standard

Just imagine if Barack Obama had referred to John McCain as “that one”.  What would the response have been, on TV, here and elsewhere?  They would have made another “Obama…Disrespectful” commercial.

From where I sit, the fact that there’s any wiggle-room here for people to argue that McCain didn’t mean that is a function of white privilege.  If Barack Obama had said it in reference to his distinguished colleague, he would’ve been drawn and quartered.

I have no idea what McCain meant here, but it’s definitely weird.  He’s not helping himself combat the “racially tinged” meme with crap like this.