The Most Racist Institution on the Planet
Living for almost two years away from the US, I can tell my perspective on things is changing. Broadening, I think; maturing, I hope. Regardless, my view of the US and the world is different than it used to be. So let me rant a little.
Yesterday, I had the most recent of many conversations that went something like this:
Non-American: “I like to watch American movies.”
Me: “Yeah, you and most of the world.”
Non-American: “I like it because it shows me what American life is like.”
Me: “Well, not everything in the movies is very close to reality.” For instance, Will Smith didn’t actually ever save us from an alien invasion (Independence Day). Everyone knows it was actually giant sea monsters.
Non-American, refusing to believe that movies aren’t reality: “Is it true about black people in America?”
Non-American: “They’re so dangerous.” That’s always the word – “dangerous.”
Me: “What?! No… Maybe that’s how it looks in the movies, but they’re just people like everyone else. Some are dangerous and some aren’t.”
Non-American: “But they all do drugs and carry guns and hurt people. Why do they kill so many people? Why are they all so bad?”
I’ve had conversations like this dozens of times in Romania. Because of the influence of American TV, movies, and music, people seem to have this idea that every black person in America is a gangster carrying guns, selling drugs, and waiting to beat you up if you come to their neighborhood.
Somewhat of a side note… I’ve also been told by a handful of people, “I feel God calling me to go to the Indians (Native Americans) as a missionary.” I say, “That’s great!” and then they ask something about if I think it would be difficult to live in a teepee and ride on horseback to get everywhere. “Oh, yes,” I reply, “but at least you’ll learn many useful things about hunting buffalo and scalping white men.”
I’ve done (and do) the same with other cultures. Like my aforementioned friends, I feel God calling me as a missionary to the samurai of Japan or possibly the ancient Egyptians.
But back to the topic at hand. Now, if it were only Romanians asking me about blacks in America being so dangerous, it could admittedly be a problem with Romanians, but it’s not just Romanians – Gypsies, Africans, Middle-easterners, Asians, and Western Europeans have all asked me why “all” black people in America are so dangerous. “I’ve seen it in the movies,” they always say.
To all my black friends in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, I’m so glad I made it out of your houses alive. I didn’t realize you were so dangerous. I thought you were just normal people. I didn’t realize all the drugs, violence, and crime you were involved in. You covered it up so well with your jobs at Time Warner Cable, your happy families, your college degrees, insurance businesses, and hair salons. You had me so fooled. I didn’t realize you were all dangerous gangsters.
Yeah, truth is, some of my black friends came from rough lives of drugs, violence, and crime, but Jesus rescued them out of all that and now they’re different. Same for some of my white friends.
So, who’s to blame? Where are these ideas of American blacks coming from? Who’s giving all these Romanians, Turks, Iraqis, Swedes, Saudis, Somalis, and Cameroonians this idea that “all” American blacks are “dangerous.”
Hollywood. The media. Movies and TV. Music. This is anecdotal evidence of course, but across the board, everyone who’s asked me about the “dangerous blacks” in America has referenced American media as the source of their information.
So I ask you, “What’s the most racist institution on the planet?”
Obviously, none of my friends are stupid enough to believe everything just because it’s in a movie. They’re my friends, after all, so that’s gotta say something about their intelligence, right? Or not. 😐 The truth is that some black Americans are criminals and some aren’t. Some Jews are rich bankers and some aren’t. Some Muslims are terrorists and some aren’t.
Someone once said, “If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth.” If Hollywood keeps portraying black Americans as dangerous, does it really matter that not every black person is, in fact, dangerous? Eventually, you just start to believe it.
I used to dismiss the people claiming American media was filled with racist stereotypes, but now I’m seeing the very real (and disturbing) effects of it in shaping world perception of black Americans. And, though I’m as white and middle class as possible, I feel cheated.
If I were a black American, I’d be ticked. I’d stop buying the degrading rap albums, I’d stop watching the movies that monetize black stereotypes, I’d stop dressing and talking and acting like Hollywood wants and expects.
I’m a middle-class white American living in Romania, so who am I to talk… but for the sake of my black friends in America, Hollywood, find a new story. We’re tired of listening to this one.
And to all my Romanian friends who are nervous about blacks in America, I know at least 12 who are nice people. There might be even more.