Black, White, and In-Between
The Oscar-winning movie Crash has the nation talking more about race, but did anyone catch the premiere of FX's new reality show about switching races last night at ten o'clock, Black and White? Two things stood out for me:
- First, the difference between the generations when it came to race. The 16-year-old's thoughts (or lack thereof) about being black were nothing like the reflections of his 40-something parents, and the 17-year-old seemed downright savvy about race compared with her clueless "I'm-politically-correct" white mom and her mother's opinionated white boyfriend. Bakari Kitwana, in his book Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop (Perseus 2005), thinks this generation might be on the brink of something new when it comes to race: "The mainstreaming of hip-hop culture has in part provided a space where American youth, Black and white included, can explore these new ideas together, even if the old racial politics are always lurking in the shadows."
- Second, it seemed that the makeup artist managed to make the white people look black, but the black people still looked black to me. The show ignores the fact that many Americans are of mixed heritage, and that in this culture, if one of your grandparents is black, you're considered black. In fact, you're considered black down through the generations until no so-called "African" genetic trait is evident in the way you speak, move, or look. Actors Terence Howard and Halle Berry, for example, each have one white parent and yet align themselves as African Americans. If they procreate with white people, would their kids be considered white? Does this strange, unspoken rule of race in America work for or against black people? It does provide a way to counter the genocide that can take place through intermarriage -- a battle that the original nations on the continent have sometimes lost.