Add Your Heading Text Here Learning about hatred, Zizek and Black Lives matter form the film Get Out and the show Patriot Act.
It’s been almost two weeks since George Floyd got murdered in broad daylight by a police officer in Minneapolis. The despicable act has caused a wave of opposition to police brutality and racism that is unprecedented in the history of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Initially, I had planned to write something about movies and warfare, however the incredible amount of attention that lies on this topic does not allow for anything else to be in the main focus of discussion. And that’s good.
Racism: A definition
“Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.” (ADL). Everyone can agree upon this definition. So why am I posing the question?
In film, this type of racism is often showcased in clear-cut distinctions between good and evil characters. This does make sense, since slave owners or Nazis make good villains. Usually this makes for less complex characters. However, one film in particular managed to showcase a different kind of racism, a more contemporary version, and not lose out in any way when it comes to its popularity: Get Out.
The contemporary philosopher Slavoj Zizek regularly complains about so called “(White) Liberal Racism”. He defines the term as following: Certain assumptions which stem from (mostly white) people concerning minorities which they brand as compliments (for example, to use the blatant stereotypes, black people being good at sports, Asians being good at math, etc.). Granted that my examples seem a bit obvious, but the concept of Liberal Racism can go much more covert.
The case of Get Out
The film Get Out did not win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2018 for no reason. Throughout the film the subtle hints of Liberal Racism are constantly building up the racist tension, creating a literal distinction between the White characters and Chris, the black main character. The last quarter of the film showcases a clear switch to open and blatantly crazy racist ideas, which provide the film its horror elements. However, I believe that the first 3 quarters of the film with its increasingly growing amount of Liberal Racism are the true horror.
The reason being that, as Zizek says, this type of discrimination is covert and largely accepted. No one challenges compliments, and if you do it is seen as rude or overly protective. This is what makes Liberal Racism ever more threatening to us than open bigotry. There is no accountability for it.
Two examples of Liberal Racism in the film:
- Rose (the girlfriend of Chris) attacking police officers for asking for his ID. Why? Because the scene was actually a calm interaction between the officers and Chris, but she made it seem like it as a) overly racist an b) so discriminating that Chris was supposedly not capable of answering the policemen himself.
- Dean (the father of Rose) talks to Chris and explains that he would have voted for Obama again, if he could. Why is this Liberal Racism? Because a) he assumes that just because Chris is black, he must like Obama, b) he sees being favourable towards a black figure as enough in terms of fighting racism.
From Get Out to George Floyd
Starting in Minneapolis, the recent waves of protest and pro Black Lives Matter activism has stunned the entirety of the world. Compared to Zizek and Get Out, the point of BLM is to fight a much more open and authoritarian version of racism which does not hide behind compliments and tons of white guilt.
The reason why I believe that these ideas and concepts are still important for this situation is that we have to look at what comes next. This piece is called “Can we live in a post-racist world?” for a reason.
The way to go in my opinion is clear: create enough attention for a massive change of legislature and accountability for police forces and modify police education, especially in the United States, so that these cases can be reduced. This where the show Patriot Act comes in. I would like to conclude a recent short episode by the Netflix show with Hasan Minhaj to highlight the four solutions that he mentioned:
- End qualified immunity
- Demilitarize the Police
- Legislating and Voting
- (this is a special request by him to attorney general Keith Elisson): prosecute the policemen
These are incredibly important and crucial steps, especially in the context of the United States. But we simply cannot forget the impact the Liberal Racism has as well. These are unprecedented times of racial awareness, they should be used to first follow through with these steps but second, realize all the Liberal Racism that has been deemed normal in our everyday lives.
Hasan Minhaj himself explains in the same video, how other minorities often hold severe prejudices against black people. Racism divides those that are supposedly united in their status as the oppressed.
Stereotypes will always be there, false assumptions will always be there, just as a post-racist society will always remain a utopian vision. But what is possible is that for each of us, and this includes everyone who holds the privilege of whiteness, wealth etc., to realize all the cases of Liberal Racist actions and statements that we commit in our lives. Why? Because the first step towards a state of post-racism is acknowledging that black people and any oppressed group for that matter, can think and act and define themselves on their own. They do not need anyone to tell them how good (or bad) or how smart (or dumb) they are. And they certainly need no knee on their neck.