Thursday, June 18, 2009

rescue dark kids (who would never have a chance otherwise)

Are you a Nice White Lady?

If so, there's a LOT of work to do!

The dark kids are waiting for you.

Don't be afraid -- underneath that intimidating facade of self-protective attitude, they're really good kids.

This parody reminds me of that condescending, sanctimonious Michelle Pfeiffer debacle, Dangerous Minds.

I've never seen Freedom Writers -- was it this bad too?

(Not to knock the real nice white people who decide to Teach for America.)

h/t: scsubulldwg92


  1. Haha, thanks for sharing that clip!

  2. I believe these type of (mainstream) movies get made because:

    1) Scripts that discuss race relations in a meaningful way are frowned upon because they upset the sensibilities of white industry executives and audiences.

    2) These are "safe" alternatives to try to draw crowds due to characters from multiple demographics, while still maintaining the white audience.

    I think these type of movies are EXTREMELY harmful because:

    1) As I've discussed on here before, when we don't like a certain type of people or when looking at their situation honestly threatens our sense of self-worth, we are way more likely to view their struggles and failures through a "dispositional" lens as opposed to a "situational" lens.

    So, for example, if Wal-Mart security were leading a white teen out for shoplifting white shoppers' intial reaction might be that he's a "troubled teen" or "hanging out with the wrong crowd". If it were a black kid, their initial reaction might be "that's just the way those people are" or "they're predators". In other words, external forces (situational) caused this white kid's behavior, but a low character (dispositional) caused the black kid's behavior.

    So, this movie just perpetuates this stereotype bias by showing that "if only those dark people were willing to work and show some responsibility, they'd be fine. Which, of course, is complete bollocks and lets institutional and interpersonal racism, inhumane neoliberal economics, historical causations for current conditions, etc... totally off the hook.

    2) These movies send a very misleading message to young people of color. First, they suggest that white people being in charge of things is just "the way it is", not to be questioned. Second, they suggest that white people are innately superior. Now, of course, they put some responsible darker characters in here and there to make the bitter pill go down easier, but, ultimately, it is white people in charge, white people's standards that must be met, and a white person who helps these otherwise incompetent dark people succeed.

  3. So do you consider Madonna to be a Nice White Lady?

  4. well, i supposed i'd better get started on my "helpful" condescension, because only my white ladyness can inspire non white kids to succeed./heavy snark

  5. I actually didn't want to see Freedom Writers but I really enjoyed it. And I cried three times. Maybe I'm just sappy.

  6. cdwriteme, you hit it square on the head!


  7. I will say this after seeing FW, I thought back to my own Junior High school's copies of Romeo & Juliet and low and behold, it was abridged. I wonder how common that is. You never know unless you're in the "special class." But if everyone in the school is reading the same copy, you just think its normal.

  8. I find interesting that these kinds of movies where basically started by "To Sir, With Love" starring Sidney Poitier as the teacher who "civilizes" a bunch of (mostly) white English teens.

  9. Some interesting facts about "To Sir, With Love"

    The film did so unexpectedly well in America that Columbia Pictures did market research to find out why so many people had gone to it. Their answer: Sidney Poitier.



    # The South African Publications Control Board banned this film, claiming that it was "offensive to see a Black male teaching a class of white children".

  10. Macon D said:

    So do you consider Madonna to be a Nice White Lady?

    I don't know she is questionable in some of her commentary.

  11. Actually, the genre of the "inspirational teacher reaching out to troubled inner-city kids" started with Blackboard Jungle over a decade before To Sir With Love - and in that movie, it WAS a white teacher, and Sidney Poitier was the leader of the rebel kids.

    To Sir With Love is a good twist on the theme, but basically this genre has been racist since it was first conceived.

  12. I'm a Black lady who works in the field of education.

    Oh the stories I could tell about the nice white ladies who have come to resuce our children!

    I really resent the atttitudes they often bring into the classroom. It is obvious from day one that they are on a mission without a clue.

    For some reason they actually believe that they have superior skills. Until they get turned out several hundred times and they realize that all of the theory they learned is not going to help them survive.

    I also get very heated when my liberal arts background comes as a major surprise. "You listen to classical music?" "I didn't know that Black people read literature like the classics." Blah..Blah..Blah..

    My advice to anyone who is thinking about going into teaching-remember you will be a student until the day you leave the classroom. It is an art that many attempt and too few master!

    I enjoyed visiting your site. I'll be back through to check you out again.

  13. dejamorgana makes a good point and it can be traced even further to "my fair lady". While they were both white, it was an issue of "class" and the wealthier more educated person benevolently giving their time and wisdom to someone in "desperate" need but yes, the Michelle Pfeiffer type roles are condescending to say the least.

  14. In related news:

  15. This is the whole colonial/imperialist mindset writ small. I read a history of Java once and it was the same sort of thing: the Dutch were "helping" the Javanese.

  16. I remember when I went to go watch Freedom Writers. I came home telling my mom what an amazing movie it was. Then when it came out on video I immediately rented it for her to watch because I thought she would enjoy it being that she is a teacher. However, after we finished watching it she told me she didn't like it. I couldn't understand why and then she explained that she hated the fact that the teacher was white. As a teacher she felt that this movie sent some very negative messages. For one, it sent the message that black children living in poor socioeconomic conditions and who have been mentally scarred as a result need a white female savior. In reality, most white teachers do not want to work in these areas and there are far more teachers of color who willingly choose to take on these troubled kids. My mother herself is an example of this. She has been teaching for almost 20 years now and she has always chosen to teach in "bad" areas where she feels her services will be needed the most. She is a special education teacher so her students are truly in need of help and I think it's wrong that America would choose to recognize one of the few white women who do this rather than one of the many black women who take on this role.

  17. Thank you for that powerful story, Anonymiss.

    Your mother sounds like an amazing person.

  18. cdwriteme, wow! Thank you! I have never looked at these movies that way. I'm currently studying to be a social worker and one of my concerns is to be sure that I do not, in words, actions, or attitudes, impose my white privilege as authority upon service users. I live in Australia, and I recently wrote the following in one of my essays:
    "when attempting “help” we are perpetuating the power imbalance by seeing the Aboriginal population as people in need of help, rather than people who we can learn from...White Australia’s assumption of the role of protector and benefactor has created a self-fulfilling prophecy and cemented a structural stratification between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians..."
    This is something I want to address and change. I don't really know where to start, but your views are so clear and reading them is enlightening. Mslady Deborah and Anonymiss too! Do you ladies have any objections to me reading your comments out in class, or maybe just saving them for my own future reference?

    In regards to these "teacher" movies, I suppose the very best one must be Stand and Deliver, where the teacher (Mr. Escalante) was from the same minority as the children, and it was an obvious act of defiance to the white society around them for this school to become the top school in mathematics. And it was true!!

  19. Hey Kylie, glad to hear someone from downunder thinking about stuff like this. I'm an immigrant to Oz and have always wondered what the heck is going on with the whole 'aboriginal problem'. I asked my (wise) dad one day - It sounds as though it's an unsolvable it? They are pumping in money and what not, but why does it feel so impossible to make progress? He said - Yes, they're trying, but who's solutions are they using? The 'white man's'. Have they ever really, truly listened to the hearts of the aboriginal people? And ever really, truly asked what they want?

    Listening can be really powerful sometimes.

    Someone (I think Marshall Ganz - Obama's organizer) said that team leadership is not about getting people to do what you want them to do, but to empower them to know and do what they want to do.

    And...I think my points are a bit random, oh well.


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