Russell Simmons and His Delusions of a Post-Racial World

Via Alyssa Rosenberg, hip-hop legend Russell Simmons in The Hollywood Reporter drinking the "post-racial" Kool-Aid:

Post-racial America is coming. Sure, it's true that many executives who live in Beverly Hills don't live in one — yet. But many aspire to it and thirst for it in the programming they consume. Hollywood has good intentions but no sensitivity. It clearly have no real understanding of how America is evolving.

Someone needs to take the pin out of the Hollywood bubble, just as they have done within the music industry and the advertising world.

This is utter fucking nonsense.

I think we have to be really honest about what a film requires of the consumer in order for enjoyment to occur that makes it different from every other medium. Films require that you identify or sympathize with the main character. They require you to go on that journey with the characters.  This is not like music or selling a product or reading a book.

By and large, most of America has said – for decades – that it isn't interested in films that ask them to identify or sympathize with black people. It only works if the black lead is deracinated or Eddie Murphy or Sam Jackson (the latter two of whom sell a specific kind of black cool that has charmed white folks for generations) or if we are a vehicle for white redemption, a la The Help.

I personally believe that it is hard for most white people to go see black films because they fundamentally don't see black people as human such that they are prevented from entering the film. And they mostly don't realize that this is occurring because white people fail to be honest about the fact that who we are is so exaggerated in the white mind.

People who live on the coasts are living in a bubble. Most of this country is really fuckin white. Happily, defiantly it seems, white. This post-racial fantasy that liberals and colonized Black folks are dreaming about ain't gonna happen, at least not until we all get really fuckin real about what country we are all living in.

And the diversity that is supposed to come by 2050 that everyone is SO sure is going to eradicate racism? Yea – how many of you know that James Roday and Michael Trevino are Mexican? This will not be a majority minority country, folks.

Russell's attempts to compare Hollywood to the music industry and the advertising industry fail to really articulate exactly what has led to integration in those spheres. The former sells stereotype and black self-hatred and the latter just figured out that black people are a market it can tap.  This is progress, it's true. Of a type.

But it doesn't fundamentally alter anything about American culture. White people's relationship to black music is largely the same as it was when jazz was the hot shit. White folks have always loved black culture and black cool; not so much the people. The relationship that Justin Bieber and Diggy enjoy is absolutely, positively no different than the relationship between Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. A little blackness makes everyone cool, kids. Ain't nuttin new.

And let's remember that the music industry had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a more integrated world by the supernova that was Michael Jackson. This was not the virtue of white people suddenly changing their view of black people. No  - it was his unrivaled dopeness and the rampant consolidation of media that now makes it impossible for any kind of non-whiteness that isn't white-approved to survive.

All three industries are profoundly racist. Hollywood's is just more noticeable.

3 thoughts on “Russell Simmons and His Delusions of a Post-Racial World

  1. LaWanda

    Wow. Interesting. I post on IMDB quite often. I have run into people who work within the industry and they say there are so many talented black actors/actress, directors, writers, producers, etc. Yet, Holloywood is so unwilling to bank on the or give them a chance.
    You mentioned that America or even Hollywood may not view us as “human”, that statement stung but I couldn’t help but agree with you.
    You also mentioned that music has been so successful for black artist because it perpetuates the stereotypes and negativity this country tends to place on us.
    Well I noticed that a lot of the young black directors thatwhere given a chance, their first screenplays were about the violence in the hood or about the hood. John Singleton, The Hughes Brothers, Mattie Rich, Mario Van Peeples., etc Then there are Spike Lee and Robert Townsend, whose movies subject matter had nothing to do with the “hood” or any violence among balck people, and they had to fight tooth and nail to get their movies out there, including paying for the movies themselves.
    Do I agree with Russell? Well movies have been around since 1878. The Oscars are 83 years old, and black as well as other minorities, are still fighting tooth and nail for their place within the industry. I just don’t see it changing in 40 years.

    Reply
  2. starry118

    I think it will change as we
    1)pool our resources to create/distribute our own programming
    2)stop supporting programming that only includes us as stereotypes/caricatures/token characters.
    This would require unity, an understanding of what is going on, and a willingness to do what is necessary to bring change about…how can we rally that?

    Reply
  3. Shells35

    Starry118, I like the way you think. This subject is no different on many kinds of levels. Once, we all pool our resources and support each other…then they will have to appreciate us as a people who bring many kinds of attributes to society and not just in terms of the entertainment industry, but on every level in the market world. I wish we could start a movement on “Black supported businesses” and the need for us to support one another as a group of people.

    Reply

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