Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

2015 ended with yet another blow to minority civil rights; in the year of Black Lives Matter, indictments for the police officers aiding and abetting in the death of Freddie Gray, not to mention his wrongful arrest to begin with, the needle of justice finally moving on the case of LaQuan McDonald shot 16 times by a single officer in 2014, charges brought against the cops who gunned down Tamir Rice seconds after encountering him in a park, turns out playing with a toy gun, murder charges in the death of Walter Scott initially pulled over for a broken taillight, running from police over unpaid child support, repeatedly shot in the back, officer lying about administering CPR. We also saw the Supreme Court hear the case of  Abigail Fisher arguing against affirmative action, naming the ‘discriminatory’ toward whites practice as the sole cause for her not getting in to the university of Texas at Austin, a case they have heard before and are now hearing for the second time. When she didn’t win round one with the highest court in the land on the argument her, “guaranteed, rightful spot was stolen from her by a black student with lesser scores” thanks to affirmative action; she came back 2 years later with her lawyer alleging a different premise: diversity is an illegitimate criteria on which to determine student body (who gets in and who doesn’t.) Shoring up said premise called disingenuous and untrue, their claim insinuates and insists diversity is bad, primarily bad for students of color. More damming and demeaning to the public, the progress our nation is supposed to represent, particularly to black, minority members of that public were the accompanying comments by Justice Antonin Scalia during the case. “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well,” Scalia said. He cited a brief that, he said, “pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools” where they do not feel they’re being pushed in classes “that are too fast for them.” Comments Al Sharpton accurately named separate but equal repackaged going all the way back to pre-Brown v. Board concluding over a hundred years ago separate but equal segregated schools were a myth when providing adequate, fair educations to black students.  Still today in 2015 Scalia’s words uphold the power, influence, proliferation of the idea people of color, significantly back people, are somehow less worthy, by their very nature, than white people. Salon and others equally flabbergasted by both the high court’s second hearing of this drivel and Scalia’s words as another of the magazine’s .com authors put it, “Voting rights, as well as affirmative action, are under attack, as if racism were a thing of the distant past;” their own behavior proving the exact opposite.  Contrast this against the twitter meme spawning a article on the same topic of race in a completely different scenario, casting for the  stage theatrical adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter entitled ‘Racists flip out over casting of black actress as “Hermione” in “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.” Fan kvetching having less to do with racism, white supremacy and much more to do with cannon continuity; despite what was described as perfect twitter response “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione,” other observant fans have a point. Like why a white girl (no offense to Emma Watson) was cast as Hermione and a black boy cast as Dean Thomas (no offense intended to Alfred Enoch either) with less detail given about him, if indeed Hermione was always supposed to be black; especially when she (Rowling) went to great pains demanding British and surrounding area child actors to avoid bad accents and saw to the correct casting of Seamus Finnigan as a child actor with that trademark Irish brogue?  It is hardly racist, knowing how obsessed fans get with popular literature, movies, TV series, even video game backstories, let alone something that was an international success of epic proportions, books printed in nearly every major language on the globe, 8 movies made based on their material, an entire franchise of toys, games, bedding, apparel, candy, culminating in its own theme park, Harry Potter rides and interactive attractions in places like Universal Studios Orlando.

Independent the surface silliness of the last story, Salon and other standard media seemed to have gaged correctly the Fisher case; transcending factual realities like she was never getting into UT Austin because her grades and SAT scores weren’t high enough, the 168 black or Latino persons with identical, some better, grades than hers who also did not get in that year, or that only 20% of their student body admission has anything whatsoever to do with the race, ethnicity, unique cultural perspective of an applicant while the other 80% don’t, relying solely on the mathematical numbers game of highest grades, class ranking and test score turn outs, 5 black or Latinos benefiting from that screening in the year Fisher applied, the other 42 white, but she has the audacity to claim she didn’t get her due consideration because of black, minority people, is the uncovered backstory, who is actually pulling the strings to keep this case going. And no, it isn’t her indulging, well to do parents who also believe their precious girl was a victim of reverse racism; instead it was one Edward Blum stock broker in a former life connected to some deep pocketed, conservative donors who actively sought out Ms. Fisher and did so in another key case regarding voting rights and should districts be decided by population demographics or only by those of demographics comprising eligible voters? Essentially they want to award state house seats, in Texas, by entire population, mirroring the federal house, while drawing election map districts based exclusively on eligible voters giving each one an equal number of said persons. This would be a power boon to rural, white, GOP centric voters at the same time shutting out the Latino vote presently, because districts would contain less children and immigrants; argument seeming to be why count those people as part of the area, not only because it would benefit our white privilege, desperate strangle hold on white advantage in electoral politics, adding in illegals can’t vote, Latino green card holders can’t vote, only citizens can vote, so what does it matter? Disregarding the growing numbers who may well be pushed to become naturalized citizens earing their voting rights thanks to your actions, the number of children born to these parents, who were born here, on U.S. soil and are right now of voting age, will become eligible voters in a few short years; backed by the Project on Fair Representation, who didn’t see this coming, a conservative advocacy group active in cases surrounding race and voting. In other words trying their hardest to overturn voting rights laws part of the increasingly old, angry, white, male demographic who think racism is gone because no one is referring to back people as n-ggers in the street anymore, beating them up with impunity in plain view of the public, we don’t see colored and whites only signs on buildings, unless you count the guy who vandalized several businesses with similar signage in, you guessed it Austin Texas, spring 2015, their kid can sit next to a black one in school whether k-12 or on a college campus, no problem. The same old, angry, white, male demographic who, when polled, believes the world is worse in a variety of ways thanks to affirmative action, voting rights, not the least of which being in gains made by minorities 43% according to the Washington Post; 53% downright yowling about reverse racism calling it worse than that against blacks and saying American way of life has simultaneously declined due to these things since 1950. Knowing what they have to know, ought to know, should unequivocally know about the background of the case they are hearing, the nuisance persons who keep finding supposedly new reasons to appear before them why are they not collectively booting these cases off their docket?  We also know controversial statements by Antonin Scalia are the new normal for him calling arguments on government set up entities for specific states as it pertained to Obama care pure applesauce possibly leading to an antipathy toward his latest rant disguised as a court ruling, opinion from a Supreme Court judge; if, it weren’t for how many believe his hogwash about black students who get into top schools via affirmative action, not doing well and therefore should be shuffled to a lesser college. Missing—the elephant in the room in both instances, first that “The Supreme court accepted a case that was based on the the notion that one ambiguous word in a law meant that the law did not mean what the people who wrote it & those who voted for it thought it meant. 3 Justices were willing to support that point of view. That is truly shocking,” [Sic] meaning Obama care.  Secondly that [Fishers argument] “Translated from legalese to English: It’s supposedly racist to let students of color with middling grades into UT Austin, because you’re assuming they can’t do better. It’s a particularly rich argument, considering that Fisher is arguing that she should have been given the first shot, before any students of color, at getting in with middling grades” is the height of hypocrisy. Supporting the thesis subheading their article “The admissions case in front of SCOTUS is about putting mediocre white students ahead of talented people of color;”  supporting  something else too, time for a senility test for Justice Scalia.–k

But racism isn’t something of the distant past, even the recent past as evidenced by the very presence of the case before the Supreme Court; instead of cutting her losses, making do with her undergraduate degree, since she was applying to UT Austin’s law program, going with one of her many other options opened up by her tangible white privilege for graduate studies, post undergraduate career choices, she filed a lawsuit. Granted we now know she had help, persons egging her on and making it financially possible; equally rather than the court telling her and her lawyer there is no grounds for a case, her case had nothing to do with race, hers or anyone else’s and no, diversity isn’t an illegitimate criteria to determine college admission, especially at a southern institution trying to combat systemic racism, very much still in existence, very much still alive and well. Remember had she had something outstanding, unique in her admissions material, exemplary, unusual, particularly altruistic or extraordinary, extracurricular activities, accomplishments she too would have been admitted, they chose to hear this not once but now for a second time. Other decidedly conservative judges prone to snide remarks about the case aimed at affirmative action and its recipients; John Roberts quoted by a related writer adding their voice to decrying Fisher’s assertions, those of her lawyer and his backers put it like this: “What ‘unique perspective’ does a minority student bring to a physics class?” It’s interesting how he assumes the purpose in having black students is not to educate those students, but only if they can bring a “unique perspective” for the benefit of white students.”  Or in the previously referenced material, he balked about the deration of affirmative action initiatives: “How does the university know when it has achieved its objective? At what point does it say, OK, the plan has worked?…. It was important in Grutter [Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003] to say, Look, this can’t go on forever, twenty-five years.”  Well, by Roberts’ own reckoning (and that of Sandra Day O’Connor), we still have 13 years to go.” Regarding adjacent voting rights cases, “This was also Roberts’ reasoning when his court cut away at the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In 2013 he opined that the Act was no longer needed in the South: “Our country has changed … While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” Lastly, “…Roberts has a long history of antipathy toward the Voting Rights Act. In 2009 he asked the government attorney defending the law: “Congress can impose this disparate treatment forever because of the history in the South?,” all from the same judge.  Mentioned in the opening was the formation of groups like Black Lives Matter, success in getting violent toward minorities police officers brought up on charges, a partial victory towards getting justice for so many black youth needlessly slain, yet unfortunately court proceedings for the first officer tired in the Freddie Gary saga ended in a mistrial, the grand jury in little Tamir Rice’s case elected not to indict officers there and police in Chicago after the release of the LaQuan McDonald tape spent Christmas weekend shooting dead 2 more people of color including a 55 year old mother of 5. Compounding the ‘willful misreading’, as Salon named it, of racism today relevant to the Fisher case, putting aside police violence against the public, which sections of the public, they are willfully ignoring incidents happening in the very places they are deciding the dynamics for, college campuses. Protests at university of Missouri over administration’s inaction toward racially charged events, a noose found hanging in a common area at one university, how about the Oklahoma frat caught on camera singing there will never be a n-gger at SAE, Citadel military college where students are on video wearing white hoods. Hardly surprising when they ignored larger indicators of still virulent racism in a much larger impact case deciding to gut the civil rights act 2 years ago.  From the backlash over a biracial family featured in a Cheerios ad to conservative hero turned nightmare Cliven Bundy praised by the GOP for standing up to big government and for private land rights, shunned when he used his 15 minutes of fame to rail about black people doing so poorly because no one taught them to pick cotton, remarking about toddler age children and their grandparents sitting on stoops with nothing to, because no one taught them to pick cotton; never mind the grandparents were likely past working age, especially for such labor intensive work, or that toddlers aren’t allowed by law to work and shouldn’t be anyway, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made it to the south during WWII, meaning no one is hand picking cotton today despite the derogatory message accompanying the claim. A race neutral mentality, racially equal, color blind  society wouldn’t produce waiters telling minorities they don’t accept EBT (food stamp cards) at their restaurant, fast food workers printing names on receipts with derogatory stereotypical names instead of the person’s name or an order number only, pocket dialers for pizza delivery caught on cellphone message singing a song about n-ggers. The racial world the Supreme Court insists on believing we live in would not have generated the Forrest Whitaker shopping while blak incident or the James Blake fiasco where he was wrongly confused with an identity theft suspect and body slammed to the ground, the reality the person they confused him with was also innocent having nothing to do with the crime. The Oklahoma fire chief caught on video saying about an immigrant family probably from somewhere in Africa involved in a traffic accident “we aint taking no n-ggers here” wouldn’t have kept his job long enough to be investigated for possible funds mismanagement, where they were last year when the video surfaced.  Yet the Supreme Court plows forward agreeing to hear cases like Fisher’s when justice Anthony Kennedy had it right “We’re just arguing the same case. It’s as if nothing had happened.” [Sic]

Switching gears dramatically, pun intended or not, upset Harry Potter fans contrary to being racist are simply once again irritated with the Potter verse’s author for inconsistencies and things fans were allowed, lead to believe were cannon, J.K.’s vision when they actually weren’t.  Similar cases in point, when the first movie came out showing Harry’s trademark scar on the side of his head, obscuring it so much so that Daniel Radcliff and Rupert Grint had a scene on the train where Ron asks if Harry has the scar and he has to lift his hair to show him, rather than in the middle of his forehead plainly visible, where he can never escape it, as the latter is mentioned in the book and the former illustrated on all the Potter covers, even after the first movie and Ms. Rowling commenting that’s the way it was always supposed to be. Or the chapter in Prisoner of Azkaban where Snape is pictured testing the marauders map complete with beard, where she states he’s meant to be clean shaven, as he was cast in the movie. Book to movie adaptations always contain inconsistencies, ‘errors’ and ill-received omissions, even greater reviled additions that never happened in the original story; speaking of Azkaban, the insert of the shrunken heads the deletion of the marauders; the fact that not until movies 3 and 4 had Daniel Radcliff’s hair grown out sufficiently and the makeup people learned how to style it correctly only for him to cut it before filming 5. The deatheaters in Half-Blood Prince, who not only show up at the Weasleys, leading to this chase through tall grass arguably added for action, but burn their home down; things that never happened during book 6.  Left out, key scenes in Voldermort’s past and the complex understanding of him Harry had to have to defeat him or the shared past him and Dumbledore have omitted from Deathly Hallows one or two replaced with repeated scenes of ‘camping and dancing.’  More than the later revelations Dumbledore was gay and Grindewald was his one great love or that Harry and Hermione should have ended up together rather than Hermione and Ron, fears she is developing the same relationship with Potter as George Lucas did with Star Wars to the franchise’s detriment or her own relatable cautionary tale, Michael Jackson, is the fan love, adoration for one of Potter’s most controversial characters Severus Snape, many critics believe is a misplaced love for actor, playing Snape in the films, Alan Rickman. To say nothing of her descriptions of Snape as a flawed and complicated man, making him a hero of sorts in the end, blatantly misunderstood throughout the other books, an utter disconnect between the character she actually wrote and the vision she is still running off of in her head when answering  questions, talking about him to press, fan gatherings. Dueling schools of thought among fans between those who agree with Rowling’s interview (s) final interpretation of his character and those who find him just as selfish as the other deatheaters, perhaps as evil as Voldermort, maybe worse; because, Voldermort is readily identifiable as crazy, clinically psychopathic, insane, horribly unbalanced. Snape on the other hand is just plain mean, spiteful terrorizing children, of which Harry and his unresolved history with his parents, is just one; there is an insidious, veiled malice, if not evil, there where Voldermort’s is overt, in your face, something not necessarily realized as dangerous. Nor is it the first time Hermione’s casting has come under fire; fans noted from movie one her hair was meant to be frizzy not merely crimped, what they poorly attempted to do to make Emma Watson’s hair match her characters. Back to the questions raised in the opening, if she was always supposed to be black, biracial, blended ethnicity, why not cast her accordingly? Fans have an even bigger gripe taken right from the text of Prisoner of Azkaban posted triumphantly on twitter talking about her face turning white, presumably with fright; your face can’t turn white/pale that way unless your base complexion is light enough to do so, indicating Hermione is probably Caucasian, some slight variation thereof.  Now there is to be a stage production of Harry Potter, overseen in part by Rowling, coming out of London’s West End, not an international version using Harry Potter to highlight different cultures globally not usually represented in such endeavors, some far flung corner of the globe, place such as India or Africa, South America where the inhabitants, all the potential actors for a nation- centric Bollywood type version look nothing like most of the characters in the book; it’s not a school play with a diverse classroom, grade level or cumulative student body and you have to use the students you have. Here is the underlying source of the collective fan WTF, not race, racism; plus, everyone wants a new Harry Potter, book, movie, play, they don’t care, no small amount also wanting it, in visual form with the original cast. So, in that context, fans weren’t going to be happy with anything short of Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reprising their roles at least as the three main characters.

While flipping out about a black Hermione making people, people of color think it is about race not cannon adherence is in poor taste on both the Salon author’s and the commenting public’s part, adjacent comments, observations about casting do have merit. The issue with an all-female Ghostbusters cast and the heavily politicized ‘black Hermione’ isn’t that the former couldn’t be possible and the latter wouldn’t be appropriate in a nation centric, African only version, or if J.K. Rowling had correctly casted her according to her seemingly indicated intention, it’s with Ghostbusters, again you are messing with classic continuity seemingly only for the sake of reaching some unspecified diversity quota. Unlike The Hunger Games, The Divergent series who feature strong female characters attracting a wide range of readers and film goers, no shortage of adults to teen and tween themed material, adjustments to the storyline of How to Get Away with Murder to better fit a back actress, because Viola Davis auditioned for the job and was the best one at her reading for the part, this is tweaking purposefully done to fill a political correctness standard not existent among viewership. Too scripting for How to Get Away with Murder was changed on the drawing board, in the infancy, early creating days of the show before airing and was based singularly on merit, who of the audition crowd did best, better embodied the role, satisfied the director, writer’s vision, not dissimilar to the college admissions case it might be added.  Simply put, they’re, Hollywood, particularly television, is trying too hard and it shows; they are putting forth a level of diversity that doesn’t exist in society, enveloping people in a further illusion of a race neutral world we have yet to achieve. Notice the same was said about Star Wars The Force Awakens with a fraction of the scrutiny, uproar; neither are people utterly blind in their entertainment consumption, we see how most comedies have the ‘standard’ white person, the black person, the Hispanic person and/or the person from India. One of the things last year’s snide article by a Hollywood insider ‘Pilots 2015: Ethnic Castings About Time Or Too Much Of A Good Thing?,’ got right was, not their whining about hardly enough work for talented white actors in the current, diversity only climate, but the too much of a good thing assertion. And it’s not having the hoped for effect of diversifying society, opening people’s minds, expanding their horizons, or even gaining positives in providing our decidedly less white, increasingly, overwhelmingly multi-ethnicity evolving America with television shows featuring people like them, life situations like theirs, things they can find funny, entertaining, riveting, real, relevant as opposed to the white monoculture usually depicted. That most of these are comedies exploring modern black life, various Asian cultures’ reactions to American life, combatting common stereotypes about them actually undermines what they are attempting to do which is highlight diversity, show how people of different cultures, ethnicities are really just like us, wanting the same things for their children, their families and how their differences can be a good thing, from finding new delicious foods to better understanding world religions, interesting customs observed in other parts of the world, without ever having to get a passport, knowing why the other ethnicity person at work does thing X and not finding it so weird, instead making them more of what they have always been in a Caucasian dominated, Caucasian ruling society, a joke. Bad form; consequently instead of talking about the race cases that truly matter, the danger police charged with protecting citizens pose to black citizenry, the racism undeniably present on college campuses, the last place it should be, and addressing the real race problem plaguing Hollywood, our beloved entertainment, we’re stuck explaining to the Abigail Fishers of the world, of America why there is no racism in their case and why affirmative action is fair. We’re calming the flames wrongly attributed to racial bigotry, race supremacy attached to a casting error, the persons doing it ought to have been smart enough not to make while ignoring the larger mistake Hollywood is making in representing cultural diversity.  Welcome to the post racial politics of the delusional 21st century; when will we ever get it right?