Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I Am Upset at People's Racist Reactions to the New Hunger Games Movie

I don't have a big presence on Facebook anymore. I am friends with most of my coworkers, so I censor myself to posting generally innocuous things and mostly after work hours. Sometimes, though, I get worked up about something and feel righteous in sharing my opinion. Here's one of those examples.

Here's what I shared.

And this was one of the reactions, presumably both to me and to the author of the post on Jezebel.com:

"Huh? Where do you dig this stuff up? And why--when there's stuff right there on the front page to be sickened by? Seriously, don't go digging through random jerks' twitter messages about some movie--it's like getting upset because people are horrid in the Youtube comment section."

My first reaction to this (in my mind) was How dare you chastise me for being outraged by this? 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.' And then I made myself calm down a bit, relax, and reflect on the words, their intention, the context of the situation, the author, the environment. And think about myself. Why does this news story enrage me so much?

Only about thirteen tweets are actually quoted at the Jezebel post. But I agree with the author, and I quote directly from the original site: "The posts go on and on and on. It's not just a coup[l]e of tweets, it's not just a coincidence. There's an underlying rage, coming out as overt prejudice and plain old racism. Sternberg is called a "black bitch," a "nigger" and one person writes that though he pictured Rue with "darker skin," he "didn't really take it all the way to black." It's as if that is the worst possible thing a person could be."

And this, to me, is not okay. It certainly is not as big a deal to tweet your racism as it is to shoot a teenager in the chest presumably because he's someone you don't know wearing a hoodie at night in your neighborhood. But I do believe they are related. I believe that the possible racism in the Trayvon Martin case is reflected much more explicitly in the tweets of people who are angry that they 'wasted' their tears on a character who turned out to be black.

The Jezebel blogger quotes the tumblr feed keeper, who wrote "Here's what scares me... All these ... people... read the Hunger Games. Clearly, they all fell in love with and cared about Rue. Though what they really fell in love with was an image of Rue that they'd created in their minds. A girl that they knew they could love and adore and mourn at the thought of knowing that she's been brutally killed. And then the casting is revealed (or they go see the movie) and they're shocked to see that Rue is black.These people are MAD that the girl that they cried over while reading the book was "some black girl" all along. So now they're angry. Wasted tears, wasted emotions. It's sad to think that had they known that she was black all along, there would have been [no] sorrow or sadness over her death. There are MAJOR TIE-INS to these reactions and the injustices that we see around the world today.[...] This is a BIG problem. Think of all the murdered children. Think of all the missing children that get NO SCREEN TIME on the news. It is NOT a coincidence. THIS is the purpose of my blog…"

And, frankly, this is the purpose of my outrage. I thought about it before I reposted it, I've talked about it with people I love, and I've carefully considered the electronic responses I've received since reposting the Jezebel blog. I don't think I've overreacted and I will not apologize.

This week I am editing a speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's, titled "Beyond Vietnam." I will be reading my annotated edition as the sermon at my church this week. The link to King's full speech may be found here, and I will be linking this at my church's new website the afternoon after I give my sermon. This sermon is certainly on my mind as I read about the Hunger Games backlash, the Trayvon Martin case, and the continuing way we pillage the earth and her poorer inhabitants. A few hateful Twitterers are not equal to the warmongers in our neighborhood watches, in our police departments, in our Congress, our corporations, or our backroom decision makers. But again, they all have the same seed within them. They think that they are inherently better than other people, that their color, religion, political system, or country they were born in make them inherently more deserving of rights than others. They believe that the Other is lesser, less deserving of respect, dignity, sovereignty.

It is not just. And I will speak out.

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