Pimping Of Black Death
and the Pimping of Black Death
By Minister Paul Scott
Over 20 years ago, the great African American philosopher "George
Jefferson" had a dream that even though "fish don't fry in
the kitchen and beans don't cook on the grill" one day, we as a
people would be "movin' on up". While the ficticious
"George and Weezy" talked about moving out of poverty and
despair, the film makers today seem to be gravitating towards it.
As a child I was always warned about "airing dirty laundry in
public" because the neighbors would talk bad about us. The
filmmakers of today show no such shame as they continuously display
the worst stereotypical images of black people before the world. While
this may be seen as "keeping
it real" or just reflecting societal ills, there seems to be an
inordinate amount of black blood being spilled on movie screens across
the world in the form of so called "hood" movies.
From Boys in the Hood and New Jack City to the present crop of hood
flix, the image of black bodies laying in the street
dripping with blood seems to fulfill some sick guilty pleasure in
mainstream America. What is this fascination with watching the
genocide of black people unfold on the big screen or is it the only
thing "Black" that Hollywood is willing to give us?
One of the most powerful scenes from the Spike Lee movie (Malcolm) X
was when "Elijah Muhammad" shows "Malcolm" a glass
of clear water and a glass of water that has been
tainted with ink. He tells him if the people have no choice they will
drink the tainted water but given a choice they will choose the clear
water. When the question of the
negativity of black film is brought to the attention of movie makers
they break into an impromptu rendition of "Got to give the people
what they want". They say that if they
put out a "Rosewood" or a "Five Heartbeats", the
Black community would not support the film. So they are forced to give
us, over a 10 year period, a steady flow of movies
featuring "O-dog" with a 40oz in one hand and a 9mm in the
other "keeping it real" by calling his Baby's mama the B
If one "Get on the Bus" fails to be a hit then all of the
film writers use that as an excuse to not put out anything uplifting.
I am not suggesting that the Rosa Parks story,
"Chillin' On the Bus" would break box office records or that
all "positive" movies are of the best quality, but neither
are all hood flix. Look at how many shoot 'em up movies bomb at the
box office and wind up at the budget theater or the video store a few
weeks after release. The difference is
that if you release ten hood movies, odds are at least one of them
will get over, especially when they are only competing with other hood
movies to gain the attention of
the black consumer. As the saying goes, "if a blind man throws
enough rocks, he will eventually hit something."
The reason why these movies are so popular and heavily promoted is
that white movie executives have no problem with the glorification of
black death. Remember these are the same people who would throw a
"picnic" to watch a Black man
hanging from a tree.
What would happen if John Singleton decided to make a movie about a
modern day Nat Turner who went around killing white
people in the name of Justice? What if the same amount of promotion
that is being used on his new film "Baby Boy" would be used
on that movie or if he hired Morris Chestnut
to portray Nat Turner and the soundtrack featured Jay Z and DMX, only
this time the subject matter would be something so
Pro-Black and "militant" that it would make Chuck D of
Public Enemy blush? Would the masses of angry, frustrated black folks
who have been suffering under their white bosses
and watching news stories about racial profiling all week pass by that
movie to see another hood flick? I doubt it. However, the same people
who have no problem watching black teenage boys kill each other would
scream bloody murder at the thought of such a film.
What is at issue here is not entertainment (or the lack there of) but
principle. There has always been and will always be a market for black
suffering as it helps to ease
the white collective guilty conscience and is a constant reassurance
to them that black folks love pain and misery. "If they enjoy
living in the "ghetto" then surely they must
have enjoyed slavery. How dare they want reparations!" Can you
imagine Harriet Tubman trying to lead the enslaved Africans to freedom
only to have them say "Naw, you go
'head. I'm gonna stay here and keep it real."
It is dangerous to show black children the modern "effect"
without showing them the historical "cause". If they do not
understand the TRUTH about how Black folks ended up in "the
hood" and the economic socio-political forces that are designed
to keep us in "the ghetto" then they will see the hood films
as an accurate portrayal of Black life and anyone who does not live in
the hood is not representing Black culture.
We cannot ignore the fact that life has a funny way of imitating art
and the story lines of the hood films are being played out in too many
black communities across
America. Only the shooting victims in these real life dramas do not
come back for a sequel.
Min. Paul Scott is founder of the New Righteous Movement
based in Durham, North Carolina.
Copyright (c) 2001 Paul Scott. All Rights Reserved.
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