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“Precious”: You Can’t Blame This on Whitey!

March 8, 2010

Virtually all of my life I have heard and read complaints by black Hollywood actors about the gross failures of the white establishment in the movie industry as well as their continuing failure to create wholesome quality roles for entertainment professionals of color. So when a black writer, a black director and a black cast join together to create from a work of fiction the most horrific portrayal of black existence ever seen in this country, I (among many) am left with one disturbing question. Why?

This book and the movie are not socially significant. The entire story and the associated screenplay were totally fabricated and are not even remotely believable. That was my reaction after reading the book (along with being intensely nauseated).

I heard MoNique on her TV show tell the viewing audience: “Speak out people. We all had someone in our families who behaved inappropriately. We knew who they were” (or words to that effect). Well, that statement was untrue as it relates to my immediate family and my extended family. In my entire life as a child, adolescent or mature adult, nobody in my family has made such a claim. Nor were there ever any such suspicions.

Sexual abuse rape and other tragic events are real. I get that. We get that. Shining a light on the issue has been done in films many times before. Remember “Prince of Tides”? “Precious” could have been anyone. What do I mean?  I know that there are bright attractive kids, who no doubt, are also victims of this social plague.

To use nearly every known negative caricature and image of black existence all rolled up into one dismal and unrelenting fable of black culture is a crime of cultural morality…and this one was perpetrated by blacks! Feeding America a suggestion or an outright lie that says that there are unattractive, obese, illiterate, incestuously sexually abused, aids victims filling the welfare rolls across the nation is unpardonable and stereotypical. That may not have been the intended message, but that is what many will hear.

What we have here in the book and the movie “Precious” is the worst of the worst. Black people are victimizing black people! This is profiteering, using the most vile and despicable form of  “so called” entertainment. Perhaps more importantly, they have emblazoned an abysmal stain on the image of black people for those who already despise us, to diabolically savor.

I live in a conservative bastion in Northwest Florida. When Senator Obama won the National Democratic Party nomination for President, I went into a local bookstore to purchase a copy of “Dreams from my Father,” the President’s autobiography. I actually had to ask someone to locate the book for me. That same bookstore manifested countless copies of “Precious” in the front of the store at the entrance for nearly a year. President Obama got less than thirty percent of the vote here and his marvelous book is nowhere to be seen. A fictional account of the worst that could be imagined about anyone black is proudly displayed as a marquee item for a year.

Maybe this is the old, “You can’t call me nigger; only I can call me nigger ideology” in play. Maybe the writer, director and actors associated with this tragic story think it is okay to malign their own people while the establishment  movie industry cannot. This is particularly true if those black conspirators can get a sizable paycheck from it.

Maybe they don’t care that black middle-school kids and high–school kids will mock some helpless overweight kid for years to come by calling them “Precious”.  Maybe they don’t care that those remaining racists in this country will be further cemented in their beliefs about black culture and that this disgusting story will only be fodder for more hateful mockery.

Well intentioned as I was, I am dreadfully sorry that I read that book. I have not and will not see the movie. Still, I tell myself that it is important to observe and attempt to appreciate the intellectual and artistic work of black people. So I sat quietly, in a comfortable corner of this national bookstore chain with a coffee, and read a piece of work that made me embarrassed, physically uncomfortable and sad. Thank the Lord above that I did not purchase it.  I would never have something like that in my home.

“Precious” is irresponsible, reckless and socially damaging. If the white movie industry that has long been maligned had created this project, black people across this nation would be up in arms! The well known voices of the Black Community would be screaming at such a horrific insult. But let a few blacks in Hollywood lynch the image of black people in film effigy for profit and suddenly the “only I can call me nigger” ideology supersedes the common good of progressive logic.

I hope you get your Oscars and bask in the adulation of those you have duped along with those in your seemingly blind insulated Hollywood bubble. Please don’t spend any time thinking about what you’ve done.

But one day, I hope you remember or discover what you have contributed to. Maybe the next time you or your children get stopped and questioned by a cop because they were driving a nice car, or your service is slow, or you get shadowed in a store for no good reason…maybe then you’ll know.

You can’t blame this on Whitey. Shame on you!

L. A. Walker

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2010 9:57 am

    Nope, can’t blame this one on Whitey.

    I was very disappointed to see so many negative stereotypes in one place.

    I expect that the far right wing will use this film as an example of the failures of social justice programs in America. No doubt they will hold out the book and the film as evidence of their moral and cultural superiority. Who perpetuated the same old tired stereotypes this time?

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