Monday, March 26, 2012

Black Girls Can't Be Innocent?

I had said as much during the Amber Cole debacle, but it's pretty hurtful to actually see people affirm the worst: That in the minds of some Americans, a little black girl can never represent the image of purity.

This theory has been played out with the absolutely ugly way in which young Amandla Stenberg has been treated. In the movie version of the book, "The Hunger Games", she is cast as the young Rue, to whom the main character Katniss managed to grow attached. The reason is that little Rue reminds her very much of her sister, Prim.

This is what Katniss's sister looked like in the movie:

Here we have blonde-pigtailed blue eyed Primrose Everdeen. Clearly she is ethnically a bit different from the other character.

And so people were "surprised" or just plain pissed off: How DARE they cast some nappy-haired negro girl child as the representation of white innocence and purity! (And I'm actually paraphrasing at least one response there.) 

Yeah, you're reading that right. As a few people have pointed out, the angry bigots who have come out to complain over a black Rue took issue with the fact that they were "tricked" into sympathizing with the character, into caring about her, into seeing her as a proxy for the sweet and innocent Prim. But when confronted with absolute proof (visual as well as written because clearly they can't read) that she was NOT the flower of white purity standing in for Katniss's sister, they felt they could no longer identify with the character. She had, in the words of one person, been "ruined".

Despite the fact that Amandla absolutely owned that role, some people refuse to see beyond the color of her skin, even when it is explicitly stated that her skin was dark brown.

"I just assumed it meant tan, like she'd been out in the Sun."

I suppose this means the next time someone as described as very pale, my first thought should be they are Japanese.

Indeed, there was grumbling about the POC being cast in certain roles, despite the fact that two of the characters, Rue and Thresh, are clearly meant to be of color. Even the author said so. 

But what was most disturbing was the reaction over little Amandla's casting. It kept coming back to being unable to understand how a little black girl could be seen and treated as innocent and helpless and someone worthy of being loved and empathized with.

This is what happens when black people refuse to let Mammy/Sapphire/Jezebel portrayals, born of the same white racism that makes this young girl's casting seem strange and unfathomable, DIE and be DEAD. You get idiots thinking that something is wrong if a black girl is cast as something associated with purity. 

I actually only half blame the (liberal my behind) Hollywood industry; I also blame a black community that's more than proud to throw black girls under the bus whenever possible. If you cannot fight for or protect the image and innocence of black girls, then you cannot expect anyone else to. You basically shake hands with white racism everytime you encourage black boys to to rape black girls. When you say things implying that black girls can't be virgins at age thirteen. When you could care less how black women are represented in the media.

If you're willing to cooperate with this ugly line of thinking, you are helping to keep this sort of hurtful ignorance alive and well.


Rhona said...

Yes, I heard of this and was so saddened. I actually read about this crap before I saw the movie and it made me angry once I saw it. We black women are either slutty, loud, harsh etc. or just anything really bad. I mean, she is a child!!!! Why would she not be innocent? During the movie I cried when the character died but I think my tears came also because of the negative thoughts on the person herself. I'm so tired of this.

Andrea said...

I learned a long time ago that White Americans raise their children to see Black girls and women as a threat. A threat of desire for their sons, and competition for ther daughters. If we are allowed to be seen as Human that poses a problem for them. But they can always count on the ignorant, self-hating BM to take their side if they're trying to grind BW under. BM grind themselves under, so no threat there.

I think there is also a great deal of jealousy involved when it comes to Black women and girls. White and other non-Black women will risk there lives to gain attributes that are solely associated with BW, but will say that those same attributes are "ugly" on BW.

Also, the actress that plays Rue is far prettier than the actress that plays Prim. unless the people making these hateful remarks are blind, they must have noticed. There's a reason when they cast Hollywood movies, they avoid castig a Sanaa Latham or Kerry Washington alongside a typical, bland, blonde Hollywood WW. They call on the Moniques and Sidbes(sp). Just saying.

Niamh Lawler said...

I just stumbled upon this article randomly and was so shocked. I am Irish and white and I never for one second assumed Rue was anything other than black. In fact when I first saw a picture of Amandla I was delighted and thought that she, out of all of the cast, looked exactly the part! I have so many friends that have read the hunger games and all of them pictured Rue exactly the same as I had. Obviously race is still a touchy subject in parts of the US and perhaps it's only a small, ignorant faction of the population that can not read a book properly and identify when a person is described as anything other than white. I just thought it might be interesting to you that even such a small country, with a tiny percentage of black people in its population, has no problem with the casting of a black person in a central role in a huge movie.