A movie screened at the Luminary in St. Louis, Four Way Stop, attempts to tell a story of victimization by blacks, but in reality misses the oppression of blacks by blacks. The story was created to show systemic racism, or that whites are to blame for black behavior or that if white people stop discriminating life would be so much better for the black race in the U.S.
The idea behind the film is stated not only by the writer of the script for the movie, Efi Da Silva, but also by the producer and cinematographer, Hannah Radcliff.
Four Way Stop is about a black man who wants to improves life, but does not receive enough support from his family. His mother has a boyfriend who fights with him; his mother curses at him and is abusive to him. But the people behind this movie production, think the bad behavior by blacks, the situations they are in, are not as important as sytemic racism by whites. It's an irrational summation; how do whites caused blacks to treats other blacks poorly?
Here is the description of the movie: Allen (Paul Craig), a 17-year-old inner-city African-American desperately trying to improve his life but he lacks essential support from family: His absent father is a needy drug addict, and his seriously ill mother offers only relentless criticism. Although offered illegal work by childhood friend Tay, Allen resists the lure of the street and instead seeks legitimate employment. But in his hunt for a better job, Allen ends up jeopardizing his current fast-food position by chronically arriving late or simply failing to show. Legitimately angry at the racism he confronts and the limited options he’s given, Allen all too often engages in self-sabotage, thwarting his attempts to do the right thing.”
One of the messages that we get from the film is that this white manager should not have fired Allen for being late - three hours late. But is this a realistic picture of racism? What if it were a black manager at a McDonalds restaurant, and the employee is chronically late - up to three hours, for going to an interview? Would he still have a job? Da Silva was interviewed about the movie in Saint Louis Film Festival, posted on wearemovie geeks.com, on where she got the idea for the film:
“Some years ago, I was yearning to write something, but had no grasp on what until listening to the presidential debates that were held in St. Louis and sponsored by the Urban League. Obama, Hillary Clinton, and one other guy were discussing what changes they would affect within minority communities.
Each had something inspiring to say, but I didn’t believe they could realize their words. I also understood that many people believe(d) that the problems within minority communities are problems minorities create. Knowing these things, I wanted to tell the story of our own city (St. Louis) and what I witnessed in minority communities. I wanted to take the audience into a deeper look at the life of Allen, a 17 year-old African American boy, so that his reality instead of common stereotypes could be examined.”
The problem is that she evidently does not believe that blacks create their own problems in black communities. So if blacks don’t believe that they create their own problems, what are they left with to blame? Whites of course.
The movie shows the opposite: that the majority of problems faced by blacks is in the black family, and on the streets where blacks live. There are no whites living there. Because it attempts to preach this message of systemic racism, or oppression of blacks by white’s it fails to deliver a bonafide story on its own merit or a story that is compelling.
The problem with the premise of systemic racism - blaming whites - that it essentially victimizes blacks, and disempowers them from changing their situation. The movie is instructive in that it is a statement of what many blacks believe about their own problems: white people are the cause. Try though the white privilege crowd wants to, this is what it always comes down to: a culture among blacks that does not allow them to achieve scholastically or improve their lives.
The people, or producers of the film, using the moniker FWS, also expressed their shock at the killing of Michael Brown, all the while attempting to portray it as something racial, when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Here is a quote from their web site:
“FWS is saddened to hear about the loss of Michael Brown's life and the violence that led up to it. For those of you who are not fully aware of the riots and protests that are happening throughout St. Louis, here is one of many sources of information.
It is disappointing to think that racial dynamics played a role in what happened to Michael and to think that if it hadn't he would still be with us. Unfortunately, research shows that we're far from a post racial world. It shows that minority children are perceived as less innocent than their counterparts and are punished more frequently and harshly.”
It’s sad that any police officer would have to use a gun to defend himself. And it’s sad that a black man would attempt to be violent when confronted by a police officer. But it is really appropriate for people who are supposed to be making a film for entertainment purposes, to take a stand in a where the movie is essentially carrying the same message: that blacks are being put upon by whites, and then, to carry the same message to a panel discussion?
And the evidence presented by FWS does not correspond to what actually happened in the incident: that a black man who harassed, assaulted a minority store owner, and attacked a white police officer.
Many well meaning whites and blacks from the Black Lives Matter group, think that any kind of discrimination of whites against blacks is the reason why there is so much violence in urban black areas of America like North St. Louis. The actual fact is that the opposite is typically the case; whites have little or nothing to do with black on black crime.
To back up the theory of systemic racism as a reason to blame others, members of the audience shared a number of situations where blacks were discriminated against.
One was a woman who came to St. Louis from Dallas for a job interview, and said she was treated differently because she was black. She wasn't hired for the job.
Another said whites were not comfortable with black children who visited a work space in South St. Louis, the Luminary (where the film was screened).
One of the operators of the Luminary said that five black men were arrested unjustly, when they attempted to take some furniture that they had a right to take.
And yet, the problem with this is that if this presents a false narrative of the problems that pervade black life. If anything, there are plenty of examples of whites bending over backwards to help blacks get employment, to the point of reverse racism in many restaurants, where you only see blacks working. At the St. Louis Bread Company and other fast food restaurants it’s common for there to be only blacks working behind the counters. There are plenty of fast food restaurant locations, McDonalds, Hardees, Burger King, that don't hire whites, because blacks evidently can't work with whites, or the other way around.
There are other factors in the plot of the movie that suspend belief. It’s plausible that a white manager at one business is going to discriminate against a black person. But it’s not really plausible that it’s consistent throughout a movie, unless one wants to just blame someone else for one’s own problems. And that seems to be the case here. This black man never finds a white man who will hire him; then, when he shows up for a real interview, he actually disrespects the employer, who wants to hire him, and refuses the job.
Blacks are supposed to have a lower standard of behavior, or a different set of testing standards because of what happens more than a hundred years before. One of the women mentioned that blacks can’t test high enough on their ACT tests to apply to college.
But the problem with this is that, in general, blacks don’t want to test higher, because they don’t really value education in the home. What many white’s claim is that blacks can’t or won’t learn the English language, so, is this not a form of racism. White teachers are taught by liberal whites in education that blacks are unable to learn the English language. They think that blacks being unable to use correct English is a dialect problem. But it's hypocritical, using one standard for one race, and one for another. Asians, Indians and people from other nationalities who come to the U.S. don't have the same complaints.
It’s as though blacks would feel better about themselves if there were more whites in North St. Louis because then they would have people to blame for their problems. As it is, there aren’t any white people to blame, so blacks feel disempowered. If we only had someone to blame for our problems, then our lives would be so much better. Of course, it never works that way. Blaming others or someone else for one’s problems is never an incentive to empowerment.
It’s just the opposite; if one’s happiness depends completely on another person, it establishes a codependency and makes it impossible to achieve by oneself. Unfortunately, many whites who are naive and many Christian, seem to want this for some reason. They want to handicap blacks, make them less responsible for themselves, thus continuing a cycle of failure.
© 2016 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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