Can a White Person Make a Movie about African Americans? by Brendan O’Neill

Can a White Person Make a Movie about African Americans? by Brendan O’Neill

Can a White Person Make a Movie about African Americans? by Brendan O’Neill


Some on the left say no.

Not content with harassing white people who wear their hair in cornrows and branding as “cultural appropriation” everything from college cafés serving sushi to Beyoncé donning a sari, now the new racial purists are coming for film director Kathryn Bigelow.

Her crime? She’s a white woman.

More specifically, she’s a white woman who dared to tell the story of the 1967 Detroit riots in her latest movie.

It’s wrong for whites to tell black stories, apparently, because they can never truly understand those stories. It’s a profoundly philistine argument that exposes the misanthropy of the racial thinking that passes for radical commentary these days.

Bigelow’s Detroit is a blistering movie. It focuses on one incident in those crazy days of July 1967…

….But Bigelow’s artistic achievement with Detroit, alongside that of her longstanding screenwriter Mark Boal, counts for little in the face of her racial heritage, it seems. Her whiteness apparently voids her artistic vision.

No sooner had Detroit hit theater screens than she was being “called out” — PC for publicly shamed — for her cultural arrogance.

A Variety cover story asked: “How could Bigelow — a white woman raised just outside San Francisco by middle-class parents and educated at Columbia University — understand and illuminate [this] kind of raw experience?” …

….“This is a film by white people, for white people,” says one reviewer. Apparently, “a story about black pain is not necessarily Bigelow’s to tell in the first place.” Why not? How far should we take this argument? Was it wrong for Shakespeare, a Brit, to tell a Roman story in Julius Caesar?

…The new PC racial purity grates against the entire enterprise of art. It is an affront to the universalizing dynamic and human empathy that make art possible and underpin history’s greatest works.

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