So I'm relaxing for a bit after studying ancient 5th century BCE Greek for my class (Greek 101) and I decide to turn on the TV. Which was probably a mistake since I always find something on the TV I can't stand, like CNN (oh God!).
As I'm watching the tube a commercial comes on for the movie The Brave One. At the beginning of the clip Jodi Foster is siting down alone in a subway car in the middle of night with no one in the car with her. All of a sudden two young (menacing) Black men (their menacing because their Black, male, and young, duh!) walk up to her. One is wearing a black and green football jersey with a sideways black cap (ah he's gangsta cause it's sideways!) and a silver chain; the other is wearing a yellow and white jacket with a black do rag on (he's gangsta cause it's a do rag!).
As they walk menacingly up to Foster the guy in yellow says in a MTV type of Ebonics talk. "Awww, dis is too eazy man!"
With that they two proceed to try and rob foster buy her quick and skilled white woman reflexes kick into action and she pulls out a gun and pumps some quick lead into the two "thugs."
Now what strikes me the most about this scene is the way the director chose to caste two young Black men for the train robbery scene. Obviously the director wanted something to convey scariness, so he chose two Black men, and the director needed to portray vulnerability, so he chose a white woman. Now in a society where for hundreds of years white woman have been used to portray innocence and chastity and Black men have been used to portray savagery and hyper-masculinity, this movie trailer does not sit to well with me.
Now before you all jump on the "oversensitive band wagon" I'm not neccesarly saying Foster is racist or that the director is racist. What I'm saying is, is that Foster and the director and casting manager, and anyone else involved in this film and who is white is not aware of their white privilege and racial history of America and is in turn unaware of their racist actions...So that means...Oh wait...Yeah, I am calling them racist! Oh well. Get over it. Plus anyone who thinks I'm being oversensitive doesn't deserve an explanation on why their comment is ignorant, but I'm getting off track here.
In a country where race was one of the biggest issues in its founding, preservation, and expansion, a scene in where a white woman is in a dangerous situation that involves a Black male is going to illicit a strong emotional response from any crowd. And mostly that crowd's response will be of fear, fear for that "poor white lady" and hatred for the "menacing Black men."
When I or anyone else talking about a system of racism and white supremacy being embedded within our country and society this is one (of the many) things we're talking about. When we watch the news or television shows like Cops normally the only time we see a Black male is when he's being chased by a cop in the ghetto or a mug shot of a "scary" Black man on the run for doing something, such as robing a bank, etc. For a white person, or really any person, seeing this every single time on the TV or in the newspaper further affects the way we perceive and think about Blacks and Black males. Couple this with movies that portray Black men as gangsters and drug dealers we get an image stuck in our head of what a Black man is. Even movies that try to highlight the imense poverty and racism that Blacks have to deal with everyday, such as Boyz n the Hood, even end up reenforcing these negative stereotypes.
Now couple this with the history of using the hyper-violent and hyper-sexual Black man attacking or "ravaging" a white woman to instill fear and hatred in the white populace you can see how these modern day stereotypes are actually just the bastard step-child of the older, but as equally racist, image of the Black man attacking and raping the white woman in the film Birth of a Nation.
So when the director and producer were trying to convey a scene of vulnerability and fear what was running through their mind when they decided to caste Foster and two young Black men? The answer isn't that they just randomly decided to caste a white woman for the role of Erica (the character) and two young Black men for the role of subway attackers. The answer is much deeper than that and lies in the history of our country, our race relations, and the answer lies in the construction of whiteness and the continual propping up of the white race in our country today.