The perception of brown and black men has improved little since President Barack Obama came into office. Three years ago in America, with a brown-skinned, and kinky-haired man as its president, it seemed inevitable to presume, or at least assume that that would herald seismic improvements in how the US, or the world at-large appreciates and understands men of African descent. The latest media spectacles provide examples of that, making some bow and shake their heads in response.
One image and message, which are often one and the same, is the young black man. Recently, two images, and their innate problems, have captivated imaginations, and ideas of “justice,” in the U.S. The most troubling and divisive is the killing of Trayvon Martin, and the incomprehensibly late arrest of his assailant. Somehow Mr. Martin was perceived as the stereotypical menacing, young black man. That’s best described, in the 1993 film “Menace II Society:” young, black, and don’t give a fuck. Another is a French film, “Intouchables,” from 2011, which is so popular that one-third of France, 20-milllion people, has seen it. One Minnesota scholar of French compared it to “Driving Miss Daisy.” The lead character, Driss, is a young, ne’er do well black man, from Senegal, who has a complex personal history, and a basic criminal one. Driss is a handsome, irrepressible, immature man stuck in the life that often exists in the metropolitan ghettos of France, as it does in America’s. He becomes a health aide to a rich, quadriplegic French man, serving as a conditional confidante; and as a muse to venture beyond his singular and insular comfort zone.
“Intouchables” is amusing, but if you’re prone to thoughtfully watch movies, you’ll probably notice a bevy of story tropes.
Both images, of Trayvon Martin in life and Driss in fiction, as an intouchable, harken to stereotypes, even story tropes: Trayvon was killed by a man who totes some heavy mental and cultural baggage in regard to young, black men. To him, that character was more of a bogeyman, and less a man, less of flesh and blood. He found and killed Mr. Martin In such a mentality. For Mr. Zimmerman, somehow a young, clean-cut brown-skinned man, carrying Skittles resembled the ghetto monster, O-Dog, in “Menace II Society.”
The darker, the blacker, the more self-assured a man is, he is also that much less likely he is to be gullible, and swallow or see himself reflected in those silly, and destructive messages. So, he poses a greater the threat; he will not be controlled.
The more I live, grow and learn, it seems like the folks, who are the most likely to turn over their leaves from prejudice to progress are those who need a mere nudge.