A conversation about race
By Warner Todd Huston
First time filmmaker Craig Bodeker has created an interesting and important new film, A Conversation About Race, filled with forceful questions and intriguing proof that there has been no conversation about race in America. In fact, he believes that racism has become a tool to attack white Americans.
In his opening monologue, Bodeker says that he can't think of an issue that is more important or timely than racism. He also says he "can't think of another issue that is more artificial, manufactured and manipulated than this whole construct called racism."
Pretty strong words to start a film with, certainly. Also the sort of words that would get someone branded a racist just trying to excuse his own hatred were he a white person (which Bodeker is). But is Craig Bodeker a racist? For his part, he basically says that we all are... yet we aren't. He feels this way because he believes the whole concept is ill defined and used to warp the actual, entirely human relations between Americans. But the biggest problem is that no one even seems to know what it is
Of course, the "largest racial group in America," whites of European origin, is the target of this "tool of intimidation" against whites as Bodeker sees it. Racism is used as a "hammer" to beat up whites.
Bodeker begins by interviewing common folks on the street asking them if they see racism. All included in the film say that they see it "every single day" in their daily lives. Blacks, whites, other ethnicities, all seem to see this racism "in every city" in America, as one fellow says.
Next Bodeker asks his interviewees to define racism. Yet, few seem to be able to articulate a definition, despite that they claim to see it everywhere.
Bodeker finds this a disconnect. Everyone sees it, yet no one seems to know what racism is. In fact, he finds that the word "racism" has become so elastic that it no longer has any meaning. The on-line source Wikipedia, for instance, defines racism this way:
Racism: The term usually denotes race-based prejudice, violence, discrimination, or oppression. The term can also have varying and hotly contested definitions.
As Bodeker says, there was a time when "definitions were by definition, definite." Yet we can no longer seem to define racism with out using disqualifying words like "usually" as Wikipedia did above. Is it racism as defined or only "usually" racism?
As an example of the disconnect that Bodeker sees with racism in America, he asks various people of various backgrounds if blacks are naturally better at basketball. All but one said yes. When he asked if whites can be better at anything by definition of being white, the answer was universally no.
Bodeker wonders why it is racist to say that whites can be better at, say, Human Relations in a corporation, than are blacks, but it isn't racist to say blacks are better at basketball than whites. It would seem that both positions are racist positions, yet only the anti-white position is approved of.
It all fits in with Bodeker's theory that racism is no longer a concept that keeps blacks or other minorities down, but one that is used to attack whites instead.
His logic is awfully hard to deny.
After all, the original definition of racism is that it is a concept based on the assumption that one race is better, superior, or intrinsically worth more than another. Yet, at every turn Bodeker cannot find any one that says that whites are better than blacks at anything — and it is assumed an evil thing to say — yet people have no problem saying that blacks are better at basketball or Asians are better at their schooling.
Bodeker does a fine job in A Conversation About Race exposing the confused assumptions, and disconnects that America has over racism. He shows that the conversation about race that Senator Barack Obama was so famous for fostering has not happened at all in this country.
This is certainly a conversation that America needs to have, but has yet to engage in and Bodeker's film is a good first step.