The Circle of Life From a Black Perspective
My Mom left town a few days before the Thanksgiving Holiday. I dropped her off at the airport so she could go across the country to spend the holiday season with some distant relatives. Just before she left she asked me to prepare the Thanksgiving diner for her grandkids, my nieces and nephews in college and high school.
My Mom is seriously old school. Even though she is very aware of the condition of the black community and she has her own understanding to its roots and causes, my Mom wants to make sure everyone enjoys the holidays the way tradition says to. If my Mom had stayed in town she would’ve had the biggest spread imaginable for a nearly eighty year old black woman that lives simply and alone. So about nine in the morning on Thanksgiving Day my girlfriend and I are in my Mom’s house getting ready to put a turkey in the oven. We sat and ate dinner as a family about three that afternoon.
Like families do when they get together on Thanksgiving Day we talked as we ate. The conversation rambled across a variety of subjects. Somebody wanted to announce their shopping plans for the next day. One of my nieces mentioned the fact that all she wanted was to get more Disney paraphernalia. To prove her devotion to the Disney Corporation she demonstrates her Disney themed ring tones on her cell phone. Her sister and brother were there to testify on her behalf. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Why do you love Disney so much? Quick, without thinking name a black Disney character. Name someone who is black who works for Disney? Name something Disney does for the black community? James Earl Jones and Robert Guillaume from the Lion King come quickly to mind. Whoopi Goldberg, the black actress who convinced her white boyfriend to show up for a news conference in black face, is another black person with questionable affiliation to the black community.
But who were the main voices for this African based story? Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement fame and Mathew Broderick did the voices for the main character, the lion Simba with blue eyes. But how many black people have blue eyes? For every black person lending their voice to this move there were more than four white people giving their voice. And if the complete credits of writers, producers, people who worked in the production department, art department, sound department, visual effects, camera and electrical, animation department, the editing department, the music department, and other assistants associated with this black movie from Disney and the ratio of black people who participated in the film to white people is more like one out of forty. More white people have a connection to this most African of movies from Disney.
One of my nieces in high school looked to be on the verge of tears in her eyes. “But I love Disney,” was all she had to say. Her brother added his opinion to the conversation. “That was Disney then. But it’s different now.” But what makes it different? In essence my nephew, who is also in high school, replied that it’s the twenty first century and nobody thinks that way any more. If Disney was still racist black people wouldn’t love it like they do.
Black people love Disney because they have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the marketing and propaganda that says people love Disney. It’s not that Disney is such a supporter of the black community or black people. Disney is Disney because it supports white America and white people love the company. And in order for black people to have some semblance of being American we usually do our best to emulate and plug into the values of white America. The white community loves Disney. Disney propaganda supports white values. Therefore, Disney supports American values. And in order for black people to have American values black people must love Disney. So goes the misinformation of what it means to be an American.
Another niece, the one in college, added her voice to the conversation, “I don’t care. I love Disney and that’s all that’s important to me.” My other nieces and nephews laughed, a little more enthusiastically than normally in my opinion. The conversation drifted back to shopping and other superfluous topics. And so goes the mindset of the future representatives of the black community on Thanksgiving Day.
If I had to guess I would say that the mindset exhibited by these young blacks is pretty typical of the black community at large. Our children are more concerned with towing the line with values deeply rooted in concepts associated with assimilation and racism rather than values rooted in true black identity and black self determination. The two are no where near being mutually compatible. But if our children had to make a choice the vast majority would only care about whatever marketing tells the public to care about.
If the black community is to have a future then the black community needs to instill into the black children the values necessary for them to develop a conscience rooted in the black community. Dressing the black child’s room in Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse paraphernalia is akin to telling the black child this is what is important to your life, to your future, to your black community. And nothing could be further from the truth.