It’ is widely accepted that the media influences life.
This is especially true when the same idea gets repeated over and over again.
It’s one of the reasons there is a global push to have more representation in movies.
But I don’t think that it’s enough to just have more people of colour acting in big budget movies.
I think it’s also important what those movies say; what stories they tell; how they tell them and who is doing the telling.
I got thinking about this last week when I finally watched the movie The Green Book, which – by the way – is truly deserving of all the accolades it got.
But while the acting is awesome, something about it bothered me; it reminded me of another movie I saw this year, The Best of Enemies.
Both movies have a tear-jerker theme of race reconciliation, where a white character is transformed by their relationship with a black character, usually through some selfless act from the black character.
Except for a few details here and there, the endings are usually quite predictable, with the white character having a complete change of heart about his own racial superiority.
It’s been used as a plot device in a range of films, including the brilliant American History X, Hidden Figures, The Help and a few others.
In a time when race relations worldwide are again at an explosive boiling point, it is a well-intentioned premise.
Movies like this can serve to calm the tensions and drive home points of liberty and equality for all.
But the long-term effect could result in a different type of unconscious racism.
There is another story that I have been following and this time it is not a movie, but YouTube documentary videos.
It’s the story of Daryl Davis, a black American who goes out of his way to convert Ku Klux Klan members into decent human beings.
He started by befriending one of the hate group’s leaders over many years and has since managed to change the hearts of over 200 violently racist Klansmen.
How does all of this fit together to create what I think will emerge as the new race problem for people of colour?
In all these stories, it is the black person taking the action that leads to the race reconciliation.
It is the black person doing all the work – being kind, compassionate and understanding, which then leads to the white person eventually seeing them as intelligent human beings worthy of his respect.
These types of movies are not new and they have always highlighted and encouraged a misguided act of social justice.
They are made by white directors, who are funded by white investors, who should instead give their money to black filmmakers who can tell a more balanced story.
Otherwise these stories will continue to depict racist white people who are indeed capable of change, but only if people of colour make the first move to prove to them that we deserve their respect.
This line of storytelling puts the burden back on people of colour to be the benevolent ones; the reasonable ones who must show restraint and understanding.
For once I would like to see a movie of a white man who slowly gets cured of his racism through his own efforts and realisations.
And then going on a journey to convert other racist white people into reasonable and respectable human beings.