I watched Lincoln again tonight, in no small part because I think Daniel Day Lewis is the greatest living actor. I was worried when I first watched it that all the high profile actors would dilute the film, and it would turn into some overproduced Hollywood bullshit, but Holbrook, Fields, Jones, Spader and the rest did a fine job with their roles and not turning it into a bunch of disparate stars each trying to take control of the film. If that makes sense.
As I was watching it tonight, particularly the scene during the vote for the 13th amendment, I remembered again what white privilege was like. I sat there, and as the votes were cast for something that I know the result and have for 150 years, feeling all good about myself because the union had outlawed slavery, I wondered what it must be like to be black watching this movie. That’s the legacy of racism. That’s the legacy of our original sin. While I’m sitting here feeling good about my pasty white self because the vote came out in the movie the way we wanted it to, think about what the AA community must think about while watching this movie. If I were black, I’d be pissed- “Yeah, white people. Thanks for all that. You want a fucking cookie for treating people like people?”
That, again, is the legacy of racism and our sin against human decency. I get to feel good while watching a movie about shit that happened 150 years ago because, well, none of it was really personally relevant to me or my life the past 40 years. Meanwhile, while things have improved, African Americans in our country, almost two centuries later, are still fighting for the right to vote and their franchise is under attack from the same type of people in stovepipe hats and shitty beards that voted in the 1860’s for them to remain slaves.
The parallel to the gay rights issues this week in the Supreme Court could not be more clear. Just like in the vote for the 13th amendment, we have a boatload of privileged white people deciding whether or not African Americans are really people under the law. Now, though, we have a bunch of straight people deciding the fate of people that none of them can identify with. Even if SCOTUS rules the “right way” (the way I want them to), we will be living with the after effects for years. Well, not we. Just as blacks have dealt with individual and institutional racism for centuries even after that momentous 13th amendment vote, gays and lesbians (and the forgotten voices of the movement, the transgendered) will be subject to discrimination and hatred and bile for years to come. And that’s if things go the right way in SCOTUS.
That’s what white (and heterosexual) privilege feel like. It’s that fucking good. You get to feel good about yourself when you have a couple drinks and watch a movie about your country making baby steps towards treating everyone like human beings.