“The Blackness Project”: Two Years Ago

      On February 9, 2018 the film was screened at The Burchfield-Penny Art Center.  Following the film was a interactive panel discussion on race.  The topic, “Why All the Talk About Race?” There were six panelists, however most prominent were Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, University of Buffalo Professor and Director of The Center for Urban Studies; Mr. Carl Paladino, billionaire businessman, founder and chairman of Ellicott Development Company, and Mr. Larry Quinn, real-estate developer by trade, past managing partner of the Buffalo Sabres, and at-large member of the Buffalo Board of Education.

Blackness-Project1-1260x800

“The main purpose of the film is to spark dialogue and encourage people to talk about things they may be uncomfortable with. Hopefully it will be therapeutic.”

Korey Green

This is what the Buffalo News reported:

https://buffalonews.com/2018/02/09/paladino-has-his-say-on-race-at-forum-then-vows-to-listen/

This is what I reported: which was not published:

     The Buffalo News reported that “Carl Paladino said his piece during a forum on race Friday at the Burchfield-Penny Art Center…  but he choose to listen more.” I was there.  Let me be clear. That did not happen.

     The panel discussion was a follow-up to the screening of “The Blackness Project”, a film directed and co-produced by Korey Green.  Mr. Green made the film in response to the on-line film “The Whiteness Project” created by Whitney Dow.  Dow’s project offers a platform for white people to speak freely about race. Dow said he made the film because “we white people need to deal with our own shit.” Unfortunately, the attempt to engage white people falls dangerously flat as the participants and viewers are never asked to examine the stereotypes and inaccuracies they espouse.  Green’s film is a counter-narrative, and is better.  The participants in his film speak honestly and painfully about their experiences as Black-Americans.  More importantly, Green’s film is charged by interviews with academics, public intellectuals, and political actors.  Their voices bring not only an historical analysis to Black racial oppression, but wisdom, insight and at times, humor.

      The panel discussion titled “Why All The Talk About Race” was very telling and seemed to mirror the two films.  There wasn’t any conversation and there wasn’t any listening by either white panelist, Carl Paladino or Larry Quinn.  That they were invited was confusing. They are capitalists; not critical thinkers.  And, worse, not only has Paladino attacked Black civic leaders, he has made vile, racist, statements about President Barack Obama and Michele Obama. His defense; his comments “were not intended for the public.”  

     When asked what role racism plays in our society, both white panelists did what white people do when taking about race; they looked at their black and brown brothers and sisters in the eye and told them what is and what is not racism. Like the supporters of the Lancaster Redskins telling Seneca Nation representative Al Parker that the term “redskin” is an “honor”, even though Mr. Parker is telling them, “It is not.”

     Larry Quinn actually said, “black people need to get past the idea that there is a force in this country that wants to subjugate you.” Jeff Sessions’ use of the phrase “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” was no accident.  The travel ban on Muslims, Trump’s push to build a border wall, FEMA’s abandonment of Puerto Rico, the murder of Black civilians by police, and the disproportionate numbers of Black men incarcerated for crimes white men are not — they all speak to intentional racist practices of law.  To blame and reduce American racist policy, as Quinn said, “to the Southern government up until maybe recently” shows willful ignorance.  

      Carl Paladino was particularly disrespectful during the panel discussion.  He centered the conversation on himself and his past role as a board member of the Buffalo Public Schools.  He spoke over the other panelists (especially when Dr. Henry Taylor was speaking) and when Mr. Jamil Crews spoke of the role that Donald Trump plays in promoting hate, Mr. Paladino rolled his eyes. Paladino questioned the need for Black History Month. He charged Black women educators with racism because “they do not support charter schools”.  He accused Black civic leaders of not caring for children.

     How is that “listening a little more instead of talking?” Had Mr. Paladino been listening he would have learned that Black History Month is not just a celebration of Black America’s achievements and stories, but rather a deliberate political strategy for blacks to be recognized as equal citizens. Without it, Black achievements would not be part of any historical narrative.  Had Mr. Paladino been listening he would have learned that Black Americans are wary of charter schools because of the history of excluding Black children from public schools, and currently, public schools of excellence.  Charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools, they have higher expulsion and suspension rates for Black students, and many are run by evangelical Christian churches which often teach unaccredited curriculum, curriculum which flouts science and historical fact. Had Mr. Paladino been listening to Dr. Taylor, he might have learned about the numerous Black community organizations that have for years and years worked toward Black economic, educational, and political parity. 

     Mr. Paladino and Mr. Quinn did not “participate” in the panel discussion on race. They did what white people do when asked to talk about race. They believe they have a right to speak, to be heard, and to be counted at all times. They believe they can hide behind their ethnicity, gender or poverty to dismiss the voices and experiences of non-whites. They disparage political correctness, deny history, and even distort reality. 

      Throughout the film, Dr. Taylor spoke of a general lack of remorse by most white Americans when it comes to the brutal treatment of African-Americans and other minorities in this country: past and present.  To that I would add a total lack of shame.

Less than a year ago, CBS This Morning did a story on the film “The Blackness Project” directed and co-produced by Korey Green.  The film encourages people to talk about “race-related issues that can be uncomfortable.”

http://theblacknessproject.org/2019/02/09/how-the-blackness-project-is-helping-people-talk-about-race/

 

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