Friday, March 10, 2006

Black White

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely re-arranging their prejudices." ~ William James

Wednesday I watched that new Television show called "Black White". If you haven't heard about it yet, it is a new show in which two separate families change their race through use of a new makeup technique to see what it's like from the other race's perspective. It is on the FX channel.

Both families were moved into the same house and there is a session at the end of each day to compare notes.

I admit I was expecting a very liberal perspective, but I was pleasantly surprised at the sensitivity to both races that was portrayed. Since it is a pre-recorded show, it would have been easy to manipulate the results of the project to indict either race through selective editing. I thought the producers presented the observations of both races in a very objective way.

One thing that I noticed was that the white man experienced no signs of prejudice from anyone while out shopping as a black man. When he went into a retail store to look at a suit of clothes, the salesman came up to him instantly and very politely asked him if he could help him.

Everyone who came into contact with him was very polite and non-judgmental. Or so it would seem. Later, when the two families got together to discuss the days activities, the black man told him the sales clerks were approaching him because they were "sizing him up", indicating that he thought the white sales clerks didn't trust a black man in their stores.

That resonated with me, personally, because when I worked in retail, one of the ways they train you to discourage shoplifting, is to approach and speak to anyone you may suspect might be a shoplifter. He may have a point there. I didn't see it at the time, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

On the other hand, the black man, in white makeup, was hired at a sports bar in a predominately white neighborhood. During the course of his work day, he engaged in a conversation with a middle aged white man who was encouraging him to move to the neighborhood as it was a nice neighborhood that had thus far managed to keep undesirables out. He never mentioned race in his discourse, but to the black man, the implications were clear.

Overall, I came away with the impression that the black family carried a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, the father of the family in particular. Another interesting part was the white wife, who said she had been raised in a very liberal family, but nevertheless, seemed as if all she knew of black family's was a completely stereotypical misunderstanding of the black culture.

I predict she will be the first to be surprised at exactly how prejudiced she really is.

I regret that I don't make a very good Television critic. Someone else may have gotten a completely different impression of the program. Did anyone reading this see the program? What was your impression? Did you learn anything? Were you surprised by anything you saw?

1 comment:

Timothy said...

I'm glad you watched it because I saw the advertising for it on the internet and wondered about it. Since we don't watch television, I could only wonder.

I like the aspect of getting help as a black man. Is this what I should do when I go to Dillard's? They see me and ignore me... big, white guy, and I don't look rich... I have to hunt someone down... anyway, keep us informed on the show... it sounds interesting.