Monthly Archives: March 2012

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin, and life as a minority in America.

There are always some things that happen in life that don’t really surprise me anymore.

I remember going to a Subway Series game in 2007 with a group of six people where, in a post-9/11 world, it’s become customary to receive some sort of pat-down at the gate when entering the stadium. My five friends went through first, being groped by the heavyset man and eventually being given access to the cathedral hellhole known as Shea Stadium.

Finally it was my turn. So I spread my legs to shoulder width and extended my arms outward as if I were posing as the Vitruvian man. The heavyset gentleman, in all his infinite authority – what, with the bright yellow pullover screaming “SECURITY” on both sides and his Toys ‘R’ Us walkie-talkie – proceeded with the pat-down. First, my sides. Next my pockets. And, finally, he slid down one leg, then the other, checked my ankles and asked me to remove my Nikes. Upon further inspection, the portly fellow agreed that I, now, was indeed free to enter the ballpark.

Oddly, though, my friends all had this surprised look on their face: “they checked your ankles and asked you to take off your shoes?” “Yeah,” I replied, “why?” Apparently this didn’t happen to them, only me – the one person with a brown complexion in a group of six.

I suppose none of this seemed weird to me at first. As a brown man living in a post-9/11 America, I suppose I’m used to this sort of behavior – being singled out. That, right there, is the main problem with this – I shouldn’t be used to, what amounts to, racial profiling. It wasn’t until my friends had pointed out that I had undergone a far more thorough pat-down than they had, that I had come to realize, holy shit that fat fuck was racist! To be clear, I’m not actually calling the GED-graduate security guard at Shea Stadium a racist, I’m only stating that he racially profiled me. Which, while they aren’t synonymous, aren’t all that different, either.

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Kony 2012, The Mona Lisa and Why We All Need to Calm The *%#! Down.

groupthink (n): a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics; tendency of the members of a group to yield to the desire for consensus or unanimity at the cost of considering alternative courses of action.

I’m probably alone here, but I love reading film reviews. Not before I watch a film, but after. Reading a review before you see actually see the movie is counter-productive – you’re more likely to go into the theatre with a pre-conceived love, or hatred, of that film. But after watching a really great, or possibly really terrible, movie, reading a critic’s assessment can be great. It’s possible they viewed the movie differently, or maybe they reaffirm your thoughts on it – it’s like having a thoughtful discourse with someone you don’t know. If you’re someone who overanalyzes everything, like me, I highly recommend it.

One of my favorite critics used to be Armond White of New York Press. The thing about White, though, was that he unequivocally hated almost every movie I’ve loved, and loved almost every movie I’ve hated. Reading his reviews was like having an argument inside of my head.

(Seriously, though, look at the guy’s Rotten Tomatoes page. He’s given Toy Story: 3, Inception, The Social Network and Up negative reviews. In 2011, alone, he gave Larry Crowne, The Chaperone [which stars Triple-H!], Just Go With It, and The Eagle all positive reviews. I’ve seen all of those [except for Chaperone – but considering its lead actor, I’m willing to make assumptions] and I can tell you they’re terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movies. He gave The King’s Speech a negative review – all that movie did was win Best Picture at the Oscars.)

Armond White is contrarian by nature. He’s not going to give a movie a positive review just because everyone else is. And, just because the majority of people don’t agree with him, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong. In fact, sometimes we look back three years later and realize he was right the entire time – I implore everyone to re-evaluate Avatar.

(For the record, I hated it the first time I saw it. Ask my family. Loved the special effects, but it was just a terrible, clichéd, story. But I digress…)

The thing I love about Armond White is that he isn’t susceptible to the pressures of popular public opinion like the rest of us. A lot of times he’s dead fucking wrong, but you almost have to give him credit for being able to see something completely differently than everyone else. I get the feeling he’d walk into The Louvre and tell you their collection of Renaissance works was a piece of shit. He’s the type of guy that will look at the Mona Lisa and not know what the big deal is – and that’s how we all need to look at it. We view the Mona Lisa as this seminal work of art because we’re told it’s amazing (or because we read about it in The Da Vinci Code). The fact is, 99% of us don’t understand the symbolism found within the painting or appreciate the subtleties of da Vinci’s work – I certainly don’t. We don’t visit the Mona Lisa because we want to; we visit it because we’re told to. And, as someone who has seen it in person, you’re really not missing anything if you skip over it and grab some lunch.

That last example is exactly how groupthink works, and it’s become a fucking epidemic in the age of Facebook and Twitter.

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