Via Kerry Picket at the Media Research Center’s Eyeblast.tv: “Black Hole: A new entry in the racism dictionary.”
Unfortunately I had heard about the video before seeing it, so there was no opportunity for an auto-response.
A lot of people — including the commissioner who took the ‘black hole’ comment in its least literal and most hurtful connotation —
Let’s walk through the video.
0:00-0:03 — “it sounds like central collections has become a black hole…” — Gentleman in the olive suit
0:04-0:10 — “excuse me? excuse me? [how about] a white hole? a pink hole?” — Gentleman with braids. He is commissioner John Wiley Price.
To which the man in the olive suit responds with a “you got me”-type laugh, and tries to continue with what he’s saying. The man in the olive suit chuckles sheepishly — he thinks the gentleman in the braids is being too sensitive, but he probably won’t say any color-related remarks the rest of the meeting.
Then it escalates.
By 0:11 the gentleman with the braids has refocused his energy on the matter at hand. It could have ended there, with a chuckle.
From 0:17-0:25 it gets more serious than it ever should have. (Tapping desk periodically “Can I get an apology from the commissioner?/ In this day and time/ when you have diversity/ and refer to a black hole.” — Gentleman in the black suit, whose back is facing the camera.
“Well sure I can,” the gentleman with the olive suit responds. Whereas his body language had indicated a sheepishness earlier, now his resolve has hardened. By 0:29 he’s screaming “it’s a science term!” — no more chuckling is to be seen from him.
The black-suited gentleman, the grievance-raiser, continues on how the connotation is “negative,” and the white men sitting alongside the commissioner in the olive suit are saying “Come on!” trying to end the digression.
Then the segment cuts to an interview with commissioner Price, who seems to have just watched Malcolm X beforehand, because he lifted the black is bad, white is good revelation from Malcolm’s days in prison almost word for word. Price’s interview looked more like an In Living Color skit making fun of overly serious Black Nationalists than a serious attempt to address negative racial connotations that are embedded in the language. He’s smiling half the time he’s talking; of course, he was the one who took the black hole remark and turned it into a joke and was ready to move on before his colleague upped the ante.
When you look at a video like this one, featuring images of the civil rights struggle, then juxtapose it with the “Black Hole” video, it’s impossible to ignore how far America has come. If anything, the latter reinforces that.
Fifty years ago — in some parts of the country, thirty years ago — black people couldn’t even sit at the soup counter. 40 years ago John Wiley Price probably wouldn’t have been allowed to vote in Dallas. Today he’s free to raise even the smallest of grievances, and mau-mau to his heart’s content.
I do wonder what Malcolm or Martin would’ve thought about this “incident.” Malcolm, post-Mecca, probably would’ve just laughed — if ‘Black Hole’ is what passes for racism these days, Malcolm would advise Mr. Price, deep in the throes of a belly laugh, y’all must have it made in the shade. He’d probably assume that young black men and women have full employment and every opportunity in the Dallas area.
Because if that isn’t true, Price’s effort to refine our language will amount to little more than a chuckle.
Photo credit, Malcolm and Martin: Robert McMahan Photography