I See White People: “Hunger Games” and a Brief History of Cultural Whitewashing

By Lindy West

Attention, everyone: Racism is BACK! [Electric guitar riff.] As you may have heard (because it’s both bonkers and everywhere), our national brain trust of semi-literate racist teenagers is not pleased with some casting choices in the newly released Hunger Games movie. And lo, they took to Twitter with a fury.

“Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” wrote one. (Okay, you’re racist. And you left out a “k.”) “HOW IN THE WORLD ARE THEY GOING TO MAKE RUE A FREAKIN BLACK BITCH IN THE MOVIE ?!?!?!??!” wondered another. One didn’t mince words (or use them correctly in any way): “Sense when has Rue been a nigger.” (Sidenote: Pretty much all of these teens have since locked or deleted their Twitter accounts—because it’s totally cool to be racist in front of your friends, but the rest of America can be a real drag, bro.)

First of all, I can’t even figure out what race means in the context of a futuristic dystopian vision set in an alternate-reality America where children fight to the death for the amusement of Katy Perry’s wig collection. Like, how do our present stereotypes even apply? Do these kids think Cinna only got into fashion school because of a post-apocalyptic affirmative action program? Do they conceive of 12-year-old Rue as some sort of tiny welfare queen from space? It makes no sense.

Second of all, and more importantly, this is obviously horrifying. But is it really that surprising? Those tweets raise knotty questions about what we see when we read—how our brains conceptualize things that aren’t explicitly dictated, the ways our subconscious is conditioned to fill in the blanks. The characters that these racist garbage-teens are so upset about are either explicitly described as having dark skin (to the point where, while reading, I felt a little weird about the demographics of Panem—did they seriously just make District 11 the black-people district?), or not specified at all. But, of course, if it’s not specified, it must be white.

The ubiquity of whiteness in popular media is so overwhelming that, in the absence of any racial signifiers, I would guess that the majority of white people and a significant number of non-white people automatically assume that characters are white. I know I do. (To be clear: I am a white lady.) I mean, Jesus, the impulse to default to white is so strong that the above child prodigies defaulted to white even when explicitly told not to. (I guess they assumed that “dark skin” meant, uh, dark white. Like George Hamilton or something.) Also, speaking of Jesus and white people, let’s not forget WHITE JESUS. White people’s PR campaign has been so comprehensive, we’ve even managed to make God white—to the point where even black people worship white Jesus! And Jesus was hella not white. Like, at all.

You can see whitewashing in a grillion places—from old chestnuts like black characters always dying first (get out of the way! White people have stuff to do!), to more recent developments like 2011’s HawthoRNe being only the third primetime drama ever to feature a black female lead. Third one ever. In 2011. There’s the fact that if you have more than two black characters in a television show it becomes a “black show.” There was Avatar: The Last Airbender (which I reviewed here), in which M. Night Shyamalan cast white actors in explicitly Asian roles—but only the heroes. The villains were dark-skinned south Asians. Remember the sassy black friend in 2011 rom-com Friends with Benefits? Probably not, because she only exists for like two seconds at the very beginning of the movie to establish that our heroine has an ethnic friend, and then disappears forever. Because that’s enough! Tip o’ the hat to you, black people! You’re welcome! Now quiet down—the white people are talking.

I asked comedian/actor Hari Kondabolu about his experiences auditioning for roles as a non-white person. He said this:

I see how white is the default every time I have to audition for a part and there’s an indicator that the actor can be “any race” or open to any particular look. It’s a reminder that most, if not all, of the other parts are meant for white people. Shouldn’t most parts be open to anyone?

Only in revisionist Shakespeare, you silly goose!

And beyond that, when television shows and films do manage to cast non-white people in significant roles (usually maids or prostitutes, but, you know, baby steps), or create meaningful gay characters, or allow people from non-dominant groups to participate in the conversation in any way, it’s treated like charity. As though inclusion—or even just acknowledgement—is a gift that those groups should be grateful for. Fuck. It’s like expecting people to be grateful for an invitation to their own family reunion.

In 2010, someone suggested that Community treasure [and black person] Donald Glover should be cast as Peter Parker in the forthcoming Spider-Man reboot (the role eventually went to Andrew Garfield). White people went FUCKING BERSERK. Glover received death threats. Just for the idea of him being allowed to audition for a movie version of Spider-Man (a movie that, by the way, already exists with a white actor in the lead role). And just like with Rue and Cinna and Thresh and the racist Twitter-teens, it’s a proprietary thing-if Spider-Man is black, then he isn’t ours anymore. He’s theirs. Waaaaaaaahhh! In MY America, Spider-Man is white! In MY America, I don’t have to worry about non-white people all browning up my young adult fiction movie adaptations! It’s not fair—it’s like this isn’t MY America at all anymore.

Pro tip, fellow white people: It never was.

Additional Reading:

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed
A Character-by-Character Guide to Race in The Hunger Games
Jezebel’s Full Hunger Games Coverage

Originally published on Jezebel. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

Profile photo of Jezebel

Jezebel has written 39 articles for us.

90 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I just, I just don’t.
    I really like the see also articles that I’m getting for this page. I am so full of rage at the idea of what people are saying about race and this movie that this is my only coherent thought.

  2. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    On the Jesus thing:

    The face of Christ has changed over the centuries to appeal to the masses. For instance, in Constantinople, Christ wore a toga and cropped haircut in order to appeal to wealthy Roman Christians like their Christian king. In the Gothic age, most Christians couldn’t read, but they saw portraits of Christ in paintings, stained glass, and carvings. His face changed to one that most poor, illiterate people could relate to: that is, someone who was poor looking, a little unkempt, and, yes, European. Is it white washing or is it a way to make ones god look like you do? After all, I believe in a pagan Goddess. In my brain, she comes in all sorts of shapes and figures. Is it wrong of me to see her as a jovial white woman if I so choose? That’s how I relate to her sometimes (when she isn’t a tree or a river or the wind…)

    As to the characters in a book, I think it’s about your personal interpretation and how you view the world. If visual cues aren’t expressly given in the text, you have to make them up on your own. It isn’t unreasonable to me to visualize characters based on the ones we see everyday. Perhaps if you live in a multicultural setting, you don’t prescribe race to characters in a book, or you don’t think about them. Perhaps the same is true if you do not live in a multicultural area.

    While I don’t agree with the nasty comments of a few kids on the Internet, I also don’t know that I agree with the unreasonable association. Art is open to your personal experience and your personal interpretation. That’s how art works.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      Except that these racist assholes are deliberately changing their perception of their characters after the author has stated their appearance. And the emotional investment in the characters from these racist assholes is dependent on the race of their characters. This isn’t artistic liberty – this is White America only caring about White Americans and becoming outraged at the notion that Black America can invoke feelings of sympathy and compassion. That’s the issue at hand.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      In this book the visual cues are given in the text. It would still be terrible if there was no physical description of Rue, but I think it’s even worse that so many readers completely disregarded the author’s words to imagine a white kid instead.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      The notion of art being subject to personal experience is a part of dominant culture. For when an artist isn’t a part of dominant culture there work is considered not enough, not ethic enough, gay enough, etc… Art is subjected not only to personal experience but is judged against the experience and projections of dominant culture.

      As for Jesus, Christianity was used to subjugate people around the world. So white Jesus has been sold as the real deal. Even in museums, a European Jesus is showcased the majority of the time.

  3. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    When marriage equality came up for a vote on the ballot in Maine, (and lost) my niece said to me “We just need to wait for all the old people to die..And then we’ll win”..Then I read this and the comments from teens..My God, those comments..And I’m forced to wonder..Will we ever defeat hatred?

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      This was just what my mom was saying last week. Her answer was…”no.”

      Incidentally, Hollywood was given a special exemption from Disparate Impact/Treatment suits under EEOC law, what was then a then well-meaning attempt to not want to interfere with artistic liberty. 40 something years on I wonder about that. The industry just refuses to grow up.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I remember the week after the vote, I just kept looking at every person I met and thinking ‘Was it you? Did you vote against my right to marry?’ Before that, I had been happy to believe that haters were other people, somewhere else, but after that vote, I had to face the fact that about 1 out of every 2 people honestly thought gay marriage was wrong, and that meant I was living amongst them.

      I don’t think we’ll ever defeat hatred. But hopefully we can reduce it more and more each generation, until the haters are a toothless, powerless, statistically insignificant percent of the population.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Although when you think about it, California is a very politically diverse state and so the fact that slightly more than half of CA in 2008 voted against same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that’s going to be evenly divided throughout the state – it’s more that it’s going to be the majority in more conservatives areas, but probably the minority in, say, downtown San Francisco or LA.

        My state is, unfortunately, probably going to put marriage equality up to a vote in November after we legalized it last month, and I was pretty surprised at first that it’s so narrow – but that’s because I live in downtown Baltimore, which hasn’t had a Republican in the city government in over 40 years. It probably isn’t a “close race” here; it’s more that there are a lot of bigots over on the Eastern Shore or in the western mountains to even us out.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          Maryland is my home state; I grew up in Carroll County, which I think is more conservative than not. I’ll be crossing my fingers if this ends up on the ballot there in November, and asking all of my family who still lives there to vote in favor of gay marriage. (I think they would without my asking them to, but the reminder can’t hurt.)

          Sometime I wish we could just divide the US into two countries, and have all the liberals live in one and all the conservatives in another, and be done with it. Then we could have our rights and it wouldn’t matter if they hated us because we’d be in different countries with different laws.

          • Thumb up 0

            Please log in to vote

            I sometimes feel like the second paragraph, but then, what about the poor liberals who grow up in a conservative family? I would hope there would be some way to move them over to the liberal side for safety. :)

            Re: Maryland, I’m here for college but originally from Michigan, and there’s one high school classmate who always gets really mad at me whenever I post anything about how happy I am to live in a blue state because her only visits to Maryland were to see grandparents in Cecil County, which is apparently really conservative, and she thinks the whole state must be like that too.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          “the fact that slightly more than half of CA in 2008 voted against same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that’s going to be evenly divided throughout the state”

          Very true. If you live in a more liberal area, you can know that a minority of people were voting against equality. If you live where I live (suburbs of Sacramento county), you can know that know that eight or nine out of every ten people probably voted against you. I had to remind myself of how diverse the whole state is to think we had a chance in my sea of those yellow “yes on 8″ posters. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out…

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        there’s going to be a vote on this in my state in May. not as dramatic as maine or some of the other places where civil unions are already allowed or the same-sex marriage law is passed by the legislature.

        no, in nc they’re putting lgbtq civil rights up for a majority vote just for kicks and giggles. we’re fighting it. fighting not to be kicked, i guess. #babystepsinthesouth

  4. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Suzanne Collins basically said Rue and Thresh were black, and if those kids actually read the book the description of Rue said she had “dark brown skin” so regardless she wasn’t going to be white unless they had completely disregarded her description.

  5. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I never saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nor did I read the books so I don’t know if there are any non-white characters in the story, but I wonder if there would have been a similar reaction if the movie had done the same thing that The Hunger Games movie did. I mean, Lisbeth is queer so fans of the books must have already gotten over that deviation from the standard Straight White Male. Huh… whatever. This article isn’t really about The Hunger Games specifically so relating it to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a little arbitrary.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      Most of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo takes place in rural Sweden and mostly centers around one family. Not too much opportunity for racial diversity. The story did, however, incorporate people from other countries/religions. Without looking up Sweden stats, I would think that the population was fairly represented, given the story/setting.

  6. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I haven’t read the books, I’ll be honest, but I watched the movie and I loved it. When I saw Rue, I had an instant attachment to her because she looked extremely similar to my kid cousin who is half African American and Mexican. Anyway, I try not to read reviews or read fanboy/girl blogs of movies I like because I don’t like people telling me what I should feel. But in the magical world of Tumblr, my dash was subjected to screen caps of racist teenagers saying that Rue couldn’t be “innocent” because of her skin color, that she was a “bitch”, and so on. This threw and still throws me into a fit of rage because having just seen the movie the day before, I thought about my cousin. You better believe I would protect my cousin Hunger Games style if anyone ever tried to hurt her, but the truth of the matter is racism is still present. I know that firsthand being Mexican. And as Digger pointed out above I believed the younger generations would be inherently less hateful. I believed my cousin would have it better than I did and my mother before me. But it’s not enough to believe, we have to MAKE DAMN SURE racism dissipates, so I applaud the teenagers who read the books and called out their peers on their illiteracy and hate. (And for Christ fucking sake, Hollywood put more people of color on TV, this is America for fucks sake, the TV should reflect our diversity!)

    I actually don’t know where I’m going with this post anymore or if it even makes sense to anyone because my own personal feelings are clouding my thought processes. So, I’m just gonna stop.

  7. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    If another motherfucker says to me we live in a “post-racial” America or “I’m color-blind” I shall laugh in their face.

    rage. rage. rage.

  8. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Call me crazy, but I think this show of overt racism is a good thing. For years blacks have been telling people that racism is still around, and we get the stop playing the race card line again and again. So now that’s it’s overt racism people are all oh my I had no idea people still feel this way, and now they see what blacks especially have been talking about now for years.

  9. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    True confessions: I totally missed that part of the description of Rue and Thresh in the books. As such, yeah, I realized after reading these articles that I was subconsciously picturing most, if not all, of these characters as white. In a way, I guess I’m glad this has blown up with such ferocity, because it’s given me a chance to reexamine how I approach things like this, and try to change my assumptions and preconceptions about them.

    So…thanks to the racist jerks for making me less subconsciously racist…I think?

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I did the same thing, so thanks for being the first to admit it. I think I did picture Thresh as black (it’s been a while since my first reading) but somehow I missed the description of Rue, and was picturing her as a little white girl with dark brown hair in a bob style cut with bangs… which is what my little sister looked like as a kid, come to think of it… hmm. Anyway, perhaps I had sisterly feelings towards Rue so I pictured her as looking like my own sister, or perhaps I am just subconsciously racist a little bit. Either way, this whole thing definitely makes me think about how we (meaning white people, yes I am stereotyping) default to white when no race is indicated, and sometimes even when it is. I can’t believe the level of hatred of those Twitter comments though. I just hope the little girl who played Rue isn’t aware of any of this, because she’s a child for Pete’s sake, and i heard she was superb in the role.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Ava, I did the very same thing, I imagined Rue to look like my younger sister (and so as white, as my sister is). Thresh, I did imagine as black, so at some point that information did go in. I must say though seeing Rue not being white as I had imagined made me feel ashamed for just assuming that was the case (and apparently over-writing what the author had said…gah!)

  10. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    fuck baby steps. we’re grown-ass adults (or close to it) and should be capable of taking real grown-ass steps to eradicating racism in our culture, institutions, and media. steps like charging Trayvon Martin’s murderer. steps like having movie roles for people of color that AREN’T “the maid” or “thug #2″. it’s 2012 y’all, we should collectively be past baby steps.

  11. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I have always loved books. In fact, when I was younger I had a reoccurring nightmare about some apocalyptic situation where I always running back into the fire to save the books in my high school’s library…
    I know I should be outraged by the blatant racism of teenagers today, but I’m from the South and I listen to my boss talk about her kids getting in trouble for using the N-word in school even though she doesn’t “tolerate” that talk in her home. I listen to my little cousins talk about their friends who are all the same color as them. And just a few years ago, despite my college campus’s focus on diversity, we were essentially segregated when it came to social circles.
    So yeah, racism among our youth is not so surprising. But the inability of these kids to comprehend what they were reading. SURPRISING. and sad.

  12. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Though what these kids are saying is obviously absolutely horrible, I can, at least, attest to how easy it is to selectively read descriptions of characters in books. I clearly remember my anger as a kid on the release of the first Harry Potter film at realising that they had given Harry glasses. I was 100% convinced that he didn’t wear them in the books, despite the many, many times they were mentioned and the fact that he was even wearing glasses on every single damn cover.
    Man, I was an idiot. But, hey, at least I wasn’t a racist, amirite?

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      Does anyone remember that racist shitstorm that went down in Harry Potter fandom when it came out in the 6th book that Blaise Zabini was black? Apparently a sizable number fans were deeply invested in hanging onto their (white) mental image of a character who was just a name for the first 5 books.

      Bad times, my friends. Bad times.

      YA readers, you’re supposed to be our hope for the future. What gives?

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Honestly, I have to say I was a complete jerk when I was a kid. So were all the other kids I knew. I only hope the teenagers saying these things grow up and are appropriately ashamed once they’re able to conceptualize the greater world a little more.

  13. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Incidentally, call me cynical, but why in both 08′ and 12′ there suddenly occured these heartfelt conversations about sex/race: election years, both? I fully suspect that politicians will gain from them & then won’t do much the next 2-4 years.

  14. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I grew up first in England, then Australia. My mother is Israeli (Ashkenazi descent aka white) and my dad is Australian and of English, Irish, Scottish and Native American descent. Growing up people used to not believe me that my brother and I were full siblings because to them my brother and I “[look] so different.” It was, of course, their way of saying “But he looks ethnic, and you don’t” but I guess they thought I might not read between the lines?

    Both my brother and my paternal aunt are very dark and always have been, there’s a portrait of a Native American woman from years ago and she is the spitting image of both my brother and my aunt. People used to find out about my mother (having not met her) and go, “Oh, so that’s why he’s dark”, but no, it’s not why. My mother is Ashkenazi not Sephardic, there’s a difference. The skin tone came from my father’s side.

    When people hadn’t met or seen my parents but have met my brother and I, like people I went to school with…that’s when those comments would come. It always felt weird for me. Because people were trying to contextualize race…using my own family to do so, if that makes sense.

  15. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    What really gets me is that these teens don’t think they are being racist… Yes, you are racist if you find the death of an innocent young black girl less upsetting than the death of an innocent young white girl. In both cases, someone is dead–if you find the death of someone less upsetting because of the color of their skin, you are racist. You don’t get a free pass just because you admit that other people might call you racist and say “no offense” at the end of your post.

    You’re an idiot. No offense.

  16. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    First of all, the new Ultimate Spiderman is a kid half-black, half-hispanic. His name is Miles Morales:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/02/new-ultimate-spider-man-half-black-half-latino_n_916468.html

    Back to the illiterate racist kids on Twitter, they clearly did not read The Hunger Games or they don’t know how to read at all, I mean, I have a decent skill on english language and I even understand the part where Rue and Cinna were described as people with dark skin.

    I still dont know why people discriminate other people, is really stupid. Here in my country we have basically white, black and taino heritage, so most of us don’t see the color of someone’s skin as a big deal, but again, stupid discrimination are in the heart of mean people. I feel ofended when ignorants like these kids, are using social media to spread idiotic messages.

    I can’t believe how this generation is growing up.

  17. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I feel these things:

    These silly fucks are so ridiculous I almost can’t even muster up rage at them. I feel that way about a lot of -isms/activism. Things are so stupid half the time it’s just surreal (e.g. Kirk Cameron, Rick Santorum). And I acknowledge I live on the coast and that changes my perceptions (the place I live is diverse and having been to say, Kansas, I know that is so very not so in a lot of the U.S.) but I feel like I want to say hey, yes, these people exist but so do white people who don’t want this kind of crap and I at least hope to god the latter is a bigger group than the former. I hope that one day those of us who are coded white by those in power reject that code (especially those of us who come from stomped on minorities like Jewish and Irish because really, we should know better than to perpetuate any of that noise) and reject other white people who say and feel this kind of nonsense, because lord knows every time I see this I am like STOP. STOP PUTTING ME IN YOUR GROUP BY DEFAULT. STOP MAKING IT SEEM LIKE ALL WHITE PEOPLE CAN’T HANDLE PEOPLE WHO DON’T LOOK LIKE THEM. Like with a lot of powerful groups I feel like it’s the shittiest examples doing the loudest talking and I want it to end. White privilege, like so much privilege, really comes with a lot of ish that makes it not worth it if you want to be a part of this world as a greater whole filled with different people, and to me that’s the only way to live that can truly feed your soul.

    Lately I’ve been dealing with anger activism burn out and I feel like one of the ways to combat that is being positive. Like, don’t stop calling out the system but do ask how we can come together in strong communities and do things for ourselves. And I take heart in that for every racist ass who made a comment like this, it seems there are a hundred super intense Hunger Games fans who adored it and either figured out the characters were black from the writing or who didn’t care when they saw it in the movie.

    I want these people to be obsolete like they deserve.

    Sorry for the feelings stream of consciousness there.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      “I hope that one day those of us who are coded white by those in power reject that code (especially those of us who come from stomped on minorities like Jewish and Irish because really, we should know better than to perpetuate any of that noise) and reject other white people who say and feel this kind of nonsense, because lord knows every time I see this I am like STOP.”

      This and thank you.

      Sometimes when racist shit like that happens I look to my white friends who can be clueless but are not assholes and say “you don’t deserve a cookie for being a decent human being but you are awesome!”

      They are awesome because they listen because as a person of color when I rant all I need is someone to listen and not patronize or rationalize shitty behavoir. Like my white friend who is also trans* I return the favor when she encounters some cissexism shit, I listen and try to call out cissexism when SHE IS NOT THERE!

      I am so over the white(male)= neutral because wtf, we are in America not fucking Antartica where the defult is penguin or hungry sea-lion.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        “They are awesome because they listen because as a person of color when I rant all I need is someone to listen and not patronize or rationalize shitty behavoir. Like my white friend who is also trans* I return the favor when she encounters some cissexism shit, I listen and try to call out cissexism when SHE IS NOT THERE!”

        Word.

        I think what most human beings want is basic respect and validation. To be told that their perceptions have value, that their experiences matter and are heard. To have someone be genuine when they say they will listen and not immediately lead with some why you are so wrong bullshit.

        I also want to thank you for calling out that business even when your friend isn’t next to you. I think that’s so important, for us to all point out and challenge discrimination and harm even when we’re all alone. If we do it even when our friends aren’t there to immediately reward us, we absorb the message that it’s something we should all care about regardless of whether we personally know someone who is impacted.

  18. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Okay, here are my feelings about racism. I think that as a community we have reached a point where racism is universally acknowledged as bad and wrong, and confronting these Twitter-ers and drawing attention to them is just aggravating the issue further. I feel like racism has gone from a serious social issue to almost non-existant and widely understood as wrong. So when we call attention to racism and say Look! Racism does exist! it just creates tension where there was none before.
    Rational people aren’t racist anymore, and drawing attention to this small percentage of people who are is not doing any good. I think the more we are able to ignore racism and write it off, since it has become a rarity, the better off we will be. But I also come from a minority-majority city, so this is maybe a pretty rare perspective which might not apply in many places. Thoughts?

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      “I feel like racism has gone from a serious social issue to almost non-existant and widely understood as wrong.”

      I agree that most people think that racism is wrong but it is not “almost non-existent.” It is everywhere and prevalent in tiny ways that you can’t even see. (Look up institutionalized racism if you don’t believe me.)We need to talk about it and confront it. Not drawing attention to it isn’t going to make things better. That’s like ignoring a house fire and thinking that it’s going to put out itself.
      I’m sure someone will explain this point more eloquently than I have because I am tired of explaining over and over again why racism needs to be talked about. It would be nice if it wasn’t a thing, but we don’t live in an utopia.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I’d say that like many people today when talking about racism you’ve got clear and good conviction, but are off on the definition. Racism is not necessarily race hate. It’s true that blatent displays of racial hatred are longer accepted (at least in some parts of the world), but there are other sublte forms of racism that go simple igonred and usually because they’re unnoticed.
      Racism means defining one race as some how inheriently superior to others. I believe that most people hold racist views don’t hate everyone who is different from them. What ignites racial hatred is the moment when one someone you assume if inferior because of there race come across “as good as you.”
      However, it usually isn’t tell we witness violence (physical or verbal) of a racial nature that most of see how irrational bigotry is. That doesn’t mean that racists can’t be rational. Nor does it mean they’re always prone to outright violence. Sometimes they’ll just give comfort to those that are, possibly without even intending to. Indiffence can encourage oppressions.
      Think about what Sammy Davis Jr. said when he played himself on All in the Family and dealt with Archie Bunker acting like he wasn’t (really) black because he was a celebrity. When Archie’s daughter Glory insists that her father’s not a bad man because “He wouldn’t burn a cross on your lawn” Sammy says, “No, but if he saw one there he’s probably use it to roast a marshmellow!”

      Ignoring racism is like ignoring sickness, even the mildiest form. It rarely ever just goes away!

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      Being gay, I tend to be hyper-aware of bias and -isms. Being white, I tend to not always notice that the privilege that comes with my skin lets me largely escape those aforementioned things. Being an English teacher, I tend to put a lot of import in acknowledging the full definition of a word, not just the commonly accepted meaning as it’s used in every day speech.

      That said…I can fully admit that I have some “racist” tendencies. This doesn’t mean that I overtly think I’m better than non-white people. It doesn’t mean that I think my white students are more capable/intelligent than my black or middle-eastern or hispanic students. Nor does it mean that I cross the street and clutch my purse when a black man in a hoodie walks toward me on the street. But I know that I have locked my car doors in a “bad” neighborhood, that I’ve generalized about a group of people, that I’ve momentarily thought, “well of course they’d do/think/say that, they’re {insert race here]” (before immediately thinking, “WHAT THE HELL, SELF” and feeling like an ass).

      I’m not saying this to hold myself up as some sort of paragon of white privilege awareness. I just think the idea that the majority of our society has reached any sort of “post-racial” harmony is unfortunate and wrong. We still live in a society where tv commentators defend an election bumper sticker that says “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012″, where a hoodie is blamed for a boy’s death, where affirmative action is necessary to combat the ever-present imbalance in opportunity.

      So no, calling out these fools on there racism isn’t creating tension, it’s calling attention to the tension that is always there, and necessarily so. Saying “Look! Racism does exist!” is completely necessary, just the same as saying “Look! Sexism/Misogyny/Homophobia/Transphobia does exist!” Because it does. Everywhere. Consciously and subconsciously. -Ism’s feed on themselves, and they feed on silence. Ignoring something like racism doesn’t make it disappear, it just gives it time to regroup and come back stronger.

      Even rational people can have -ist/-phobic tendencies, but it’s the rational side that needs to be built up so it can win out. Calling out irrational hate is a huge part of that.

  19. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Ok not saying that teens who are on here are asshole….But the ones who are freaken racist need a life and a slap in the face. Why can’t we all just be nice and show some equality in this terrible world that we live in? Life sucks already….i thought we were past this bullshit. I guess not.

  20. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I mentioned this to a few of my friends/acquaintances and most of their reactions were along the lines of, “I know right? Rue was SUPPOSED to be white!” Which almost made me explode because that was the last thing I expected to hear from them. But I pointed out that Rue was actually black in the books (they denied it), and anyway it doesn’t really matter (“true”), and that referring to a 12-year-old-girl as a “black bitch” was just wrong, on so many levels (“wait, they said that? That’s just SAD.”). So we all agreed on something.

    But I mentioned it to my mum, and she made this exasperated noise she makes whenever I tell her something so horrible it’s ruined her entire day and she’s just SO disgusted at the world, and she kinda wants me to shut up but she doesn’t want to bury her head in the sand, which was infinitely more satisfying.

    Also when a guy friend went to see it, when Thresh died a whole lot of people yelled out, “Why does the black guy always have to die?” And most of the audience cheered in agreement.

    So there’s a bit of hope down under.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      Yep, she’s described as having olive skin. Not only was a white actress chosen to play Katniss, but they explicitly only allowed white actresses to audition. I love Jennifer Lawrence, but at the very least, other races should have been able to audition, instead of just using darker make up on her.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        What’s even more annoying about that whole thing is that the author’s response, when asked about the criticism surrounding casting a white actress instead one with darker skin, was to basically shrug and say “Well, that’s what makeup is for.” Like she seriously doesn’t get how racist it looks to hire a white actor to play a POC and spray tan them to look like the race they are playing. Old Hollywood used to do this all the time without consequence and some movies are still doing it today. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t hire a POC to play a role that was originally written for a white actor without white people complaining but if you hire a white actor to play a role specifically written for a POC they bend over backwards to try to explain how not racist that is.

        Also, if this is how racist people react to little Rue can you just imagine how they would have reacted if Katniss(the lead of the movie) were cast with a POC? It’s probably why studios didn’t even let POCs audition for the role. They were really going after that same audience that went to see all the Twilight movies and ship the actors together and they can’t do that if the lead is non-white. The studio would be afraid the movie wouldn’t see as well. It’s complete racist bullshit but I imagine that’s their thought-process on the whole thing.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        While I understand where you all are coming from, I always pictured her as a darker skinned white girl due to her sister having blonde hair and blue eyes. Though it would certainly make sense for the family to be a diluted mix of races, I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable for her to be played by a white actress.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Just a tiny correction: The casting call was for Caucasians. Caucasian includes all of Europe, white or no (though some would call olive-skinned white). So yes, while a very white actress was chosen, they didn’t ban olive-skinned actresses (women from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc.) from auditioning. One could say “Well Asians should have been able to apply” but I do think that the fact that apparently everyone in the Seam had black hair and blue or grey eyes says that they’re likely some kind of European. Am I being racist there with that assumption or simply working off of statistics? I don’t know. Sometimes there’s a fine line between those two things that I’m sure I manage to cross just like anyone else does. I’m definitely not saying that white-washing isn’t a big problem, but I personally wouldn’t consider Katniss to be a good example of it.

  21. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I knew Lenny Kravitz was was in Hunger Games before I read the book or knew any character names so when was reading I first thought he was Gale, then when I found out Gale was young I assumed Kravitz was playing Haymitch. So I picture both Gale and Haymitch being black.

    Plus I think Hazelle sounds like a sassy black women name, but maybe that’s racist.

  22. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    As someone who has neither read the books nor watched the movie, the title made me think that the movie only had white people in it…

    I’m disgusted by the tweets and their authors, but to be frank, there’s a lot of awful people using twitter (christmas iphone ranting, anyone?). Of course, twitter is also great because of things like #ididnotreport, etc.

    I saw Donald Glover on a comedy special on Comedy Central, and I think he would make a great, edgy, sarcastic Spiderman… but I’ve always been against the goody two shoes Spiderman like whats his name in the previous movies.

    As for people automatically assuming white… I would tend to guess that people automatically assigned color based on their own… although thinking back on books I’ve read, I don’t seem to assign anything to the characters unless its defined in the book, so I don’t know.

    Although, this does remind me of an article I read a couple years ago… about how Will Smith, who is pretty much the top actor for definite movie hit, couldn’t have a white (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/7019342) romantic partner in one of his movies, because black and white is taboo in film. I’d like to think that its inertia responsible for the “myth” in the article, but given my opinion on human nature, and given the tweets mentioned in this article… its just saddening.

    To be honest, I have an issue understanding racism. A person is a person is a person… in my mind, anyways. There’s just a disconnect trying to imagine it differently. Sure, attributes differ from person to person, and race to race, but that doesn’t change that they are people.

  23. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    First and formost the Hunger Games was amazing! I think that they did a great job going from book to movie.
    I ADORED Rue!!! I actually pictured her looking like Willow Smith when I read the books but when I saw Amandla Stenberg I decided she was perfect for the role!

    I aplaud any book or movie that diverts from the white catholic american ‘norm’ in any way. These dumb racist, probably Twilight worshiping, morons need a reality check.

    Also, I almost shit a brick when the mutated dog/wolf thing jumped out of the bush. I had a mini freekout and almost sent my m&m’s flying. I have always had a deep rooted fear of some large rabid animal jumping out of the bushes late at night and mawling me.

  24. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    We as humans are prone to categories and often see the world as we are. As i sit and watch twitter, facebook, and all sorts of different social media I am in constant awe of people’s ability to over-share thoughts that should have been left private. While it is true that everyone says some very dumb things from time to time…I am sorely disappointed in hearing of these tweets. Am I surprised, nope.
    As long as we have humans we will have racism and classism it seems due in part to our need to categorize people into us vs them. When we have an us vs them we automatically decide that whatever group we belong to, the us , must obviously be better. As you can imagine this quickly turns into a ego/power/ we’re better deal. Teens are rife with this type of thinking…but so are adults.
    So I propose something …why don’t we instead of going ” oh my how terrible these youngsters these days!” and ” what is the world coming too when the young say such ignorance and sheer stupidity!”..lets get our little love hats on and lovingly educate the shit out of people- young and old. Race work is never ending, lets not forget that.

  25. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    they really use bows to fight when it’s a futuristic novel. the movie sucked and i don’t want to read the book just because the movie sucked. if it’s the future there will be guns.

  26. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Interesting discussion on our implicit/inherent biases. I hear it all the time when listening to people tell stories – saying ‘a kind man helped me with my groceries” – and “a kind black man helped me with my groceries.” The first implies a white man, the second needed the race descriptor. Why…?

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.