White Liberal Guilt
I didn’t think about the racism at the … but now, dammit, you’ve made me think about the racism. Grr! I hate racism! I hate finding myself colluding with it, mentally, even if I DID fall asleep later on! Grrr Disney!!!
I hate that, too. More to the point, I think Wendy is on to something in terms of how people are reacting to the later realization that parts of the movie are racist. Like Wendy, they hate racism, too. Also like her, they enjoyed the movie. Unlike her, they seem to think that if Pirates was racist and they enjoyed it, that must mean they are racist, too. And other people must think they’re racist! So they have to fight against the notion that POTC2 was racist so that they won’t be, either.
in Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s excellent book Writing the Other, the authors are of the opinion that White liberals’ greatest fear is discovering that they might be a little racist. (for the record, I agree with this assessment) This situation speaks to exactly that fear. “I didn’t notice the racism and enjoyed the movie. What does that say about me? What are others saying about me when they say that?”
The answer is: nothing. It doesn’t say or mean anything about you, generalized, anonymous white liberals. I didn’t fully grok the racism until after the movie myself. I did notice some of it, but I consciously put it aside because I was really trying my best to enjoy the movie. Right or wrong, that was my reaction. Does it make me racist? No. Does it make you racist? Not by itself.
So, calm the fuck down. Look at the discussion with non-guilt-ridden eyes and stop letting how you feel about yourself color how you talk about this movie with others. Savvy?
ETA: an excellent related post on Alas, A Blog: How Not To Be Insane When Accused Of Racism (A Guide For White People)