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Christi Griffin

Black America no more view movies with a monolithic lens than we speak with a monolithic voice. Thus a flurry of strong views on the latest blockbuster movie Black Panther has circulated on social media. They broaden our understanding and deepen our strength.

This is the Hollywood that just awarded its first Oscar to an African-American director, that only now has given a black woman director a $100 million budget, that has yet to pay a black megastar at the height of its pay scale, that restricted Hattie McDaniel to the back of the room when she won the first Oscar presented to an African-American woman in a leading role, that took over 60 years before awarding another, that has yet to significantly increase roles for African Americans, that over its entire 98-year television history has only featured one intact African-American family in a primetime show, that pays an average union actor $52,000 a year and others barely $1,000 a year, while raking in millions of dollars in profits.

This is the same Hollywood that we are entrusting with the subliminal messages that tainted our music industry and set many of our children on paths of violence, self-hatred, failure and destruction. It is the same Hollywood that has as many conservatives as liberals and has consistently shown its true colors for decades. That color is seldom black.

 In a world where at least Julia and the Huxtables were at one time depicted as successful, professional African Americans, we have only a snippet of one such family today. Even in This is Us, the story line follows the struggles of an adopted Black father and the tragic life of a crack-addicted mother. In a country that has now codified the taking of our children when a parent is jailed or otherwise absent from their child for more than 22 months, she too has surrendered her parental rights. Another broken family. Another child placed in a system that often shifts them from home to home and generates billions of dollars in the process.

The comparison of white-dominated films replete with violence brings to mind a response that often brought angst as a child when permission was sought to follow the crowd: “If they were jumping off of a bridge, would you jump as well?” Not everything that is good to us is good for us.

That violence is a so-called reflection of reality or is done routinely by others does not alter the impact on the psyche of our children.

Desensitization should raise red flags, not equal rights. Indeed, there are numerous incidences where children have been killed or injured imitating such scenes. Countless studies on the influence of violence on children have revealed not only physical harm, but also an increase in aggressive behavior as well. The desire to be entertained by violence, notwithstanding positive messages, is not worth the price paid by parents of the child who dies.

Before we become enthralled with the emergence of Black superheroes, we have to be vigilant in seeing the bigger picture. While Hollywood, indeed society, garners billions at our expense, we are negligent in demanding so little in return. Despite the typical lack of representation of Blacks on the screen, we patronize them nonetheless.

Until we are the producers, our economic gain is minute. Until Black superheroes overpower white villains, the gain is incomplete. Until we make economic gains and end mass enslavement, this latest coup is simply an indication that Hollywood has just discovered a billion-dollar vehicle for further manipulating the minds of Black America.

Christi Griffin, is the founder of The Ethics Project, a non-profit organization addressing the impact of crime, injustice and incarcerations. She is the author of “Incarcerations in Black and White: The Subjugation of Black America.”


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