Too often, when I listen to a
podcast in which two or more white Americans are conversing, it feels
as if I’m eavesdropping. They have forgotten that others, who
are neither male nor white, might be listening, too. As a result, the
conversation isn’t necessarily meant to include my lived
experience or the lived experience of Indigenous or Latinx, within a
topic, spoken as if for the ears of the “universal”
It’s a habit since my earlier
years as a journalist to follow political, social, and cultural news
events. Alongside newspapers and online magazines, we have podcasts
now. The podcast I listened to over the weekend was that of Micheal
This isn’t intended to be a
criticism of Moore who has interviewed Cornel West, Keeanga-Yamahtta
Taylor, and Black grassroots organizers. Moore was, as I was, a
Bernie Sanders supporter. Besides, I want to point out something that
is beyond Moore or, for that matter, his guest last week, actor Viggo
Mortensen. I’m not familiar with the work of Mortensen, but for
this commentary, my lack of familiarity with Mortensen’s work
We are talking about change. How do
we bring about social democracy that includes all of our citizens?
Toward the end of the podcast, Moore
expresses his wish that Mortensen’s debut film
as a director, Falling,
generates discussion on difficult familial and social relationships.
Mortensen’s film centers
around a cantankerous, racist, and homophobic father and his gay son,
the latter wanting to move beyond the angry father. The son wants to
care for the ailing father, and the actor-director will take care to
present a narrative about the ills of homophobia. And he, Mortensen,
should address this particular brand of hatred toward difference.
What does Mortensen have to say
about the father’s racist rants? What about the father’s
hatred toward people like me? Indigenous and Latinx populations?
Am I, and other people of color
listening to this conversation, suppose to give the father a pass?
What about a son, no kid, who doesn’t seem to pick up on how
the targets of his father’s racism might feel about being
“absent” in this conversation?
I see the older white man. I’ve
seen too much of him for too long. He is spiteful. Someone I’ve
tried to avoid as I would the plague. Because he is dangerous!
The description of the father,
however, seems to offer the listener (and I guess, expected-viewer) a
harmless old guy who mouths off some racial and homophobic slurs.
I see a man who has been privileged
all his life, not only to mouth off, that is, voice his hatred of
Black or Latinx or Indigenous people, but also to practice racism
among his neighbors and co-workers of color. From the conversation
between Mortensen and Moore, the son-Mortensen wants to be with this
patriarchal figure; he, son-Mortensen wants to forgive him. The
son-Mortensen wants all of the citizens in the US to turn the page.
Get over this “harmless” old man whose time is almost up!
Let’s care for the patriarch now. Embrace him, now.
Mamie was 14-year-old Emmett Till’s
mother. James Byrd, Jr. was the father of three children. Ahmaud
Arbery was someone’s son. It’s been reported that one of
Byrd’s killers had Nazi and anti-Black tattoos on his body. I’m
sure he voiced his hatred of Black Americans more than once. And the
opportunity presented itself for him to act out his hatred on this
From what I gather in this
conversation between Moore and Mortensen, this patriarch in Falling
has nothing I want to
embrace or care for! I’ve had my experience of him. Why should
I forget what has been done or condoned by hateful people like this
father? In the era of Black Lives Matter, why would I want to appease
this man by agreeing to get over it, turn the page, and wave the flag
I would be, simply, a damned fool,
or worse! Many such men who espoused hatred of Black people also
raped Black women! Lynched Black men and women!
While crafting this narrative of
father and son, Mortensen has learned much, he tells Moore. The
biggest thing he’s learned is that we, people in general,
shouldn’t hold grudges. No matter what, make up with people.
Bring the likes of the old man into your orbit. Isn’t it
possible that this guy would have witnessed, if not known, of picnics
culminating in a lynching of a Black or Jew?
Who are the people who should unite?
Who are the people who must reach across the hall or across the
street or across the proverbial water cooler and engage in a friendly
chat with someone who would rather see Black Americans return to any
Did Mortensen see what happened on
January 6, 2021, the way I did? Or the way members of the Squad did?
As Reps. Maxine Waters or Hakeem Jeffries did? Or the millions of US
citizens who have long been made the enemy within white supremacist
and white nationalist narratives? Did he view those eight minutes and
forty-six seconds in which George Floyd begged for his life the way
many of us did, unable, like Floyd, to breathe?
Did he see himself on that floor
with Breonna Taylor as she exhaled for the last time?
Despite these seemingly minor
differences, we citizens of the US should unite!
Is that the thing now?
What just happened has always
happened as a result of the US’s embrace of collective amnesia,
Unity isn’t what I want! I
don’t want unity with the old racist man! Or woman, for that
Black Americans can’t afford
to embrace racists, day or night, or any day of the week! To throw
the burden of “unifying” this nation back on the
shoulders of Blacks or other people of color is to be indifferent to
the history of violence in the US. White supremacy will not evaporate
in some fantasy of a grand, nation-wide Kumbaya campfire.
Of course, the ringleaders of the
January 6th Insurrection would love nothing more than to see a nation
indulging this fantasy. The better to storm every damn campfire site
in search of the foolish Black people in attendance! These
ideological dreams of whiteness are akin to the actualizing of that
breached Capitol in Washington DC. Those insurrectionists who
ransacked Congressional offices and waved the Confederate flag
straight through the Rotunda would be pleased to receive an
endorsement of their political assault from the entertainment world.
Let’s blame the
“troublemakers” and BLM protesters!
An argument much favored by Trump’s
There’s no end to this
sentiment, for it certainly does unite folks. Just not, thank
Is it asking too much to remember in
the father’s hate those he hates as victims of his violence?
And recognize, too, generations of men like him.
Black people can’t be asked to
reconcile with white supremacy for the sake of “peace” in