Monday, June 22, 2015

Race in a galaxy far, far away

"Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.". - Yoda

Recent national events have me reevaluating the content of my favorite mythology. I still love the Star Wars saga and will continue to do so until the end of my life. But it had occurred to me that my perspective is just one light in the dark trying to make sense of the world.

Race never seemed to affect my life, because it was not an issue that I had to think about on a daily basis. As a white man, my experience is what "normal" people live through. It was not until I read some short stories and novels written by people of color that I was able to see how my whiteness blinded me to the whole story.

It was quite an enlightening experience, and has inspired me to examine part of the first Star Wars movie through a racial lens. This may or may not be how a person of color perceives the movie, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

A New Hope opens with a young white woman pursued and abducted by a powerful black man voiced by James Earl Jones. Before her capture, she manages to send her servants to get help.

The servants end up on a desert planet where small brown desert people capture them for sale. The servants are then bartered to the whitest kid in the galaxy and his uncle, an honest white farmer.

Back in space, we learn that the powerful black man is really more of a lackey for the old white man who controls the Death Star. The black man uses his superstition to intimidate rivals, but is kept in his place by the old white man. The young white woman actually mentions that the old man is "holding Vader's leash".

In the desert, one of the servants breaks free and runs for it. The white boy has to chase the servant out into the desert where he is attacked by barbaric, nomadic sand people.

I'll stop here because we're really only 10-15 minutes into the movie and my point will be lost if I go too long.

I don't believe that George Lucas deliberately wrote a racist movie. I do believe that George Lucas was ignorant of the way it could be interpreted because of his whiteness.

I believe that all of us with white skin are insulated from having to think about race. This allows us to be able to dismiss the things mentioned here as nitpicky or coincidental.
Keep in mind that nowhere in the movie are the nomadic barbarians referred to as anything other than " Sand People ". This name has been changed to Tusken Raiders since (as seen in The Phantom Menace).

My goal here is to encourage people to accept other viewpoints. Even though I know that Hotel California is reeeeeeally about alcoholism (I'm right dammit), I can accept that your idea that it's about growing up in the 70s tells me something about you as a person.

When we stop plugging our ears to every voice other than our own, we learn about our fellow humans and grant them the right of acknowledgement. We begin to undo the dehumanization of the past and walk together into the future.

We won't solve racism tomorrow or even within my lifetime. We will begin to understand why it's so persistent though.

Good night!