Black Popular Cultures
Film Reaction Paper 1
Black is….Black Ain’t
In Marlon Riggs’ “Black is….Black Ain’t” he uses a gumbo as a metaphor and rubric in describing the African-American community when he says gumbo’s “got a little bit of everything in it.” In this powerful documentary, he gives a deceptively gentle plea for African Americans to embrace each other and accept difference.
Black is…..Black Ain’t is a comprehensive look at black culture. Marlon Riggs also airs out the dirty laundry of America’s most defamed yet emulated ethnic group. Among his targeted topics, is his obsession with skin tone and how it has historically influenced identity, and been used as a tool for inclusion and exclusion.
In the beginning of the film, the documentary looks at the negative overtones that, for a long time, were attached to the very word “black”. Many of Riggs’ interviewees talked of how the identification label for people of African descent has changed over time from “colored” to “Negro” to “black” to “African American”. This fact is set together side-by-side with a look at time-worn dictionary definitions of the world “black”: deeply stained with dirt; malignant; soiled; foul. Angela Davis, and even Riggs himself in the film, reminisces about childhood days in the south, when calling someone “You black African!” were fighting words. Riggs’ own friend, as described by Riggs himself, was close to beating him up for calling him black.
The film also presents the gender inequality in the black community. Because slavery and the aftermath of it involved the demoralization- physical and psychological-of African American men, the motivation for black power was usually taken to mean a call for black male power, despite the needs of black women. That continues to result in the belittling of African American female contributions to the freedom struggle and in the subordination of black women in general. Angela Davis spoke about the...