Here is a prime example of the overbearing white person, who lives to demonstrate his protective concern for the feelings of "African Americans," even when members of said group would happily live without his protection. In "PC Whiners Aside, Downey Jr. Deserves His Oscar Nod" (Huffington Post, 1/23/09), black author John Ridley reacts to Los Angeles Times' Scott Feinberg, the white person who takes offense for blacks, even when blacks take no offense.
In his January 16 column, Feinberg expresses "shock" over a role played by Robert Downey, Jr., for which he has been nominated for the Academy Award. Feinberg is dismayed, not only because he sees Downey's role as disrespectful to blacks, but because the role has won "widespread approval" from people who, apparently, should know better. In the film, Tropic Thunder, Downey's character, an actor, undergoes an operation that alters his skin pigmentation so he can play a black soldier in a film. In effect, he performs in black face.
"Where is the outrage?" demands the presumptuous Feinberg, ignoring the context of the film's story line. Enjoying his self-appointed position as watchdog for the underdog, he then offers a history lesson about those bad, old Hollywood producers in years past, who thrived on negative portrayals of blacks. "Many in the film industry are so focused on the present," he complains, "that they forget, or worse still, never properly learned, about the past." So, Feinberg, the enlightened white man, is here to straighten out such insensitive white folks. "You can sugarcoat it all you want," he blusters,"but blackface is blackface."
In his brief, terse response to Feinberg's bombast, Ridley nominates him for "Best Performance by a White Guy Who Takes it Upon Himself to be Offended For Black People." Ridley compares Downey's acting achievement in the film to the artful New Yorker cover cartoon of Barack and Michelle Obama. It's designed to go for the gut, while making its point. "Trustees of the Liberal Plantation aside," writes Ridley, "Downey Jr.'s performance is sharp, smart satire."
Feinberg seems to imply that what he calls the "wounds of the past" should neither be forgiven nor forgotten. Yes, let's keep the wounds open and bloodied, in order to give types like Feinberg grist for their everlasting race-hyping mill. Commenters on Feinberg's article (on the Times' site) reflect Ridley's impatience with the columnist's intolerant, narrow-minded view of the Downey film:
"This is just more knee-jerk, over-the-top, over-sensitivity to a non-issue. There hasn't been huge outrage from the black community because the community understands the context."
"As an African American woman, I fail to see how celebrating Downey, Jr.'s performance would be the same as celebrating 'blackface.' ... I hope the Academy does recognize Mr. Downey's performance as it was worthy of an Oscar."
"Let's go ahead and ignore the fact that no black people seem to have been offended by the movie. Instead, let's all sit down and have this white guy from LA tell us what is offensive to black people."