Friday, April 8, 2011

James Caan and Everyday Racism on The View


James Caan and Keeanu Reeve were on The View this morning to promote their new film Henry's crime. The following is a transcript of a part of their conversation.
Elisabeth: Keenau not only did you star in the film you produced it. How did you get James Caan involved?
Keeanu: It was a gift from above
James Caan: It was an old Indian trick, he fell to his knees and begged and it worked.
What Caan had to say was absolutely disgusting, but what disturbed me more than what he said, was the reaction to it - everyone, and that includes the audience, and the ladies of The View laughed.  Not a single person saw how coming from a White man with more privilege that you can shake a stick at was being racist.

There were two Black women (Sherri and Whoopi) sitting on that stage, and they let his comment pass as if it was nothing. You can bet that if Caan had aimed his racism at Black people, those two would have had something to say.  Just because a White person is not directing their racism at the group that you belong to, does not mean that the action is not extremely harmful.  Silence in this case is an act that supports White supremacy, and therefore enables the oppression of ALL POC.  Considering Whoopi's tendency to support White supremacy, the only that would have amused her more is if Caan had painted his face with warrior marks. Shame on the both of them.

Silence means acceptance, and this fact must be vigorously understood. If he could be so flippant about Native Americans, it means that he has a long way to go to challenge his privilege, and indicates that his racist ideas are not limited to Native American people.  I would not be surprised to learn he has similar negative ideas about each and every single racial group, except of course for Whiteness.  Silence is the most common way in which we support oppression, and comes from a place of selfishness.  No one wants to be the one to cause a scene, and this is because we have been taught conformity from the cradle. 

It is time for people to weigh the cost of their silence.  I don't believe for one moment that no one on the panel and that includes all of the ladies of The View and Keeanu, had a sinking feeling in their gut when Caan uttered those words.  Nothing he said was even close to opaque and yet the feel good moment of the show could not be interrupted to school him on his bigotry.  I know that in certain circles, Caan is a big name in Hollywood, and this just increases the importance of checking him on his privilege.

I would like to open the comment thread to talk about the times we have been silent in the face of oppression and why.  Please don't limit your comments to racial incidents.