Contrast: "Black Girl Next Door" and "Precious"



Jennifer Baszile’s wonderfully written, evocative book “The Black Girl Next Door” provoked lively discussion on February 1 at the “Continuing Conversations on Race & White Privilege” at the Princeton Public Library. To quote the library’s blurb, “Baszile’s memoir is about her childhood in an affluent Southern California suburb as a post-segregation child in a not-quite-integrated world. In trips to her parents’ childhood homes in Louisiana and Detroit, she sees their very different American pasts. Baszile followed the path her parents set out to become the first black female professor at Yale University, in its history department.”

Those of you who attended, or if you read the book, please contribute your comments and reactions at the end of this post. And unless the snow gods prevent it, Baszile is scheduled to read from and talk about her book on Sunday, February 7 at 2 p.m. at the library. Try to be there!

In stark contrast is the movie “Precious.” In the New York Times on February 5, Ishmael Reed laid bare his perception of the differences between black reaction and white reaction to the movie. Ann Yasuhara suggests that this oped piece might be a good discussion point for the next “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege,” which could be scheduled for Monday, March 1, at the Princeton Public Library. Some excerpts and a link to Reed’s full comments:

“Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father.”

But the film got high praise from white people. “Is the enthusiasm of such white audiences and awards committees based on their being comfortable with the stereotypes shown?” asks Reed.

He says that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement “assisted the movie’s distribution and its acceptance among her white fanbase.” (Oprah is pushing for this movie to get an Oscar.)

“Black films looking to attract white audiences flatter them with another kind of stereotype: the merciful slave master. In guilt-free bits of merchandise like ‘Precious,’ white characters are always portrayed as caring. There to help. Never shown as contributing to the oppression of African-Americans. Problems that members of the black underclass encounter are a result of their culture, their lack of personal responsibility.”

Read the rest of it here . Note that the March 1 “Continuing Conversations” is not yet on the library calendar.

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2 Comments on “Contrast: "Black Girl Next Door" and "Precious"

  1. “Precious” does not place widespread racial shame anymore then Jersey Shore does on New Jerseyians. Any dope knows there are girls like Precious and people in NJ like the actors on Jersey Shore but we know they are few and we know not to broad brush all African Americans or all people living at the NJ Shore.. These racial conversations are punishing!! S.

  2. I have to agree with the above comment: these racial conversations are punishing. It reminded me of the opening line from this riveting review of Fela in last Sunday's NYT:

    “I know there is nothing a white person can say to a black person about race which is not both incorrect and offensive,” James Spader’s hard-driving lawyer says in the new David Mamet play, “Race.” “I know that. Race is the most incendiary topic in our history. And the moment it comes out, you cannot close the lid on that box. That may change. But not for a long long while.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/theater/31fela.html

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