|12 Years a Slave was one of the movies Sony Exec Thought Obama Might Like|
So movie executives thinking a black man would have a stronger reaction to certain movies because he is black is not wrong. Yet they took pains to keep this conversation secret. They laughed at it not because it was funny but because it is the sort of conversation you can't have in polite company. It was laughter that happens when you point out the elephant in the room. The man is black. That is likely to effect the way he views our art. Yet we can't acknowledge that because the topic is taboo.
All of this is confirmed in the way the media reacted to the e-mails being made public. The exact same words were used to describe these e-mails as were used to describe the issues around policing and blacks. Here in Canada the CBC labeled labeled the e-mails racist in the headline with all the baggage that word carries. It shows a real problem in drawing correct moral distinctions. A black man is killed by police. A black man has some assumptions made about his movie tastes. Same thing right?
The trouble is we cannot have a decent discussion on race unless we can make these distinctions very strongly. The idea that any distinction based on race is immediately and unthinkingly painted with the blackest moral brush means we can't talk about it rationally. The issues around the police killings are very serious issues. The first rule when talking about serious issues is to avoid confusing them with less serious issues. If the distinctions get lost then you end up with a lot of good thinkers refusing to comment for fear of being labeled a racist.
A big problem ends up being the media. When they have a choice between printing intelligent responses and inflammatory responses they tend to focus on the latter. It tends to flatten everything. The strongest language gets used by someone and ends up in every headline. That is sad because I think there are some things that show very disturbing racism and some things that just don't. The fact that they all get the same reaction is quite disappointing. The press knows exactly where to go to get the outraged reaction. Once they get the quote then the discussion is over.