Editor’s Note: Frankly, the video short in question, in and of itself, is rather doltish. Some might find it comical, but I fail to see the humour in watching someone acting incredibly foolish in the name of candid camera ‘fun’ in areas like Compton, Ca. It simply isn’t smart. And generally, (at least in a majority of the examples I have viewed) these ventures are often culturally and/or socially inappropriate and therefore highly disrespectful to the population(s) targeted. This case is no less unfavourable than many of the others for using White-on-Black racism as a foil for yet another video gag. But the questions need to go further when you consider that the idea of Whites ‘punking’ Blacks by using scare tactics is bad enough. That’s for starters. But more importantly, watching this poor Caucasian sod being punked-out on a public street in broad daylight by three virile African males after the joke had been turned around on him, I think, is a more pressing issue. Mostly because I view it as an outrageously, emotional expose about the psychological fears many (if not all) White people in the Anglophone world subconscious harbour about their Black male neighbours. And either on purpose or by accident, this gag ends up showing us a social dynamic that secretly troubles the White American to its very core. The fear of violent and sexually-focused belligerence from random Black males.
First off, this ‘gag’ short is very disturbing. And not because it just isn’t funny. It is disconcerting chiefly because it rigidly conforms to traditional, anti-African male xenophobia. I think it is fair to say that this is American racism in the raw. The action that goes down once the confrontation actually begins resonates with every White male who ever has feared being beaten up and sexually assaulted by a Black male. And I also wonder if it is safe to assume that the three of the four African ‘extras’ paid to act in this film were only following the directions of the producers. A good question to ask the African men involved in this farce would be: Did they instruct you to ‘punk’ him or just to ‘scare’ him?
I think the answer to this query is crucial. And I ask this because it only took but a few harsh moments of stress before the poor fellow chucked his ‘ghost’ costume; dropped his trousers; removed his shirt and had gone down upon his knees pleading for mercy and understanding. What began as a joke became dangerously close to escalating into a potential sexual-assault nightmare. And not just for the ‘White Ghost’, but for every Black man living within the capitalist White world.
In other words, would the African ‘actors’ go to that extent to publicly embarrass the White guy (in that manner) simply for a gag? Or did the other producers ask them to do it that way? Because if that level of intensity was not necessarily a part of the deal, the question becomes, did they simply ‘act’ in that scene? Or is that how they would react in a real-life situation? Meaning, did these three Black actors unwittingly lend credence to the intense racial animosity and abject fear many Euro-Americans believe and often act upon?
Let’s just think about this for just a minute. To the average White person viewing this show, it was just a gag reel not intended to do any ‘real’ harm. Granted. While I still question the judgment of a crew of White filmmakers deciding to use the streets of Compton for this prank, let’s assume (for the sale of argument) that no racial insult was intended. Having said that, I still fully expect most White viewers to entirely forget all about the fact that until his awful ‘thug’ encounter, absolutely no one over-reacted to his fright attempts. They simply looked at him, shrugged it off and kept stepping on their merry way. This is Compton mind you. Where perhaps, this is not exactly the reception that the White Ghost and his friends had expected from this particular community. But if he was seeking a confrontation, he soon got exactly what he was looking for.
After he tried to scare three young Black men who (seemingly) mistake his ghost costume for a Ku Klux Klan outfit, he was stripped of both his clothing and his dignity while being threatened with a baseball bat. Consider how this looks to insecure White people who are already living in fear of Black men. It’s simply negative fodder for an already dodgy imagination bent on neutralisation, not dialogue.
It was like watching propaganda from the John Birch Society. And even though he was eventually ‘rescued’ by his fellow filmmakers, (just before he submitted any further) the damage had already been done. Digital celluloid captured in stark detail the images of a pleading, young White guy being forced to strip down in public by angry Black males wielding a Shillelagh. This is a sight that will linger forever within the permanent rolodex of the deep recesses of the White racist minds who view this. And the Euro-American viewers, (those who would find such material humorous) are laughing not because they really find it funny, but because they get a macabre thrill in witnessing their nightmares (or fantasies) acted out on screen. The subtle racism on the part of the video’s producers is the real crux of the problem. But so is the willing participation of the African men secretly hired to intimidate (and embarrass) their pal. I mean really, how does it look in an age of racial tension? How does it look, period? I sincerely doubt that the Africans involved were thinking that far ahead when they agreed to participate in this gag. But who is the joke really on? White people, African people or both? And if we do laugh at this, what are we finding so funny? And why?
This isn’t a laughing matter for those who have been mistreated, abused and otherwise marginalised simply for being unable to defend oneself from being violated. Once the action turns ugly, to the viewer (especially the White, mainstream viewer) it is the Black males who will be regarded as irrational aggressors. The overwhelming perception will be one of racist, anti-White gross over-reaction to a simple hidden-camera gag. And as I mentioned earlier, the sub-text here is important. Especially when you consider that the White Ghost comes seemingly close to being violated even further after being stripped. Think about the sexual suggestions this implies and it isn’t hard to understand why this gag plays into every negative stereotype Eurosettler society has traditionally held against Africans everywhere.
The nightmarish caricature of the over-sexed, alpha-male ‘Black Buck’ is a mainstay within both literature, (Shakespeare’s famous ‘Othello’) and the vague, Byzantine language of US common-law, (See: the trial of African pugilist Jack Johnson). Next to having ‘Indian Trouble’, ‘Nigger Trouble’ is considered a problem best dealt by using a heavy hand with a moral discretion not unlike a cloistered Catholic priest. Racial profiling is not just allowed in the Americas, it is encouraged in the name of God and Christofaro Columbus. And it manifests itself into open conspiracies such as what has been dubbed the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline in which African, Native and often Latino youths are routinely criminalised for absurdly minor disciplinary issues. These young people have been deemed as ‘lost’ and beyond saving much less caring about by the very institutions pledged to defend their interests and welfare. And as they grow older, extra-legal, anti-Constitutional civil policing concepts such as ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ become yet another concern. Because like the previous mentioned pipeline, officers are instructed, (according to reports by candid professional officers) to ‘find something’ with which to charge the People-of-Colour they stop, constantly adding more names to the offender roster. A listing that will follow these individuals for the rest of their natural lives within an increasingly Orwellian system of ‘total information awareness’.
And even if the individuals being targeted by these official (and unofficial) programmes of predatory racism have only the incessant bother of being unfairly profiled to cope with, the indiscriminate indignity of the Apartheid system itself is still clearly visible. The irrational belief that Black men are by reason of genetic mutation an immediate threat to the Europocentric social order is without question the very root of the problem. This gag reel is not funny. It is following a traditional script right out of D.W. Griffiths’ visual poem to the Confederate South, ‘The Birth of a Nation’. The first film ever to be featured at the White House under the direction of US President Woodrow Wilson. A lifelong active White supremacist who brought Jim Crow with him into the Oval Office, Wilson openly opined that the film spoke the ‘truth’ of the struggle between the races. The notion that Africans are in fact, little more than tall chimpanzees who can be taught to speak English and perform simple tasks in not new. And this gag reel only adds to the suspicion.
The lingering malady of Europocentric xenophobic foolishness is sadly, still with us. And while the White Ghost will have to live with the embarrassment of being literally punked in broad daylight on social media, the Black men who acted out their roles in this sick play will have to live with the moral ramifications of unwittingly helping the oppressor justify their inhumanity to the African Diaspora as a whole. Whites and Blacks will not see and/or analyse this gag reel in the same way. And even fewer will discern the concrete wrongness of the entire project. When will both the civil White society and the victims of that system ever learn to see past the nonsense? What will it take? Didn’t Trayvon Martin suffer the pains of institutional racism? We all know what happened and what was behind it.
Even after watching George Zimmerman become an alternative superstar precisely because European America agreed with his ‘right’ to punish an ‘inherently savage’ Black male. Even after this happened, here we are, still making making jokes. And as Erich Fromm expertly pointed out, victims and well as victimisers often act upon the external projections of the greater society because it is that structure which informs the psychic liberty of the private individual.
This is the colonialist’s prerogative. And it isn’t funny.