After seeing Nico and Dani, I wondered if Godfrey Cheshire's review was about the same film that I saw or a different one ["Summer Loving," June 20]. Cheshire described the film as a refreshing take on an overdone subject. On the contrary, like all important and universal human experiences, negotiating adolescence offers unlimited potential for artistic interpretation. Inexperienced-boy-rescued-by-sophisticated-girl, though, is as trite as it gets. Along with poor directing and a weak script, it made for a very dull movie.
If that were my only problem with Cheshire's review, I'd say we had different tastes and leave it at that. But a girl was raped in the movie, and everyone--the director, the script, the actors in their roles--completely ignored it. I mean completely. It happened, but it was of absolutely no consequence. The statement is clear, though subtle: sexual violence doesn't matter.
It was a minor scene. The filmmakers did not intend to make a statement about rape. They "just" used rape as a means of making a different statement. Within the story, the perpetrator did not wish any harm to the girl, neither did he have any desire for her. He "just" raped her to achieve a personal goal. In an unconscious reflection of Western society, the film considers sexual violence to be incidental, acceptable and unremarkable. That the rapist was an ignorant, confused boy makes this message even more insidious and reprehensible.
It also heightens the need for comment. Almost any comment would have done. Something, anything to show that sexual violence does matter and that portraying it otherwise is unacceptable. Sadly, Cheshire was silent.
--JACK LEISS, CEDAR GROVE
It's not all "good"
In Mr. Lady Music and Videos [Indies Arts Award Winners, June 27], Kat Parker reported that Kaia Wilson and Tammy Rae Carland "felt that there was a need for a women-run dyke label, one where the music and videos involved would reflect feminist ideals and good politics." Good politics? I doubt Wilson and Carland are inarticulate enough to describe their political views as "good." Is Parker making the statement that the politics in question are good? I find the ambiguity of this adjective disturbing. Parker does little to elaborate on what the politics actually are, offering no specific political views only vague terms such as "queer politics and feminism." I would like to caution Parker that such imprecise and destructive usage of the English language is distasteful to those who are wary of propaganda, and does a disservice to Wilson and Carland who may or may not have political views that individual readers would classify as "good."
--G.D. VUNCANNON, DURHAM
As I commend the in-depth reporting and soul-stirring accounts regarding the impact of the Latino influx on the African-American community [Black Culture Issue, July 11], I feel a critical point was missed pertaining to the anxieties of Black Folk: dehumanization. For 200-plus years, Black Folk have been estranged by European interests. Post diaspora, we have toiled psychologically with a two-ness described by W.E.B. DuBois; maintaining indigenous ties with Africa while adapting to the social mores of being American. Unequivocally, Black Folk lacked any choice in the matter of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, hence a common idiom, "African by Design/American by Trade."
Respecting the Latino's prerogative to migrate to America, theirs is based in choice. Ours is indicative of a science fiction movie. "We were extracted from our homelands, forced onto slave ships. Our travels took us through the forbidden zone by way of the middle passage. Forced into labor camps, a strange language and alien culture were imposed on us, leaving us shattered: a people ripped from their home, stripped of their humanity." Fanciful as that may read, that's our reality in this county. Paralleling the two migration patterns, humanity is lacking. The only people who have suffered greater indignities are the Native Americans.
Systematically, barriers have been erected in a myriad of services and agencies devaluing our presence in this country daily. The Latino presence may be more palatable to the American psyche whereas ours serves as a blemish on the face of America's history. A major concern we hold is with the coin of the realm: accessibility. African-American needs have been ignored. Watching another ethnic group arrive to be heirs to our labor understandably raises eyebrows. In short, we have yet to receive our fair share of the American pie. To see another customer get served as we have waited for 200-plus years makes a customer wonder.
--RUSSELL ROBINSON, DURHAM
Much in common
Mr. Jennings hit the nail on the head ["Black, Brown and Green," July 11] and I would like to add a bit to his insight.
1. Other People. Imagine if you and your fellow (insert your ethnic group here) found yourselves, in some cases, 5,000 miles away from the place you call home. To have a shred of a chance in an environment where you don't even speak the language, you have to cling together or else. Someone from a town or province near yours may have been an historical competitor but in this new context that's irrelevant because the stakes are so high. Those kinds of friendships in the face of alienation in a place like America argue for success. That's the case for some Latinos I know and also was the case for my African ancestors brought here starting in the 1400s. These people are not as "other" as some think they are because survival skills are one thing blacks and Hispanics definitely have in common.
2. Taking. Latinos may have never heard of Kwanzaa, the cultural holiday familiar to some black folks, but from all the tiendas popping up in the Tarheel State, they certainly manifest the principles of Kwanzaa. And they do it year round. Too many of us as African Americans observe Kwanzaa and everything else but have forgotten from whence we came--how our grands and great-grands dealt with the Great Depression, World War II, nationwide racism and Jim Crow specifically, but who still seized opportunity when they saw it, building a successful though segregated black economy similar to what today's immigrants are building now.
3. Our Jobs. "Our jobs" should be whatever we want them to be. Fifty-plus years ago they ranged from hotel maintenance to hotel ownership, from construction and landscaping to owning the buildings built and landscaped. Nowadays careers like clerical and retail appear to be our mainstays. For higher achievers, sports, music, acting, and smiling in various commercials, have resulted in an entertainment caste that's underpaid yet overvalued. And when we attempt to excel in other areas, certain whites and blacks cry foul, separatist, unrealistic, etc. Tengan cuidado. You will face similar problems in about 50 years because the alienation, apathy and politics as usual described above are just some of the down sides of success in a capitalist, free-market society.
--HAVEN UMSTEAD, DURHAM
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