Why Get Out is bad for the black community

Earlier this month, I went to see the movie Get Out with a pair of friends.  Film critics have almost universally praised the movie – it earned a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and both of my friends liked it.  While I enjoyed the movie, I feared that some people would draw the wrong lesson from it.

In the movie, the protagonist, Chris, is nervous about meeting his girlfriend Rose's family.  He's black, and she's white, and her family doesn't know this.  Rose reassures Chris that her family is not racist, and her dad "would have voted for Obama for a third term."

At first, Rose's family seems warm and friendly, if a bit odd.  However, as the movie goes on, things become stranger and stranger.  The family's black servants behave very oddly.  Party guests make strange remarks to Chris – remarks carrying racial undertones.  Eventually, Chris becomes so uncomfortable that he tells Rose he wants to go home, and that's when things take a turn for the worse.

The movie's director, Jordan Peele, told PBS that he drew inspiration for his movie from the "microaggresions" he encountered as a black man.  He described these "microaggressions" as innocent remarks that carry a racial subtext.  He believes that the "microaggressor" frequently intends his remark as "an olive branch," a way to show that he isn't racist.  Nonetheless, it makes Peele uncomfortable, reminding him that he is a black man surrounded by white people.

Someone could also look at "microaggressions" differently; less charitably, "microaggressions" could be interpreted as indicative of malice or racism.  In a similar manner, Peele's film lends itself to a different interpretation from the one he intended.

Aja Romano writes in Vox:

'Get Out' ingeniously uses common horror tropes to reveal truths about how pernicious racism is in the world. It doesn't walk back any of its condemnations by inserting a "white savior" or making overtures to pacifism and tolerance. No: In this film, white society is a conscious purveyor of evil, and Chris must remain alert to its benevolent racism. He has to in order to survive.

In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes of Get Out:

Oh, those smooth-talking, self-congratulating white liberals. Listen to them moon over Barack Obama. Look at how widely they open their arms to a black visitor. Don't be duped. They're wolves in L. L. Bean clothing. There's danger under the fleece.

In other words: white people cannot be trusted, and should be presumed to be racist until proven otherwise.

Should African-Americans be "woke" to racism?  Of course, the existence of anti-black bigotry is a sad reality.  However, there is a difference between awareness of racism and racial paranoia.  Racial paranoia sets in when someone believes that another race or ethnicity is out to get him and then interprets all facts as consistent with that belief.

While racial paranoia can afflict anyone, it is particularly damaging to the black community.  The Black Lives Matter movement, to cite one example, has done tremendous harm.  Prior to the emergence of BLM, many conservatives expressed cautious interest in tackling issues like police brutality and criminal justice reform.  The extremism of Black Lives Matter, along with the so-called Ferguson effect, made these issues toxic for conservatives.

The militant tactics of BLM follow naturally from a paranoid view of white America.  If the police are an irredeemably racist institution, then there is no point in trying to work with them to build better community relations or weed out bad cops.  Similarly, if the Republican Party, home to conservative white America, is irredeemably racist, then there is no point working with Republicans. 

The tragedy here is that blacks would likely be better served by the more cautious approach of the conservative reformers, who were less likely to overlook the tremendous cost criminals impose on our society.  Unfortunately, the militant anti-white hostility of the Black Lives Matter movement killed nascent efforts at police and prison reform.

The message progressive commentators have taken from this movie is self-destructive and dumb.  For progressive commentators, Get Out illustrates the enveloping, omnipresent reality of white racism.  I hope this isn't the message black audiences take away from the movie.  When people believe that only enemies exist, then they will find only enemies.

Earlier this month, I went to see the movie Get Out with a pair of friends.  Film critics have almost universally praised the movie – it earned a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and both of my friends liked it.  While I enjoyed the movie, I feared that some people would draw the wrong lesson from it.

In the movie, the protagonist, Chris, is nervous about meeting his girlfriend Rose's family.  He's black, and she's white, and her family doesn't know this.  Rose reassures Chris that her family is not racist, and her dad "would have voted for Obama for a third term."

At first, Rose's family seems warm and friendly, if a bit odd.  However, as the movie goes on, things become stranger and stranger.  The family's black servants behave very oddly.  Party guests make strange remarks to Chris – remarks carrying racial undertones.  Eventually, Chris becomes so uncomfortable that he tells Rose he wants to go home, and that's when things take a turn for the worse.

The movie's director, Jordan Peele, told PBS that he drew inspiration for his movie from the "microaggresions" he encountered as a black man.  He described these "microaggressions" as innocent remarks that carry a racial subtext.  He believes that the "microaggressor" frequently intends his remark as "an olive branch," a way to show that he isn't racist.  Nonetheless, it makes Peele uncomfortable, reminding him that he is a black man surrounded by white people.

Someone could also look at "microaggressions" differently; less charitably, "microaggressions" could be interpreted as indicative of malice or racism.  In a similar manner, Peele's film lends itself to a different interpretation from the one he intended.

Aja Romano writes in Vox:

'Get Out' ingeniously uses common horror tropes to reveal truths about how pernicious racism is in the world. It doesn't walk back any of its condemnations by inserting a "white savior" or making overtures to pacifism and tolerance. No: In this film, white society is a conscious purveyor of evil, and Chris must remain alert to its benevolent racism. He has to in order to survive.

In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes of Get Out:

Oh, those smooth-talking, self-congratulating white liberals. Listen to them moon over Barack Obama. Look at how widely they open their arms to a black visitor. Don't be duped. They're wolves in L. L. Bean clothing. There's danger under the fleece.

In other words: white people cannot be trusted, and should be presumed to be racist until proven otherwise.

Should African-Americans be "woke" to racism?  Of course, the existence of anti-black bigotry is a sad reality.  However, there is a difference between awareness of racism and racial paranoia.  Racial paranoia sets in when someone believes that another race or ethnicity is out to get him and then interprets all facts as consistent with that belief.

While racial paranoia can afflict anyone, it is particularly damaging to the black community.  The Black Lives Matter movement, to cite one example, has done tremendous harm.  Prior to the emergence of BLM, many conservatives expressed cautious interest in tackling issues like police brutality and criminal justice reform.  The extremism of Black Lives Matter, along with the so-called Ferguson effect, made these issues toxic for conservatives.

The militant tactics of BLM follow naturally from a paranoid view of white America.  If the police are an irredeemably racist institution, then there is no point in trying to work with them to build better community relations or weed out bad cops.  Similarly, if the Republican Party, home to conservative white America, is irredeemably racist, then there is no point working with Republicans. 

The tragedy here is that blacks would likely be better served by the more cautious approach of the conservative reformers, who were less likely to overlook the tremendous cost criminals impose on our society.  Unfortunately, the militant anti-white hostility of the Black Lives Matter movement killed nascent efforts at police and prison reform.

The message progressive commentators have taken from this movie is self-destructive and dumb.  For progressive commentators, Get Out illustrates the enveloping, omnipresent reality of white racism.  I hope this isn't the message black audiences take away from the movie.  When people believe that only enemies exist, then they will find only enemies.