Zootopia is about what Conservative White people fear

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Zootopia came out over the summer and blew everyone away with its metaphors for race relations in the United States. I just watched it last night with my children and I agree, it’s about race in the US. Specifically, it’s about what Conservative White people fear will happen if they were to become the minority in the country.

This is a children’s film and that’s important to note because one of the criticisms of this film is that metaphors are messy. Even though I think most of the reading of this film’s meaning was off base, particularly that they assigned the predators as the people of color, and the prey as white people, and that is part of what leads to the less than perfect allegories, I also think that there are things that don’t work perfectly simply because this is a children’s movie and we have to arrive at a happy end.

So I acknowledge that it’s not perfect but it does read cleaner when you look at it as metaphor not for today but for a future time when White people are a minority and that they are portrayed as the predators in the film, not the prey. We also need to understand that there are multiple things going on with this storyline, some of which do not fit into the overreaching racial metaphor, some that speak to other issues in our culture, and some that are just children movie story building.

The story line is about a bunny, named Judy, who is the first rabbit to be allowed on the force. On her first day she finds out that 14 predator animals have gone missing. She ends up working the case and discovers that these animals have gone savage and are dangerous. Once this news gets out, the populace begins to distrust predator animals, even though only a small handful have done anything bad. Eventually, they uncover that the animals have been drugged due to a plot by prey animals to frame predator animals. Everything is resolved in the end, Shakira shows up and sings a song, roll credits.

The inclusion of Judy on the police force reads as affirmative action and is likely why so many people read prey as Black people. The lion mayor calls it the “mammal inclusion act” which is so blatant. However, this is the first instance of the race metaphor not working. If you look closely at the animals you will see that the force contains a lot of non-predator animals. They may not be prey, but elephants and rhinos aren’t known for their hunting skills either (although hippos are VICIOUS). What is actually going on here is that only big animals are allowed on the police force. Her species isn’t left out because she munches veggies, but because she’s small. This is sometimes read as sexism but it’s important to point out that Judy’s drill sergeant is ALSO a woman.

Her inclusion is actually read better as allegory for disability (far from perfect as she’s not actually disabled in any way) and the inclusion of differently-abled people into all walks of life as they can add their own unique abilities to the greater whole.

In any case, you can shed her relationship to the police force as a server for the race metaphor. What we can deal with, however, is her relationship with foxes.

Foxes eat rabbits. That’s what they do. If you watch this movie with the understanding that predators are White people then foxes, all foxes, are White people. Early on, Judy is attacked by a fox when she is a child. When she’s an adult she meets Nick, a fox, and they become best friends (there’s a lot of plot and not being BFF but that’s where things end up).

Judy experienced metaphorical racism at the hands of a fox as a child and although she tries not to this color her view of ALL foxes, the fear is still there, that they will turn on her or that they are just waiting to reveal their true nature. It is a fear that is shared by her parents and who warn her against them. This works really well as a metaphor for how Black and other people of color exist in White spaces. Many of us have experienced racism growing up and now look for signs to avoid it as adults.

What doesn’t work so well is Nick’s, the fox, counter story. In fact, this part illustrates the ways in which this being a children’s movie, gets in the way of the overreaching message. Nick’s counter story is basically “reverse racism” 101.

Nick tells a story about how he wanted to be a cub scout which in this reality is something that only prey animals do. When he shows up at the meeting, they laugh at him and put a muzzle on him. Because he’s a dangerous predator. So you know, he too knows what it’s like to be profiled and we should all just see people for who they are, everyone’s guilty and we can all do better. Only the whole thing pretty well glosses over the reality of what happened.

What happened to Nick was emotionally painful and likely would haunt him for his life (if he wasn’t a cartoon) but what happened to Judy was actually physically and emotionally scarring. The fox that attacked her as a child slashed up her face, he very easily could have killed her. What happened to Nick was sad but what happened to Judy was a step away from homicide.

When they found out what is causing the animals to go postal in the film, a certain type of blue flower (very Through a Scanner Darkly) it’s also revealed that although only predators have had the problem in the city, it can also happen to prey animals. This is, again, it’s not a race/species thing, it’s just some bad luck. But it again ignores the fact that the one prey animal we’re told about who had eaten this plant only left a bite on their victim but the predators that have gone missing by and large can and will KILL the people they attack. Savage bunnies aren’t great and can certainly hurt other bunnies or small animals but savage tigers will kill bunnies, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, and other tigers who get in the way.

This is noteworthy because it speaks to the conversation about police brutality vs Black on Black crime. People with more power and influence can do greater damage with their violence than those without. A criminal Black person has a much smaller reach than a violent cop. A gangbanger can influence a neighborhood, a cop that sees all Black people as violent can influence policy that keeps people of color oppressed.

Before it’s revealed that the animals are going savage as a plot by, of all heavy handed metaphors, a sheep, it causes the populace of Zootopia to fear and distrust the predator animals in their society, of which, are only 10% of the population.

This is where the metaphor of the future of all scared White people really takes hold. Even though the population of predatory animals is very small, the prey animals shy away from them, for fear that will revert back to a more violent version of themselves because it’s in ALL of their nature (all White people are racist).

Then we find out that they are being poisoned by sheep to bring out this violent side. This is an allegory for the Black Lives Matter and really any discussion of race by people of color. The predator animals weren’t violent until they were poisoned by the prey animals.

The sheep enacted this plot after years of mistreatment by the larger predatory animals in the city. It’s not a perfect metaphor, again, because this movie is for children and in children’s movies, your villain must be a bad guy. There isn’t time in an hour and a half to peel back the layers of motivation and see how the person with the gun got to where they are. But it’s easy to put together.

The sheep, being small and not able to access the upward mobility that the larger herbivores had access to due to their large size, organized and worked to overthrow the system that kept them at the lower levels. This is what Conservative White people think BLM is doing (it’s not, we just want cops to stop shooting people which doesn’t seem like it would need a whole movement but this is America and cops NOT killing people seems to be controversial) and this entire film is an allegory for what would happen if White people and Black people switched population sizes. And at the root of that is if POC don’t say or do anything to draw attention to racism then we’ll see those distasteful parts of the Whiteness begin to disappear.

Ultimately, none of the overreaching issues are resolved in more than face value. The flower is identified, the sheep that started it all is locked up, we can all learn to get along, Shakira, Shakira. Still, it’s a good place to start.

Zootopia was not a perfect movie. It was a very fun children’s movie however it does rely on a good deal of racism 101, we’re all equal and can learn to love our differences which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for young children. It does serve as a very subtle, albeit less than perfect, metaphor for the concerns of Conservative White America but it leaves a lot unexplored and sacrifices a stronger point to make a better children’s movie.

You’re Conditioned

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I was talking to a white guy about speaking on the protests and why they shouldn’t put focus on the looters they replied, “I can’t talk about an issue without addressing the full matter.” At that point I checked out of the conversation because even though this guy was a “good White person”, I was exhausted from trying to educate them. But after some rest, I want to address this idea of the “whole issue” because claiming not to be able to compartmentalize is bullshit. We all do it all the time, there’s no reason it can’t be done here EXCEPT for our social conditioning.

When you talk about dropping by McDonald’s you don’t also have to discuss how ranching has destroyed the rain forests before you order a large fry. When you buy a new shirt, you don’t also discuss how the fast clothing industry is creating more trash than we know what to do with or the slave labor practices that many companies employ before you hit order now.

All of us compartmentalize every single day with no issue but suddenly when it’s people of color we have to talk about EVERYTHING. Especially the things that are negative. This isn’t because the vandalism is greater than the protest itself or because a years old criminal record excuses the death of an unarmed man, it’s because those things help to demonize Blackness.

We are socially conditioned to find the wrongness in Black people to make their problems their fault. If they weren’t a criminal, they wouldn’t have been shot. If they protested peacefully they would get more attention, if, if, if. And all that does is excuse the institutional racism that created these situations in the very first place.

Your social conditioning and culture are why you “can’t” speak on the protests without speaking about looters. Your social conditioning and culture are why you look for a criminal record when an unarmed Black man has been shot but you look for a sports record or charity when a White dude gets caught sticking his dick somewhere it doesn’t belong. You’ve been taught to demonize Blackness and uphold the goodness of Whiteness.

Unlearn that.

All Things Aren’t Equal, Stop Discussing Them That Way

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Right now there are protests going on in Charlotte, North Carolina because yet again, another unarmed Black man was shot by the police. During this protest some people have chosen to use this time destroy property and loot. You might be compelled share some opinion about how you feel about that in relation to the protests that are happening. Don’t do that.

You may be thinking that it’s only fair to discuss the looting in as well, to bring attention to the problem. But you’re wrong and you’re likely compelled to speak on it, not by fairness, but by unconscious racism.

There will always be people who are opportunistic and use a time of unrest to be violent or to engage in some sort of criminal activity. That doesn’t mean that protest itself is about violence or that the people who are protesting are violent. However, when you focus the discussion on the violence, especially when it is in relation to Black protest, you are in fact helping to contribute to a narrative of antiblackness.

You are taking focus away from a needed conversation and discussion on racism and directing attention instead to something that fits the narrative of Black people as violent. There are people who would say that I am trying to distract from the TRUTH of how Black people REALLY are but I’m not talking to those people, because those people are openly racist. I’m talking to people who would like to work on their own internalized racism, especially white people who want to be better allies.

I want to address, here, something that I see all repeated that ignoring this violence would be like ignoring ISIS or ignoring police brutality because those are the minority of larger nonviolent groups but this is really just really one of the most common logical fallacies, the false equivalency. I talk about it a lot because it happens so often.

At first glance, protesters to rioters vs cops to cops who shoot unarmed people, for instance, seem to be comparable because they are both these minority groups inside of a much larger collection. But this breaks down when we start to look at it further.

People are protesting and some people are using the opportunity to commit crimes. The second thing has nothing to do with the goals and the drive of the first thing. But when you spend time focusing on illegal activities of that minority, you’re taking part in a narrative that supports the culture of antiblack racism.

Police officers are shooting black people while the majority of officers are not. Although the majority of officers have never shot anyone, black or white, when we pull back from these incidents and look at a larger view of the system as a whole, we can see how multiple issues feed into the end result of unjustified shooting of people of color. And honestly, we are looking at and discussing the ENTIRE justice system, not just the cops that pull the trigger.

The first step in really doing antiracism work as a white person either as an activist or just for your own self, is stepping back and realizing that you can’t discuss everything on equal terms because everything is not on equal terms. The push to make things, as they are now, seem equal in discussion is a way to discredit and undermine the oppressed.

For example, if two people go the ER and one has a crushed finger and the other a crushed ribcage, we wouldn’t just say they both have some broken bones and make them both wait for beds. Similarly, if the family of the ribcage victim is screaming and crying for help, the finger victim wouldn’t turn to them ask why they couldn’t just pipe down and wait their turn. When you look bigger picture, it becomes clear that although they have a similar issue at the most basic level, once you pull back, you can see that they are in fact very different. You have to consider the larger narrative and ask yourself what does this discussion serve?

Why are they looting and breaking things? Because those people are opportunistic individuals who have chosen to commit criminal acts. Now, what does that have to do with the protests? Does it add anything positive to conversation? Does it foster greater understanding between people? Does taking time out to discuss this minority in relation to the greater whole do anything other than support a narrative of antiblackness?

Apply that strategy to all your interactions regarding race, gender, ableism, etc. We all enter into spheres carrying our own biases and we need to do the work in reviewing them and confronting them. This post dealt with racism but the same practices need to employed by people of privilege when engaging in discussions with and regarding the needs of marginalized people. Even if you’re a marginalized person in some other way, if you hold privilege in the space you are in, then you need to do this work.

Black on Black Crime Isn’t a Myth

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Let’s talk about Black on Black crime. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news, specifically likely in regards to Black people murdered by other Black people. Perhaps you’ve heard it from people in relation to #BlackLivesMatter because how can Black lives matter when we’re out here killing each other? So, as a Real Life Black Person™, I am going to clear up this whole discussion for you.

Yes, Black people do kill other Black people. Yes, you are more likely to be killed or otherwise harmed by a Black person if you are a Black person. That being said, you can replace Black with White and that sentence is still true. Black on Black crime isn’t a myth anymore that than White on White crime is but the narrative that surrounds it and makes it seem like this unique thing that is only true of Black people is basically racism 101. And furthermore, it has nothing to do with whether or not trained police officers have the right to harass, profile, and murder Black people at a disproportionately higher rate than White people, which is what #BlackLivesMatter is about.

Black on Black Crime (hereafter referred to as BBC), is the idea that Black people are violent by nature to the point of killing each other. The fact of the matter is that people tend to be violent, especially those who live in high stress situations, such as poverty which we know also disproportionately affects people of color.

That being said, crime rates are pretty steady across the board for both White and Black people. Just as many White people are committing violent crimes against other White people as there are black people. This is because crime is largely intraracial. People, generally, aren’t leaving their close surroundings to commit crime.

If you’re going to rob a store, it will be in your neighborhood or close by. If you’re going to murder someone, they will likely be someone who frequents the same places you do. Because the United States is still largely unsegregated when it comes to housing this means that Black people live with other Black people and White people live with other White people.

So if someone has a criminal intention, it will more than likely be carried out against someone who looks like them.

BBC isn’t a “thing” because Black people are more violent or because White people are better. It’s merely a manipulation of facts to fit a racist narrative. That’s it.

It gets even murkier when you consider that the metric that we use to create crime statistics is inherently flawed. BBC generally refers to homicides but that is just one piece of the overall issue. Across the board, Black people are more like to be arrested, convicted, and given harsher sentences for crimes than their White counterparts which help to skew reporting statistics.

Again, this isn’t because there are higher rates of crime in Black communities, this is because there are higher rates of arrests and convictions in Black communities. These are not the same things. Broken Window policies and racial profiling have helped to ensure that Black people are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate.

This has a devastating effect on the community as families are torn apart, they are thrown deeper into the clutches of poverty and are more likely to engage in criminal behavior to get by. This all feeds into why you see a larger number of Black people incarcerated.

This isn’t a victim mentality. This isn’t about not being able to function in civilized society. Black on Black crime is a narrative device that cherry picks facts and uses limited information as a way to further oppress Black people. By making it seem that we are inherently violent, it makes it OK for us to be handled violently. That is the truth of Black on Black crime.

Two Simple Steps to Avoiding a Bad Gig

Photo by Antoine Beauvillain https://stock.tookapic.com/photos/2803196

Recently, there have been a few articles written about the predatory nature of some of the biggest content producers on the web. Namely, that they prey on marginalized groups to create content without paying them or lock them into contracts that limit their ability to profit from their own work. Although it’s very true that internet outlets certainly have a habit of engaging in these practices, it is also true that creators can protect themselves better simply by doing two things: Reading their contracts and not working for free.

Creators aren’t often taught much in the way of business. Money is a four letter word when you’re an artist. This is true in all creative fields. It is pushed that it is MORE important to do the work and get it out there than it is to be PAID for the work. Which is counterintuitive for something that is a job. So when faced with an opportunity to do something you love and have it seen, many creators jump at the chance with the idea that the rewards will come later.

They won’t. That’s why electricians tell you how much something will cost up front. Not because they don’t love what they do but because they understand that jobs require payment in real world money. Not Exposure Bucks.

Not having a background in business also leads to agreeing to bad contracts. Many creators, young or just new, don’t understand what a lot of legalize in the things they are signing mean or how it will affect them in the long run, if they bother to fully read the contract at all.

The websites that prey on creators are counting on you not to read or question the terms they set out in those contracts. They’re multipage documents that include a lot of jargon which can be overwhelming. But, at the same time, as scary as they are, reading that before you sign is part of your new job. And if you don’t like what it says, DO NOT SIGN IT!

These places prey on your desperation to be seen or heard. They know that you have been conditioned to think the important part of being a creative is to be known but it is not. If you’re doing creative WORK then the important thing is to be paid. The fact that you enjoyed it is a bonus.

You are not missing out because you don’t agree to be taken advantage of. I will say it again, YOU ARE NOT MISSING OUT BECAUSE YOU DON’T AGREE TO BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF!

So what should you do when an opportunity comes knocking but they can’t pay or the contract seems a bit off?

If it’s the contract, read it, ask questions if you don’t understand something and if you don’t like something, renegotiate it. It’s scary because they might walk away but if the point of contention is something that will harm your career in the long run, it’s not worth it. Remember, you still have to live and support yourself long after their contract is up.

If they can’t pay, tell them to call you back when they can cut a check. Your time and work is valuable. Stop giving it away for free. That old adage “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” is a gross, sexist statement when applied to women’s bodies BUT is a perfect expression for working for exposure. Why should anyone pay you if you’re willing to put in your best for nothing?

Stop doing that.

So if you want to not be taken advantage of, follow these two simple steps.

1. Don’t work for free. You’re worth more.

2. Read your contract. The whole thing.

You may get nervous because you feel like you’re going to miss a chance at something great but if that chance will ultimately hurt you and the people you’re working for profit FAR more than you will, then you’re not missing anything.

If You Wanna Be A Better Ally, Google It

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“Google It.”

This has become a common phrase online and more recently it has been popping up in conversations about social issues such as sexism or racism. Marginalized people are answering questions with “Google it” instead of links or drawn out explanations. This is happening because marginalized people are tired of being responsible for the education of people who claim they want to help.

Online, especially, we are met with heated conversations about social justice issues. Wage inequality, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, trans issues, etc. and unlike when these conversations happen in the wild, online there is a higher occurrence of people who are not aware of these realities or only passably educated on them.

Which is to say, many of the people that we engage with in these issues don’t know much about these issues. But they, sometimes, want to learn. The response of “Google it” may seem counterintuitive, why would you say that when someone wants to learn?

The answer is very simple. They say that because it is not their job to teach anyone about these topics. If you have been made aware of them, there is no reason you can’t utilize the ample resources found online to become more familiar with the history, terms, and current trends.

People have no problem looking up the specs of a washing machine or car online but tell them they need to do their own research to become a more educated ally and suddenly, you’re shutting them out.

There’s also an undercurrent of supremacy in this attitude, that it is up to the marginalized person to teach you something, to spend time and educate you instead of you going out and doing the work yourself. Many people would be happy to help, I write this blog, free to view, about many of these issues, for example. In many cases, however, the person asking wants the person they are speaking with to do all the heavy lifting. Which is why they get “Google it.”

It may not seem that way to the person asking, it may seem innocent, just a question but being asked the same things over and over again, being expected to provide proof is exhausting. And the people claiming to want to help should try to take some of that burden instead of adding to it.

There are also ample cases where people are questioning marginalized groups not to educate themselves but to belittle them. They are antagonizing people who are attempting to speak up and belittling their lived experiences and “Google it” is a form of protection. If the person you are speaking to does not know you well, you may be coming off not as a curious person but someone who is trying to derail and bury the discussion.

To be fair, there is a lot of information out there on the internet. It’s what makes it great and terrible. But by doing some of the legwork on your own, you’re already being a better ally. Going into a conversation with some knowledge and questioning the specific things that you struggle to understand is far preferable than asking to be spoon fed an education in marginalization.

If you really want to be a better ally then honestly the best thing you can do is Google it.

You Are Not Required To Be a Punching Bag

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This month has been pretty tough for people. There has been tragedy, after tragedy. Lots of judgement and hurtful words have been thrown around. So this is just a reminder for everyone who is vulnerable: You are not required to engage with or keep hurtful people in your life.

If you are hurting and someone is just making it worse, you don’t have to keep talking with them. You don’t have to be polite. Tell them they’re hurting you and if you need, cut contact. Or just cut contact. You are not required to be someone else’s punching bag.

It doesn’t matter if that person is a relative, a significant other or just some rando on Facebook. You are not required to take their shit.

This may just be a temporary situation and in a few days of space you’ll be fine to engage again. It may be a permanent change in the relationship but either way, YOU are important. YOUR mental health is important and trumps their need to say whatever they want to say to you.

It is not rude, it is not selfish to take care of yourself in this way. You are not required to engage with people who do not value your health and wellbeing.

Take care of yourself out there.