School of white-supremacy magic

It must be said, in the current political climate, that I don’t use “white supremacy” on this blog to mean explicit racism as espoused by the white nationalists who’ve rechristened themselves the alt-right. I use it in the accepted academic sense of

a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege

(Sharon Martinas). This is also the definition we use in the Race and Fiction-Writing group. Anyway, I watched a few episodes of “The Magicians,” which is okay. It’s about a school for magic, and speaking of school, I am forced to conclude that there is some sort of Hollywood class which most TV creators have to take called How Not To Be Racist On TV (While Still Being Racist). Once you pass this course, you are qualified to put out into the world all sorts of interesting, entertaining and even intelligent TV shows that are super-racist. Here are the three tentpoles of the course.

Black figurehead. Be sure to cast a Black actor in a role of nominal power and control over a society in which there are few to no other powerful characters of color. The magisterial Rick Worthy is a good choice for Dean Fogg. See also: various Black presidents, Black police chiefs, etc. in white-dominated shows. Extra credit: Peppering of diversity, the selective slotting-in of actors of color in various minor roles, especially out of focus in background shots.

Violence against black and brown bodies. Don’t torture, wound, humiliate or dehumanize the white bodies in your show, but have no compunction about filming gratuitous violence against a random half-naked Black person in a scene where everyone else is white. See also: The bit in buttoned-up Victorian-magic potboiler “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” that shows a naked Black woman writhing in agony in the cargo hold of a slave ship.

Write in jokes about racism. Make a thoughtful Indian-American actor portray a gross Indian stereotype in an alternate-reality sequence, then make it all okay by having that same actor emerge from the main storyline and call the protagonist a racist motherfucker. You can’t lampshade that shit away, btw.

Finally, never take the spotlight off your white protagonists. Now you are ready to Not Be Racist On TV.

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