Despite the phenomenal success of the landmark film “Barbershop,” Al Sharpton and others’ boycott ensured that subsequent similarly Black culture-themed films would not choose the same road.
The “Barbershop” film franchise began with a revival of truth-in-advertising type stories concerning Black experiences without needing to pull the race card. With its 2nd installment “Barbershop 2: Back In Business” it saw the return of most of the old cast, and at $66 million (with twice the original’s budget), it was still considered a success.
However, something had changed along the way. Gone were the retorts and brutal candor that gave the first film its realistic gritty edge, as well as the witty repartee and frankness that made audiences desire a sequel. While it was still funny, the tone was no longer the same. With 2016’s latest installment “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” the
theme of a meritocratic America had clearly dissipated.
With references to BLM, politics, and racial diatribes throughout, the Barbershop had become, in a word- woke. As evidenced by this conversation led by one of the new barbers, Raja played by actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, things in the ‘shop had drastically changed:
Raja: “Wait. What… You know, maybe that’s part of the problem. I mean… Maybe we need to stop waiting for the government to step in and save us and we need to start saving ourselves. I mean, this is America. Everybody has equal opportunity to make it here.”
Barbers: “Really? What? Okay. Oh, man.”
Eddie: “Oh… All right. Baba ghanoush over here lost his damn mind.”
Raja: “Eddie, that’s bullshit. You wanna know why I’m sarcastic? Because every time I open my mouth to say something real, you gotta make fun of me. Meanwhile, if I say you’re a watermelon-flavored fried chicken lover, I’m a racist.”
Rashad: “Hell, nah. You’ll get your ass beat.”
Raja: “Rashad, it was hypothetical. There’s no such thing as watermelon-flavored fried chicken. All I’m saying is, my parents moved here from India with nothing. They had no money, no friends. And their accents were so thick, they couldn’t even get bank accounts. And somehow, they made it happen.”
Jerrod: “Not to dismiss your argument here, Raja, because it is… It is riveting. However, there were some “setbacks” that Black people faced that really made things stressful for a minute there. Slavery being at the very top of that list.”
Terri: “Exactly. Your ancestors were immigrants. Ours were imports. Big difference.”
Raja: “Not really. How do you think the West Indies happened, okay? They took Indians, they took Black people from Africa, they put ’em in the Caribbean, and 200 years later, Rihanna happened. You’re welcome. I don’t like White people either. Okay? I’m just saying, maybe y’all should stop making excuses and actually pick up the ball.”
Barbers: “Whoa! “Pick up the ball”? Basketball reference. That was racist, right there. “Pick up the ball”?”
Eddie: “Oh, yes. It got real Fox News-y in here for me.”
Calvin: “What are you talkin’ about, man? You think it’s a level playing field out here? You think racism don’t exist no more?”
Raja: “The President of the United States of America is black. The most powerful man on the planet is black.”
Rashad: “So what does that mean for the average Black dude walking down the street? Does our president’s Blackness, did it stop Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown, or Walter Scott, or Tamir Rice, or Freddie Gray from being killed? Hell nah. A madman walked into a Charleston church and killed nine innocent people. Did his Blackness stop that? Eric Garner got killed on tape and it still didn’t matter. So what are you saying, Raja?”
Raja: “I’m not sayin’ that stuff isn’t messed up. Because it is. What I’m saying is, there’s never been a better time in this country to be a Black person than right now.”
While Raja’s “I don’t like white people” comment does not exactly move the conversation forward, his point was valid and necessary. Oddly enough, as the one non-Black barber in the shop, he was the only one that understood the value of accountability for your actions- the same stance that those Blacks from years ago staunchly maintained.
The New Narrative
What came next was a predictable parade of films clearly infected with this new racial slant, simultaneously intent on tugging at the ‘guilt-strings’ of White America, while poking at the racism-tainted hornet’s nest lying dormant within a growing populace of the Black community. As a result, Black-themed and directed media took a turn for the worst, especially in recent years, revealed in films like “The Hate You Give”, “Queen And Slim”, and TV series like “Black-ish”, former-rapper-turned-actress Queen Latifah’s “The Equalizer” and “Everything’s Trash.”
These anti-White vehicles portray Blacks as victims and/or targets under constant oppression by White America, advocating the opportunity for the benefits of living in a meritocracy, choosing rather to show “beating the White man at his own game”, rather than simply winning the game. In the process, the entertainment industry, driven much by a desire to a appease BLM-related groups and their ilk, consistently seek opportunities to stir up racial narratives and division by pouring gasoline on divisive embers in lieu of sparking wildfires.
Such is the case once again, with the racial-media’s latest bear-poke, “Till.”
“Till” is based on the 1955 brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Black youth, while visiting family in Mississippi. According to the story, Emmett’s cousins, while standing outside a country store dared him to flirt with the White woman behind the counter., After buying his candy, he said “Bye baby”, and walked out. After the woman’s husband heard a much-more fabricated version of the events that took place, he, along with several others forced their way into his uncle’s home and dragged young Till into their vehicle.
Emmett’s badly mutilated body was found 3 days later in the Tallahatchie River, disfigured beyond recognition. Upon seeing his remains, his mother Mamie demanded that her son have an open casket, to show the world her son’s tragic condition.
However, the timing of the film is suspect. In other words, why now? Showing this film and others like it at a time like this in our nation is tantamount to setting fire to the thread we are clearly hanging from. Though Emmett Till’s horrific murder is a story that could and should be told, should it be told now? What would be the purpose of bringing the story to the screen in 2022?
What would be the ramifications?
Would the desired result be to inform, inspire, or divide an already seemingly irrevocably divided nation?
What we have seen from films, cable, celebrities (Black and White), and a slew of TV shows and documentaries are components clearly created and force-fed to American audiences for sinister, divisive purposes.
What “Till” is guaranteed to do is strike more fear into White America, and anger into the hearts of many Black Americans adding to an ever-widening divide between the races. As history has shown, those Blacks that fought for their place in society to earn their piece of the American dream were not simply seeking bragging rights.
Those that forged ahead despite barriers and found success, nonetheless, understood the moment in time before them. They were satisfied in making their mark, knowing that they did what many felt they could not. Likewise, those that take no solace in their own achievements will never be satisfied. They will forever seek, find, and cast blame rather than take accountability for why they are-where they are. Until Black America realizes by-and-large that we have indeed overcome, we will never truly enjoy the rewards of having done so.