Truth of 'Schindler's List' worth seeing any month

March 02, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

Somewhere along the line a group of black folks decided we own February. Oh, don't try to deny it. Those of you reading this -- and I don't care what your ethnic group is -- have harbored the suspicion for a while now.

It was confirmed to me last Monday, when a caller left a voice mail message that I paraphrase thusly:

"I felt the showing of 'Schindler's List' with no commercial interruptions during Black History Month was 'insensitive.'"

This is a minority opinion, I say to myself. Don't get upset. Don't fret. Most black folks don't feel this way, I tell myself, then rush to the restroom and look in a mirror to be sure my nose hasn't grown like Pinocchio's.

But last Wednesday I gave a speech at Har Sinai Brotherhood, a Reform Jewish congregation. Afterward, a woman who's a student at a local college came up to tell me that one of her professors assured her many blacks have a problem with "Schindler's List" being shown during Black History Month. The professor even used the "I" word -- insensitivity -- in her observation.

Well, the caller asked for my opinion, so here it is.

On the charge that showing "Schindler's List" during Black History Month was "insensitive": there are some black folks -- thank God, not most -- whose Black National Anthem should not be "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Nor should it be "We Shall Overcome." It should be "I Am Negro, Hear Me Whine."

On the subject of NBC showing "Schindler's List" commercial-free: Exactly how do you show such a film with commercials? Exactly where in this story of man's inhumanity to man and human suffering do you insert the trite, cute, humorous blurb to sell cars, deodorant or dog food? There are some folks who believe the two two-minute intermissions unnecessarily interrupted the flow of the film.

The history of other peoples neither stops nor is negated by Black History Month. Although I celebrate it every year, for me black history is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year deal. If we have to get obsessed with owning a particular month, why can't we choose a warm one with 31 days? May sounds nice.

February, for television networks, is a sweeps month. That's when the networks put on films and specials of all kinds to get the highest ratings to prove to advertisers that they're numero uno and thus get those all-important advertising bucks. Anyone reading anything sinister or conspiratorial into the showing of "Schindler's List" during Black History Month is simply looking for a reason to be offended.

The feelings of offense are a mask for envy. Conservative writer Glenn Loury has said that some people do engage in what he called "comparative victimology." Broken down into simple English, it's a case of "My oppression was worse than yours." Don't show movies about Jewish oppression during Black History Month, black comparative victimologists feel, because it detracts from us wallowing in ours.

(I remember an eerie debate I had with my high school world history teacher. This dignified Jewish professor and I actually argued about whether the horrors of slavery were worse than the horrors of the Holocaust. Once he got into the numbers game, i.e., more Jews were killed in the Holocaust, I quit. We're actually debating whose oppression was worse, I thought, as though there are awards given out for such.)

I'm probably in the minority on this, but "Schindler's List" is one of several films I would definitely want shown during Black History Month. The Holocaust shows what happened when the Western doctrine of racial superiority was taken to its ultimate extreme. It was Western scientists and sociologists who used the doctrine of racism to justify the enslavement of blacks in this country and the subjugation of the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Apparently this gaggle of arch-racists didn't figure that once they espoused the belief that the white races were superior to the dark races, someone would come along and claim that some groups of white people were superior to other groups of white people. But Adolf Hitler did.

When Baron Lothar von Trotha instituted his policy to annihilate the Herero people of Southwest Africa during a war from 1904 to 1907, none of Europe's racists figured that 40 years later Germans would be doing the same thing to European Jews. Given the string of holocausts that happened before it, the Holocaust was not an aberration of the Western mind. It was, in fact, an inevitable manifestation of it.

Any film that depicts that truth is worth seeing, no matter what month it's shown.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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