Last night, one of my Facebook friends posted an article about some troubling information omitted from the film Straight Outta Compton — musician Dr. Dre’s history of abuse toward women. I responded to the post with a comment about how I admired the film, but was also sorry to hear that Dre’s “warts” were hidden from viewers. I then tried to explain my admiration of the movie, writing that, “I think its focus on the song ‘Fuck tha Police’ is cathartic in the wake of Sandra Bland’s wrongful arrest.”
My friend quickly attacked me, saying I didn’t have the right to tell oppressed Black women that they should consider the film cathartic. I wasn’t saying that though. I was saying that I, personally, found the film cathartic as someone upset about police brutality.
"But you aren't experiencing police brutality as a Black person and especially not as a Black woman. This isn't really about what you find cathartic," she said. It is about what I think, however, because I'm writing a film review. That involves exploring experiences outside of my own.
I understand the frustration over someone trying to explain something they haven’t dealt with personally. But I’m not so sure that avoiding issues is the way to solve anything.
Several of my friends — my white friends — on Facebook and Twitter seem offended that I am even attempting to write about the African American community in the context of Straight Outta Compton. They say I’m not qualified to illustrate African American experiences, that my voice is not valuable.
Yes, I’m young and white. Does that mean I shouldn’t write a review of a film about a 30-year-old Black rap group? Isn’t the point of moviegoing to step into different shoes, explore other worlds and gain new perspectives on our own? To process and understand how people from all walks of life feel? I don't understand the point of discouraging critics from seeking that experience and trying to analyze worlds foreign to them. How would they ever connect to those worlds if they didn't?
I think part of a film critic’s job is to think about how films reflect the times in which they are released. In my review of Straight Outta Compton, I wrote: “In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder and Sandra Bland’s wrongful arrest, the song ‘Fuck tha Police’ is as cathartic now as it was 27 years ago. Therein lies the power of the film. It reels us in with its raw reflection of our current reality.”
My friends felt like that passage was telling Black people how to appreciate the film, which they said I was not qualified to do as a white person. I was simply talking about my reaction to the film and how I felt it mirrored current events.
A dangerous wave of political correctness is washing over this country. People are so afraid of offending certain groups that they are treating them with kid gloves and avoiding discussions about them so as not to offend them. According to my friends, I am being insensitive to the African American community by simply attempting to explain its experiences in a review of a film revolving around a Black cast.
Sure, white people can avoid writing about Black people entirely so as not to offend them, but how is that helping members of either race?
By writing overly angry, accusatory responses to possible insensitivity, people like my Facebook friends are undermining the same sense of compassion and empathy that they demand of their peers.
We are so concerned about offending broad groups of people across the country that we forget about the people right in front of us. My friends were being so protective of women and the African American community that they failed to realize they hadn’t actually read the review in which they assumed I was being insensitive and offensive.
Read my review of Straight Outta Compton in this week’s issue of NUVO, and let me know what you think.