Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it
[2020 note: I basically made this exact same post three years ago, starting in a similar manner]
Not long ago, I saw that Community was available on Netflix, which was pleasing to me. Community was one of those shows in which I’d only seen sporadic episodes in no particular order, depending on whichever group of friends I’d hang out with and happen to catch an episode or two at their point of watching through the series. However, crushing on Alison Brie withstanding, I liked the show, and I always thought it would be a good idea to binge the series in order if the opportunity ever presented itself.
One episode in particular that made me think “whoa, this show is really clever” was the episode that most widely seems to be known as “the D&D episode.” Not giving anything away, but the Community gang plays a game of Dungeons & Dragons for a particular motive. However, if there’s one scene in the episode that really sticks with most viewers, it’s of Ken Jeong’s character, Chang, completely painted black and wearing a white wig, because he wants in on the game, and assumes LARPing as a dark elf would get the job done (spoiler: it doesn’t).
But it’s a little bit of a jaw-dropping scene because in all technicality, it’s still Ken Jeong in complete black face (and hands and presumably all other flesh). But the thing is, he’s not trying to imitate or ridicule black people, he’s just trying to get in character as a dark elf.
Well, I just learned that that episode of Community won’t be available on Netflix anymore. In fact, any episode of any show, and presumably any movie, that features any non-black character painting their skin tone as to appear darker, has been scrubbed from Netflix’s library, in light of the rampant racism problem, running roughshod in America currently.
Blackface, has suddenly shot up the charts as a hot button, and all throughout the world of media, there’s a whole lot of retroactive scrubbing being done, to eradicate all proof of any show, person, entity or whatever, partaking in blackface at any point in history.
I understand that people, of whatever degrees of notoriety, if they’ve ever done blackface or anything racially insensitive, and they know it exists in some form of media, would definitely want to forget it happened, or at least really hope it never sees the light of day by anyone else, but what’s going on currently is this mass craze of revisionist history throughout the world, where it seems more like people want to cover their asses and hide their dirty laundry, instead of accepting that what they did was wrong, learn from it, and strive to make better choices in the future and perhaps not do them, and definitely not put them on the internet.
And that’s what I’m finding concerning in today’s culture, is that there seems to be a collective attitude that it’s best to eradicate, destroy and delete, negative or insensitive things or content, but it doesn’t seem like anyone really wants to learn from it at all. And if things are deleted throughout history, who’s to say that things won’t, inevitably come back around and happen again, but if nobody knows it existed before, they most certainly would be condemned to make the same mistakes again.
Take for example all the Confederate statues across the southeastern United States that have been destroyed, topped over, or just flat out vandalized and defaced. Sure, the Confederacy is somewhat of an embarrassment to American culture, but it sure as shit did happen. Now I agree that it’s probably best if these historic racists weren’t honored in statue form, prominently in major American cities, but at the same time, destroying them only helps wipe them from history books, and if in 100 years, there’s an uprising from a radically conservative, racist faction of the country that rises to power, then there’s nothing historically for them to refer to, to maybe think that their choices might not be the most kosher ones to be making.
Why not relocate these Confederate statues and monuments to museums or something, where people can actually seek out knowledge in their history, and possibly learn on what not to do, as Americans?
Same as all the shows and content out there that had something like blackface in them at some point; sure, it’s not right, it was never right, but acknowledge that it happened, and make it a teachable moment. Hiding them from viewers only sweeps the issue under the rug, while meeting it head-on and advancing from it seems a little more productive.
And as for the D&D episode of Community, what bugs me is that Netflix nixed the episode, where those who had never seen the episode would never get to learn the context of the scene in the first place. Chang isn’t in blackface to mock, ridicule or take a racist shot at black people; he’s literally trying to cosplay as a fucking drow, a dark elf race in Dungeons & fucking Dragons.
All I’m really saying is that in light of current events, I think America and all its people are being a little too sensitive and reactionary to things that are offensive towards black people. Keep in mind for every Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben that’s being scrubbed from existence, we still have a United States president who makes every effort to associate coronavirus as “The Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu” because Asian people are not black people and are therefore still fair game to be racist towards.
Scrubbing too much out of history just creates room for future generations to repeat it. And believe me, they will, because creativity is nil, and what is once old always becomes new again.