Counter-Racist Film Review: Red Tails Flying Solo
It is said that if people really care for each other, the endurance and quality of a relationship is dependent upon good communication. On not leaving unsaid those things that really bother us. White folks don’t care for me and the feeling is mutual. I’m talking to black people, black males specifically.
You wanna lay some blame on black females for our estrangement from you? Well, yes. I’m willing to admit that we haven’t been direct enough with you bruthas about the things that matter the most.
We have not told our sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, and cousins that we feel punched in the stomach when they bring non-black girlfriends into our homes. We don’t tell you how much it hurts us when you say you hate weaves but make it clear by your behavior that the hatred is simply because you don’t want to get tricked into mating with a female who doesn’t have the genes to produce a baby with that hair you deem “good.” Not hair like your own or hair like your father or grandfather’s. I suppose we’re too afraid that you wouldn’t care enough to stop the behavior even if we told you. We haven’t wanted that final confirmation that we mean so little to you. Well, by now, we pretty much have that confirmation. But, the day will come when you’ll have to care about our thoughts and feelings if you’re to have any chance of getting off your knees once you realize you’re there. So I’ll give it to you straight- no chaser about this film Red Tails.
See that pair of stills above? A movie scene in which a white soldier sends and receives letters from the one who motivates him to fight beyond his limits? That’s standard for a war drama no matter how gritty the action. There is always some reference like that to a female that the soldier is trying to get back home to. I’d never seen a war drama without it. Until Red Tails. — A movie about the first black pilots in the U.S. military who faced explicitly racist white men wearing the same uniforms as them as well as the bullets of those racists who were flying a different flag.
Sure, I expect racism in every single movie I see as long as we exist in this wretched system–even if the subject of the film is supposed to be about racism itself— However, I was caught off guard, slapped onto the proverbial floor when black males who I’ve heard for years, hours on end, discuss the ever-presentness of racism and it’s most important tactic of devastating black male-female relations… when I heard them, of all people, applaud Red Tails.
Many of these “conscious” (now often called “less confused”) black males had no reservations about telling me that overall, to them, it was an enjoyable and constructive movie. That hurts and makes me wary of you. But, I don’t want to feel that way. So, as I ice my temple, I invite you (if that is you) to communicate. I’ll start by sharing an email I sent to someone who shares your sentiments. I left his name out of it but he knows who he is. I hope it doesn’t irreparably damage our previously cordial, if not always eye-to eye, interactions. There is just a time to say what one means and mean what one says.
Here’s why I found Red Tails the antithesis of constructive:
1) The absence of any reference to a black female was conspicuous and hurtful. I do not recall EVER seeing a war drama that did not have at least one significant reference to a white love interest in the film. Reading a letter in the barracks or fox hole, taking a photo out of a knapsack, a conversation that references a fiancée or wife. Something. It was not a minor omission. It was the major omission that made the whole thing a piece of unrefined racist propaganda in my eyes. Contrast that with the British national Anthem (battle hymn) of “God Save the Queen.” Not coincidentally, “My Country Tis of Thee “shares the same melody.
2) The quality of the cinematography, the dialogue, and the acting was astoundingly poor. I did not know that Aaron McGruder [writer and creator of the long-running political animated series, the Boondocks] was one of the writers of the script until I heard you say so. But, I had commented to my fam how it sounded so much like a cartoon that I actually chuckled at some points. My mind was somewhere else during most of the movie. It, in no way, commanded my attention like a feature film. The hiring of McGruder, I suspect, was white folks clowning. That and the title—Red Tails (baboons).
And, yes, we both have VGQ [Victims Guaranteed Qualification to say or do anything we see fit to respond to our victimization under the system of white domination]. Just thought I’d share. Ya know…I will say this. It is hurtful to me that black males who are less confused did not find the absence of a black female reference a fatal flaw. My own father, a former Panther wannabe who is married to a white woman, characterized the film almost exactly as you did.”
Give me The Tuskegee Airmen starring Laurence Fishburn any day.