Numb3rs Blackface

Anybody remember blackface? Considered to both be the advent of black culture growing in the entertainment industry and an evidence of racism based on exaggerated racial stereotypes. In its ugly form, blackface was white people laughing at white people acting like white people thought black people acted.

Courtesy of the CBS Website, I’ve been watching Numb3rs for the past few weeks and find it an enjoyable show. It combines some of the crime drama of CSI with some different forms of character development all arranged around some seriously stretched applications of mathematical models to extremely complex systems which in reality would require super-computers hundreds of years to compute, but with Charles Epps brain, can strung together into accurate models in matters of minutes.

Reality-stretching aside, I’ve enjoyed the show for the most part.

In the season finale “When Worlds Collide” however, the show tries to be political and shows that blackface is still alive an well in America.

The show’s tag was intriguing, to say the least:

A Pakistani non-profit group is suspected to have ties to Jihadist groups and is on the FBI’s terrorist watch.

It was a decent show for the most part, rife with moral quandary, suspense, relational tensions, etc. But as the plot moved along and it became clear who the bad guy was and what his relationship was with the rest of the members of the involved groups, I was rather disturbed.

Xenophobia

A typical xenophobic perspective of other cultures, and one based in sad reality across the world, is that other cultures see themselves the same way we do.

If you don’t know many people of a particular ethnicity, it is normal for you to find it difficult to differentiate recognizable differences and unique characteristics between individual members of that group.

The standard “they all look the same” is real and normal and definitely an indicator of the perceivers lack of familiarity with the perceived.

Blackface

The writers of Numb3rs had resorted to the crudest of blackface to create their villain. The bad guy ends up being an opportunistic former member of the IRA terrorist groups seeking money and markets for this illicit weapons trade.

Using face paint and a beard reminiscent of British military officers in the far east of the last century, he transformed himself into a swarthy quasi-pseudo-Pakistani.

The assumptions were:

  • The members of the organization would not recognize this impostor as not being authentically a member of his supposed race.
  • The members of this organization would not recognize this impostor for his lack of connection to their group through relationships.
  • White people can pretend convincingly to be other races through extensive makeup and acting and survive extended contact while not being recognized.

Individually, these may be true in certain cases, and with dedication and a good makeup crew, they could indeed be accomplished. But the circumstances of the case where such that such foresight did not likely occur.

Just as in your race you are most able to recognize by look, action, and vocabulary, those who belong and those who don’t, and even more so in those groups you are involved in and even more so when those groups are primarily of one race.

So too, in the story premise, the writers of Numb3rs, in an attempt to bring the far-fetched possibility that we’re not really fighting against Muslims: after all, they’re a religion of peace, eh? But against opportunistic old-school European terrorists such as the IRA.

I know they’re not saying “all” such suspect charities are not funneling money to terrorists. I know the government in it’s dealings with Muslims right now is treading a thin line, and most likely, more often than not, abusing it’s responsibility and prerogative in it’s dealings with the same.

But our primary enemy right now, not of our own creation, but born of sheer necessity and self-preservation, is Muslim-based Islamo-Facist ideology and it’s supporters, both active and passive.

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