Home Culture Hollywood Race recent Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Jobs Make a Racism Movie
Home Culture Hollywood Race recent Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Jobs Make a Racism Movie

Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Jobs Make a Racism Movie

Origin, the movie, claims to be about the origin of racism in America, but its own origin story lies with the Ford Foundation, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, the Apple guru, and Pivotal Ventures, the nonprofit started up by Melinda French Gates after she dumped Bill Gates, which provided much of the money needed to fund the $38 million smear of the United States.

What kind of movie would two wealthy woke white women fund? A pop history take on racism.

Origin is based on Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, another one of those 2020 books about a racial reckoning of the kind that Mrs. Jobs and Mrs. Gates would have encountered in book clubs and while browsing The Atlantic (Mrs. Jobs owns it) or Slate (Bill Gates used to.)

Isabel Wilkerson, the protagonist of book and film, is another one of those critical race theory ‘public intellectuals’ with a media platform, a former New York Times bureau chief, who stars in it because it follows her deep thoughts about race which unroll with the depth and sophistication of a college freshman browsing Wikipedia while pulling an all-nighter to turn in a midterm paper.

Like Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates or Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist, Caste tried to pretend that its familiar and simplistic premise, (‘America is racist’) had some kind of depth by inappropriately linking it to other people’s historical experiences, the Holocaust and the caste system in India, while filtering it all through Wilkerson’s deep thoughts.

Trayvon Martin, Wilkerson’s personal life and Nazis goose stepping through Berlin all get mixed up in some intersectional tangle of narrative oppressions in both book and movie. Wilkerson taking plane trips to Germany or India allows her to bag up and appropriate two very different sets of histories to bolster her own feelings of oppression as a New York Times bestselling author.

The premise was thin enough in book form, but it’s downright absurd to make a writer into the protagonist of a movie because she’s reading about things that happened to other people and then flying off to other countries to study and listen to things that happened to other people..

And then makes it about herself.

What makes a New York Times bureau chief married to a white man into a victim? Wilkerson’s secondary trauma comes from listening to tapes of the Trayvon Martin case. What a violent encounter between a Latino man and a black teen has to say about racism in this country is dubious already, and even more dubious when it’s someone entirely unrelated to the case writing about dealing with the trauma of hearing about it.

But Caste, the book, like most literature of this kind, is about feelings, not facts, and Origin, the movie, adds yet another layer to this palimpsest in which we are seeing an actress portraying a writer who is writing about something that she did not see and was not even witness to. Origin might have dropped the baffling hall of mirrors and just cut to a documentary clumsily tying together disparate historical events in Germany and India, or in Wilkerson’s own memories, but this is an Ava DuVernay project and the Selma director clearly wanted to make a movie.

While the premise may be absurd, the contents are even more so. Only using Wilkerson as the ‘My Truth’ focus holding the narrative together makes it seem like it has any credibility. A good storyteller can weave together different stands to make them seem like they hold together, while a bad one compensates for her failings with special pleading and calls for sympathy.

Wilkerson, who has spent a whole lot of time in the company of the kinds of woke white women who would buy her books and fund the film, understood that what they really wanted was her emotional journey and the history would always matter less than her pain. And she delivers it. Her mother is dying, her husband is dying and she’s writing about racism in America.

That the subjects of her personal pain have nothing to do with her indictment of America is besides the point. The point of ‘My Truth’ narratives is that anecdotes trump history and that the only meaningful currency in a woke society is the emotional unburdening of personal suffering.

Caste was already bad history. The book promoted the idea that the Holocaust was a result of American racism because the Nazis had gotten some ideas from racial eugenicists in this country. While that’s passingly true, German antisemitism had a long history before America even existed. The Nazis put together a grab bag of ideas all over the place, including Marxists, pagan folklore and the Thule Society which believed that there was a secret inner world inside a hole in the planet, not to mention appropriating a Buddhist symbol for their swastika because they were obsessed with Tibet and the secret origins of the Aryans over in that part of the world.

Long before intersectionality, the Nazis were the original intersectionalists, gluing together random pieces of history, economics, politics and myth into an intellectually inconsistent mess that served their political purposes. That is also the shape of Origin’s scrambled eggs history.

Wilkerson’s misreading of the role of caste in India, the thing that gives her book its title, is equally wrong, but, like the Holocaust, all of human history is just a grab bag of oppression narratives to build to the conclusion that racism in this country is a permanent institution with deep roots in history, rather than an ugly accident from an era where everyone who was at all different was viewed with prejudice overlapping with the temporary export of the ruinous practice of slavery, which had been long suppressed in Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

Racism in America is not a permanent institution, but that the Left has labored to make it one.

The essence of critical racial theory or anti-racism is the idea that racism is inescapable and that it permeates everything, an “original sin”, as Obama put it, that we cannot escape except by adopting the leftist ideology and policies of Mrs. Gates, Mrs. Jobs and the Ford Foundation..

Caste and Origin provide false historical props that misattribute the true origins of the persistence of racism in America. It’s not white racists who cling bitterly to a caste system, but the DEI industry and its voluntary beneficiaries who mandate the caste system and oppose any efforts, such as the Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action, to end it.

It’s no coincidence that the title of the movie was changed from emphasizing Caste (an insulting idea) to Origin. From the 1619 Project, another work of historical revisionism from another New York Times reporter, to ‘Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America’, the book that first made Ibram X. Kendi famous, there is an obsession with creating a revisionist origin story of racism to justify the myth that things are just as bad as they ever were.

Origin lacks the bleakness and malicious racial antipathy of Between the World and Me and How to be an Anti-Racist, the former so defined by its hatred of white people that Coates actually wrote that the police officers and firefighters who died on September 11 “were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body”.

There are moments of understanding and hope in Caste even if they are based on the author’s insistence on her own victimhood. In the movie, Nick Offerman, a liberal Democrat who ever since playing Ron Swanton on Parks and Recreation built a career playing a liberal’s idea of a right-winger, shows up as a rude plumber in a MAGA hat only to open up to Wilkerson.

That condescending otherness is still more open to the humanity of others than much of the critical race theory which insists on the absolute evil of white people and ‘whiteness’.

America is not defined by racial castes and the invocation of a MAGA plumber reveals far more about Wilkerson’s actual caste and her perception of working class white conservatives. It’s not a racial prejudice, but a class one, that she shares with the wealthy woke white women who read over her volume in their book clubs, and will flock to indie theaters to catch the movie.

The country’s true caste system is that of coastal, urban and suburban laptop elites who condescend to the rest of the country. Its origins are too complicated and messy to fit in an easy pop history template like the 1619 Project or Caste, but they reflect displacement, economic turmoil and a seizure of power in the name of ideology that comes with personal benefits.

Those benefits include New York Times bestsellers and movie deals, and when Hollywood won’t fund a movie, a few nonprofits flush with money from dubious fortunes, will pay the bill.

To find the real caste system, don’t look at race, look to the wealthy woke institutions that dominate the high ground of American culture and media.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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