The Brother Always Dies First: on sex, death, and cinematic depictions of race is an excellent essay by author Steven Barnes, exploring two propositions regarding race in American cinema:

Proposed: Black men cannot have sex in movies without it hurting the box office.

Evidence: No non-white male is able to have sex in a movie and have that film cross $100 million at the domestic box office.

Exception: After thirty years of observation, there are now actually THREE movies that contradict this! Huzzah! (Do you know what they are? Answers at the end.)

Proposition #2: It is NOT true that “the black guy always dies first.” This is easily proven as far back as Night of the Living Dead. The reality is rather more difficult to wrap minds around. It is this: there are countless films in which ALL the black characters die, or all the black males die. And there are NO American films in which all the white characters die, if anyone else at all survives. Not one.

I have compiled a list of over ONE HUNDRED such films, which appears at the end of this article.

Explanation: A “character” is someone with at least one line of dialogue.

Exception: On January 17, 2020, I finally saw a movie that contradicts this, the very first American film I’ve ever seen or heard of where black people survive while all the white people die. Not a bad movie, either. The name is in the footnotes.

Some of this I was semi-conscious of, at least in the “the black guy always dies first” sense. But I certainly hadn’t taken as deep a dive into it as Steven has (and, gee, I wonder why, as I look at my nearly-translucent white skin…).

It’s important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. had a lot more to say in his life than just his “I Have a Dream” speech:

Figures like President Barack Obama have reminded us that King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But over time, the great orator’s writings became less magnanimous and ever more convinced that white supremacy was the most significant obstacle in attaining liberation for all black people.

In his final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, originally published in 1967, King wrote that “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans.”

He continued: “These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

By this point in his life, King had abandoned the rose-colored glasses of his youth. Instead, he was laser-focused on addressing white supremacy in its basest and most intimate forms: in communities, schools, and neighborhoods.

Sometime between November 14th and November 29th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Sometime between September 3rd and September 23rd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Sometime between May 13th and May 25th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • George Takei Accuser Scott Brunton Changed His Story of Drugs, Assault: “A fabricated coffee meeting. Key facts withheld or walked back. A ‘great party story’ about a sexual assault—which the accuser now says may not have actually happened. What happens when an activist’s legacy is tarnished by the story of an old friend who later says it could have all been a misunderstanding? And how do we process such an anomaly in an era of overdue social justice?l
  • when i say ‘don’t make jokes about rednecks and hillbillies’, that doesn’t mean i think you’re being racist against white people: “i say that because you are perpetuating extremely toxic rhetoric about our region, you are promoting stigma, you are encouraging blatant classism, and you are furthering the idea that we somehow ‘deserve’ it because our elected officials vote republican. it’s not cute. stop acting like none of us have the right to call you out on your classist bullshit.“
  • Dear NRA, It’s Time to Take Away Everyone’s Gun: “I’m finished trying to reason with you. So now I, a guy who was ambivalent about guns just a few years ago, want to take your guns away. All of them. I want to take them all and melt them down and shape them into a giant sphere and then push it at you so you have to run away from it like Indiana Jones for the rest of your lives. I want Ted Nugent to roam the halls of his gunless house, sighing wearily until he dies. I want to end this thing once and for all, so that all of you who have prioritized the sale of guns over the lives of children have to sit quietly and think about what you’ve done. God help me, I want to take all of your guns out of your hands, by myself, right now.”
  • The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority: "In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of 'respect' when relating to and communicating with others. This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment."
  • How the 50-mm Camera Lens Became ‘Normal’: “The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.”

Sometime between April 15th and April 18th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift: “There is no other way to put this: essentially everything about Popular Consciousness Kirk is bullshit. Kirk, as received through mass culture memory and reflected in its productive imaginary (and subsequent franchise output, including the reboot movies), has little or no basis in Shatner’s performance and the television show as aired. Macho, brash Kirk is a mass hallucination.”
  • Discovery Needs to Put Section 31 Down and Back Away Slowly: "Section 31 literally destroys the the idea of a better tomorrow, which is the very backbone of Star Trek. Because, if Section 31 is real then tomorrow is way worse than today. I refuse to believe that."
  • ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ USS Enterprise Design Change Clarified As Creative Decision, Not A Legal One: Correction regarding a link I posted earlier in the week that said there were legal reasons for the Enterprise design changes: "CBS TV Studios does, in fact, have the right to use the U.S.S. Enterprise ship design from the past TV series, and are not legally required to make changes. The changes in the ship design were creative ones, made to utilize 2018’s VFX technology."
  • Woman Who Shared Philadelphia Starbucks Arrest Video Tells Her Story: “People ignore this kind of stuff. They don’t believe that it happens. People are saying that there must be more to this story. There is not. This would never happen to someone who looks like me. People don’t believe black people when they say this stuff happens. It does. They want to know the extenuating circumstances. There are none.”
  • Star Trek: Discovery’s Version of the Enterprise Had to Be Modified for Legal Reasons: Interesting tidbit of information. While Discovery’s been a bit hit-and-miss for me, I’ll admit that in the moment, the end-of-season reveal did just what it was intended to do. I’m not too put off by the design changes to the Enterprise, either; it was a given that it wouldn’t be identical, and I thought they did a reasonably good job of staying true to the classic form while updating it for modern needs (and a much better job than the oddly lumpy NuTrek version).

Sometime between February 27th and April 12th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

1/31/2020 Update: I originally found the text I used as the basis of this post unattributed. As it turns out, the original is by Lori Gallagher Witt, posted to Facebook on Jan. 7, 2018 and going viral after that. The version posted here differs somewhat from hers, having passed through an unknown number of hands before reaching me, and having been subjected to my edits from the version I found. Thanks to Snopes for noting the original source.


An open letter to those who don’t know me yet, or have just met me recently enough that my not-at-all-closeted political leanings have not yet become blindingly obvious:

I’m a liberal, and a pretty far left-leaning liberal at that. To many, that means I’m one of those bleeding heart commies who hates anyone who’s white, straight, or conservative, and who wants the government to dictate everything you do while taking your money and giving it to people who don’t work.

Well, not exactly, but close enough.

Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines:

  1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.

  2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.

  3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.

  4. I have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. I’m not opposed to the idea of Universal Basic Income, even if that means my taxes go towards allowing some people to survive without having to work. I don’t believe that people deserve to die because they cannot work, for whatever reason that may be; I don’t even believe that people deserve to die because they choose not to work. If that brands me a communist, socialist, or whatever -ist is being used as a slur because I think it’s better that people be alive than dead, then so be it.

  5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m neither rich nor poor, far more likely to end up being the latter than the former, but I still pay taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.

  6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.

  7. I am not anti-Christian; I grew up in the Episcopal church, and what I learned there heavily influences who I am today, even if I rarely attend church. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; compulsory prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize my right to live according to my beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me.

  8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the same rights as you.

  9. I don’t believe undocumented immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT HAPPENS (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who have committed some types of crimes, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).

  10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.

  11. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things here are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.

  12. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society (along with many bigotries — xenophobia, homophobia, sizeism, transphobia, ageism, classism, etc. — that may be less overtly systemic but which are just as present) is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized. And yes, as a person with many privileges on my side (straight, white, male, middle-class, and many more), this includes me. I do my best to listen to and learn from those with less privilege when they try to tell me something. I have and will fail at times, and when I do, I’ll do what I can to do better.

  13. I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun.

  14. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness — or, well, “not being an asshole”. If call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?

  15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.

  16. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?

I think that about covers the basics, though I’m sure there are many more points that could be added. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.

So, I’m a liberal.

(I didn’t write the above from scratch but edited a similar post to reflect my personal beliefs. Please feel free to do the same with this post.)

Sometime between July 25th and September 21st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!