Thursday, February 21, 2008

‘Banished’ on KCET tonight

An intriguing documentary will air tonight at 9 on KCET, the public television station in Los Angeles.

“Banished” tells the story of three American towns that expelled their black citizens several generations ago, stealing their land.

These towns remain all-white.

The trailer for “Banished” is embedded below, as well as an interview with filmmaker Marco Williams.

“Banished” will be shown on public television stations across the country; check your local schedules for date and time. (It will air on Washington’s WETA next Wednesday night, February 27. In New York City, it airs tomorrow night at 10 on WNET.)

UPDATE (02/22/08): Now that I’ve seen “Banished,” I doubly encourage you all to watch it (if it hasn’t already aired in your city). This is a very good documentary, but it would be better without the filmmaker’s heavy-handed reparationist agenda.

Particularly interesting were the psychological defenses of the white townsfolk Marco Williams talked to... a spectrum of denial, discomfort, shame and resentment.


bklyn6 said...

What, what, WHAT!? I spent $10 to see this in the theatre! As soon as I'd heard about it, I REALLY wanted to see it! I'd read James Loewen's "Sundown Towns" so I guess I thought "Banished" would cover the same territory. In a way, it did, but I expected a lot more. I'm not sure what I found lacking? Maybe, I wanted to learn more about what drove these people away? Where did they go? Were they able to rebuild their lives, etc. Maybe, it wasn't well researched?

Also, the focus seemed to be on reparations. Maybe, I need to view it again.

Anyway, thanks for the heads up!

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thanks for that, Bklyn6. Yeah, Marco Williams definitely doesn't hide his reparationist agenda.

I had a vague recollection of that book, but couldn't remember the title.

bklyn6 said...

^Ha! So he has an agenda! I kept waiting for the film to get interesting, but in my opinion, it never caught fire. I found out about the film at Leonard Lopate's site at where someone posted: "The land stolen from the Black people in 1912 was stolen from the Cherokees only 74 years before." So, how would Williams's argument for reparations work in this case? *rhetorical question*

"Sundown Towns" was a bittersweet read. I couldn't wait to finish it. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but it was emotionally draining. *sigh*

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Bklyn6

I saw this a few nights ago here on my local PBS station. They did go a little into what happened to the people and why they left.

The film maker even tracked down relatives of those who lost their land.

And there wasn't anything in the film about reparations. In one part a descendant of a Black man who had been buried in a town that had banished Blacks tried to get the city to pay to have his relative’s body moved to another place.

Of course the city refused and distorted what transpired.

bklyn6 said...

In one part a descendant of a Black man who had been buried in a town that had banished Blacks tried to get the city to pay to have his relative’s body moved to another place.

mes deux cents, that's reparations! :-D

I don't remember if the word is ever mentioned, but the idea is there.

Undercover Black Man said...

MDC: The word "reparations" is prominent on the PBS webpage for the movie. Which is what I meant by saying he has a reparationist agenda.

I wish I'd written about "Banished" earlier. I think in a lot of cities, it was shown Tuesday night.

bklyn6 said...

That whole thing about the descendant wanting the city to pay for re-burial seemed contrived to fit Williams's reparationist agenda. The way I remember it, initially, the relative made no mention of seeking financial assistance. It makes for a pretty awkward moment when the matter of money does come up.

Undercover Black Man said...

And there wasn't anything in the film about reparations.

MDC, are you sure you watched the same film? I just finished watching -- I loved it -- but the word "reparations" is mentioned about 25 times... as well as on-screen text at the end about the movement for reparations for slavery (which should have nothing to do with the banishment issue).

This documentary would've been even more powerful without the reparationist agenda. The most fascinating aspect was how white folks in those towns deal with it -- evading the facts, evading responsibility. Marco Williams did a hell of a job telling these stories.

sherifffruitfly said...

The clan feels comfortable there, which speaks to the nature of the towns people.


That fact, fully generalized, is what white folks try so hard to avoid. They think they're "good whites" because they pretend to be against racism, etc. And yet nooses somehow keep popping up. Black folks keep having nightsticks shoved up their asses. And all of the little things that garner no notice.

All of that is of course not possible without the tacit consent of those who purport to be "good whites".

Heh. "Oversensitive".

bklyn6 said...

And yet nooses somehow keep popping up. Black folks keep having nightsticks shoved up their asses.

Come now! Let's cut those good white people some slack. We all know such acts are the work of the Racism Fairy!

The most fascinating aspect was how white folks in those towns deal with it -- evading the facts, evading responsibility.

UBM, I vaguely remember a white woman just about to go into convulsions trying to find a polite way to refer to black people.

Anonymous said...

It was telling, the immense divide in perception between folks, when the matter of paying for the exhumation and reburial came up. I watched with a growing sense of dread and knowing how it was going to be played out because the white people really did seem to think it came down to that decent man, who had been pretty much knocked back by the reality of what had happened in that town to his family, saying it could be all redressed by the sad sum of 750.00.

And you know, that funeral home guy, he was trying to do the right thing up to then and seemed to want to treat this family with decency and respect but .... the idea of redressing a wrong via bearing the paltry economic burden of the situation just blew his the flickering fuse.

My bf is an economist and approaches most matters from viewpoint (it leads to some heated debates in our home) and he summed it up by saying "we paid reparations via the Civil War and paid in lives but this, this is a matter of Rule of Law. Period. Anyone from this period of our history had their personal property wrongfully seized and should be compensated in actual money otherwise it gives lie to our claim to be a nation of laws."

Qadree said...

I saw this last year and I remember there were a few vague statistics given, but I wanted a more of the facts surrounding the original incidents. It becomes a very personal story with the guy talking while he's making bread rolls and getting into the personal feelings of the older family members.

If it was a longer documentary I wouldn't mind those things, but I think they could have cut some of that stuff down and included more of the facts surrounding the original events.

For them to address these events and not bring up reparations would have been strange. I think the way it's handled, with him not wanting to pay the burial bill, was tactless and may have undermined the efforts he made to broach the subject throughout the documentary.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Bklyn6 & UBM,

I was totally wrong. I have absolutely no excuse! I did see this doc but I some how tuned out the reparations stuff.

Sorry about giving the wrong info!

But as you said UBM, it was a great piece.

Undercover Black Man said...

Lolo: Thanks for the comment. Your bf kinda put his finger on the substantive difference between the idea of reparations for these banishments -- which were illegal at the time they were perpetrated -- and reparations for slavery (which was "legal").

The filmmaker here seems to want to use the former as a level to get to the latter.

Undercover Black Man said...

Qadree: I hear what you're saying. For more hard data, you should cop that book Bklyn6 mentioned at the top of this thread.

In "Banished," Marco Williams focused on what is, to me, the most fascinating thing: how people today deal with this issue psychologically.

He doesn't nail down how many towns these banishments occurred in, but even if it only happened in these three towns, the psychological fallouts would be just as interesting to me.

Undercover Black Man said...

MDC: No worries.

Lola Gets said...

Man, I missed this showing, but Im assuming there will be another. And I catually own a copy of "Sundown Towns" but have yet to read it. I better find it!

When I was working and living on Marylands Eastern Shore, I knew of several "sundown towns" there - knew their history and their practices, and I stayed the hell away! I did venture into them, during they daytime, for research purposes, but given the fact that racism is very alive and well there, I didnt want to take any chances. And this was in 2000. Its a shame.