Green Book Oscar win isn't shocking
Green Book — a film about a racist Italian learning that racism is bad while driving a black pianist through the deep South in the ‘60s — won the coveted best picture award at the 91st annual Academy Awards, and it shouldn’t be surprising. While it argues in favor of not being mean to black people, it does so from the skewed perspective of white writers and shows there is a long road ahead for racial progress.
Racism did not end with the election of former President Barack Obama; as Malcolm Gladwell argues in his podcast Revisionist History, the tokenism of electing one member of a minority to office can leave the impression of progressivism but will often lead to a backlash and a long gap before another such politician is elected.
The number of reported hate crimes in the United States rose significantly after the election of President Donald Trump, and there are plenty of black Americans who still use guides similar to the Green Book featured in the film — travel references that show where it is safe for them to travel.
The film, based on a true story, is self-congratulatory in awarding lead character Tony “Lip” Vallelonga for telling others not to use a derogatory word. In several scenes, he instructs Don Shirley, the pianist, on what it means to be black — eating fried chicken and listening to jazz. However, Shirley’s family refutes many details in the film.
Green Book is built on racism and erasure, and its disappointing win should remind us how far we’ve really come.