At times, it is believed that when Black Americans reach a certain place in society they are invulnerable to racism and are exempt from being boxed into anti-black stereotypes. Supposedly, if Black Americans live in suburban neighborhoods, dress “respectably,” and talk “properly,” they are not faced with as much racism as Black Americans who live in lower-income neighborhoods. As someone who has been brought up in a predominantly white, middle class community, I can assure you that that is incredibly false.
Me growing up in a white, well-off community did not exempt me from experiencing racism. In fact, the racism I experienced was a lot more mature and coded than the blatant racism, say, the KKK spews. No, this racism was crafted in a way to make me feel as if I was being complimented when in actuality, it was pushing me to the margins. This racism reduced me to an object on exhibit rather than acknowledge me as a human being. This racism is the kind that smiled in my face while it had a knife to my throat. This racism is liberal racism and Jordan Peele’s, Get Out, promptly reveals the violence of it all.
One key trait of liberal racism is its racist micro aggressions whose subtlety can mask its toxicity. Get Out personifies the subtlety of liberal racism through a story of an interracial couple’s visit at home gone wrong. When the couple, Rose and Chris, arrive at Rose’s parents’ house, Chris notices things are off. The workers around the house are all, not only Black but they seem to be outside of themselves–almost as if they are in a trance. Little does Chris know, they are.
Rose and her family have used hypnosis to lull unsuspecting Black people into a trance. From there, they are auctioned off to other affluent, white people from the community. When asked why they chose Black people, in particular, they claimed it was not about color but about certain aspects of their victims they wanted to posses: their strength, coolness, vision, and so on.
In a sense, that moment spoke to the times white liberals claim they’re “color-blind” to race but they continue to subjugate Black people. It also speaks to how white liberals view Blackness as performative–something they can put on and take off whenever they please. That can even be seen in how Rose’s father interacts with Chris. He constantly said “my man” to be “relatable” to Chris. Even Rose, herself, mentioned her father usually doesn’t speak like that.
The thing about liberal racism is it does not acknowledge Black people as humans but instead paints us as exotic and as an “exception” in a perverse sense. Meaning, they paint Black Americans as an oddity in a way that’s supposedly meant to compliment us but it actually dehumanizes us. For example, in the scene where Rose’s family holds a party for their peers, one of the white women at the party made a remark about how handsome Chris was while stroking his arm and chest. She also asked Rose “Is it true?” In short, asking Rose if the stereotype about Black men being well-endowed down below was true. What was meant to be a compliment was actually, not only invasion of Chris’ personal space, but perpetuated a dehumanizing trope about Black men that objectifies them.
The subtlety of liberal racism would have one to believe that white liberals are on the side of the marginalized. That is evident in Rose’s father’s comments such as him saying he would vote for Obama a third time. But although it is not as blatant as a klan member’s racism, the impact and violence of liberal racism is just as virulent. It was clever of Jordan Peele to reveal that within a narrative rooted in hypnotism. Both hypnotism and liberal racism manipulates their subject to believe whatever they want them to believe. Both hypnotism and liberal racism are soft in delivery but their impact speaks volume.
Jordan Peele, himself, noted that he wanted Get Out to address liberal racism and he did so effectively. This film painted a poignant, vivid picture of what terror liberal racism can cause. It revealed how coded and crafted liberal racism can be and that we must not let it go unchecked.