Kartina Richardson (c. 1986?- ) is an American writer and film-maker. She is best known for writing about film. Her work has appeared on “Ebert Presents: At the Movies”, Salon, Loop21 and Jezebel. She is a huge fan of Fred Astaire, Jean Cocteau and the Thin Man. She quotes Plutarch and James Baldwin.
Her writing sometimes wanders and gets lost in the grass, but it has enough insight that it keeps you going. Her review of “Black Swan” (2010) was particularly good. She tells us why we like the Thin Man films (if we do) and why Americans did back then when they came out in the 1930s and 1940s. She is a huge film nerd who grew up watching European and old American films.
But better than any of that is that she often talks about race in her reviews. Most reviewers either overlook racism or excuse it. Not her. As much as she likes Fred Astaire, for example, she does not buy the idea that his use of blackface was “non-condescending”. There was no such thing in a land where Jim Crow was in full swing. She does, however, try to avoid sounding morally condemning. She likes how Louis C.K. talks about racism.
She knows about acceptable blackness, Black Sidekicks, Noble But Boring Blacks, the White Default, how “positive” stereotypes are harmful, what it is like not seeing people who look like you in film, the attraction for artists of colour to be “universal”, all of that. She even knows who Ota Benga is.
Her father is black, a professor of European history, a descendant of Virginian slaves. Her mother is Chinese Malaysian. Growing up she was cut off from the Asian side of her family. It is why she hates “The Joy Luck Club” (1993): it reminds her of that fact and why it is important to know your roots, your history.
Americans mainly see her as Asian. She has never been called the n-word. She is clearly familiar with the perpetual foreigner and model minority stereotypes. On the other hand, she grew up on the black side of her extended family and seems to know more about anti-black racism than anti-Asian racism. She knows how Americans are uncomfortable with mixed-race people.
The first time she saw slave quarters she was shocked and shakened by how new they looked – slavery was not all that long ago.
In 2013 she wrote about the White Default in Salon: “How can white Americans be free?” Whites regard themselves as the default. They see themselves as “normal”, “neutral” and “objective”. That seriously undermines their cultural identity and understanding of race. It also places them beyond history, making them unable to come to terms with that history, with the pain it has caused:
In order to see a person you must see the truth of their pain. If you deny their pain, you refuse to see them. This is what makes black people invisible. And black invisibility is what makes white pain invisible to black people.
Thanks to commenter lifelearner for linking to the Salon article, bringing it to my attention.
– Abagond, 2013.
- Some of her stuff:
- Ota Benga
- tropes she knows about:
- Jim Crow
- Reading Plutarch
- mixed-race identities
- colour-blind child rearing