Behind the racist backlash against Green Book
Hiram Lee and Andre Damon
26 February 2019
Sunday’s decision by the Motion Picture Academy to award an Oscar for best picture to Green Book has been met with a furious backlash from large sections of the political establishment, academia and official cultural commentary.
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, ABC, and NBC all declared with one voice that the Academy had made an unpardonable mistake in selecting the film for the highest honor, because of its “retrograde” views on race and the racial identity of the people involved in its production.
The film’s central crime, the critics declare, is the view that racial prejudice is a social problem that can be solved through education, reason, and empathy, and that racial hatred is not an essential component of the human condition.
The backlash against Green Book is racist and right-wing in character. It comes from sections of the middle class that see the promotion of racial narratives and racial animosity as being vital to their social interests, and from a Democratic Party that sees working-class unity as an existential political threat.
In Green Book, acclaimed classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires a working-class Italian-American man, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to serve as his driver and bodyguard in a musical tour through the South. Shirley, a classically trained pianist, sees the tour as a blow to segregation. He endures countless insults, slights and police harassment, finally canceling the last show in his tour because he is not allowed to dine in the same restaurant as his listeners.
During the tour, Vallelonga acquires not only immense respect for Shirley…