Regarding Henry, White Americans vs. African Americans and Money

October 5, 2009

I swam today a half mile with my friend Rachel at the Swim Club in Calabasas and ran 5 miles. The West Hollywood Book Fair was today, and I saw my friend Lisa who made amazing carrot cake, so all in all it was a perfect day. Tonight we saw Regarding Henry.

Regarding Henry

Mike Nichols directed this movie and somehow I missed it, but we decided to catch in on Netflix. Annette Bening is great and looks so young and tender. It’s a film about brain damage, a theme that we, in our household are fascinated with. Mark’s written a novel where the main character has brain damage. Serious brain damage. So we spent a couple years mashing the subject. Harrison Ford seems obsessed with the word “Ritz” although we don’t understand why for part of the movie. When we do, it’s so sad and so pathetic and heart breaking. At the point he’s being brought back home, it seems ridiculous like he’ll never survive. But at the point he is being pushed back into going to work, it’s absolutely ridiculous. He clearly can’t function at all. Such a strange movie. About how life has its strange turns and twists.

Money

White people and money.

We don’t talk about money. We don’t like to talk about it when we have it. Or when we don’t have it. It’s all wrong. We don’t talk about sex or money. We have a compulsion to buy more house, clothing, boats, RV’s, TV’s, jet skis etc than we can possible afford, to impress the other White people. Make no mistake, I see plenty of African American people at the university where I teach buying Escalades. They tell me they have $800 payments; sometimes my students tell me they’re living in their Auntie’s garage and making payments to their Baby Momma. That can’t be all good. But White Americans are all secretive about their money, and I’m not sure I completely understand why. Are we ashamed of the money we have and then ashamed when we do not have it? We are Puritans beneath the skin, strangely restless.

Houses: We buy more houses than we can afford so that we can impress whom? Who is impressed with the house? I am never sure. Sometimes I go to someone’s house and everything is so perfect but there is no place I want to sit. I have one friend whose house I visited today where everything is so comfortable, I feel like I could kick back in any room and relax or take a nap. Losing houses: In Asian families, I understand that the whole tribe helps out if one family member is going to lose a house, but in White families this is not the case. In White families I’ve known, when one person loses a house, their siblings call each other on the phone like this, “Hey Susie, you know Sam is definitely losing the house.” “No kidding. How’d that happen?” “Too much spending. You know, the trip to Hawaii, the furniture for the kids’ rooms, you know. So what’s up with you?” “Well, the dog’s been sick, that’s been costing me thousands.” “Right, so see you at Red Lobster.” That’s White people. Standing by while family members go down. I think that’s the biggest difference I’ve figured out so far between African Americans and Whites. The differences between a tribe that looks after that tribe and the White family that tries to look after itself.

Credit Card Spending: How much credit card debt is appropriate to have? Americans are getting further and further in debt. This may be something African Americans and White Americans share. What may be different is what we spend money on. Whites spend money on clothes, and water toys and big electronic stuff that sits in one’s living room in an entertainment center. Everybody has a bigger television than you do. Everybody has bigger speakers. Better furniture. That’s what you spend with the credit cards. So you can watch football. Or basketball.

I don’t understand any of this. I didn’t grow up normally in America, so I don’t understand the need to impress anyone. Not at all. Not sure who would care if I had a TV. Or an RV. I have a dog named JJ. My daughter’s python ate six mice yesterday. I don’t think anybody’s impressed with my kid’s python. I think people start off wanting to impress their own parents and then try to impress others. I had no parents to impress, no nuclear family to impress, so that made that easier. White people are screwed up about money. That’s a fact. It’s supposed to just be a thing to get you around. Life is the main thing as my friend Annie La Ganga says, Life is the real reason. Mucking around in a life you like with people you like is all good.

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