Monday, March 17, 2008

White Choices/Black Choices

I watched a film over the weekend called Into the Wild. The film is based on the true story of a young man named Christopher McCandless. After graduating from college, McCandless decides to give away his life savings of $24,000, cut his family ties, and pursue adventure by travelling cross country. After spending a couple of years doing odd jobs and travelling out west, McCandless makes the fateful decision to hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wild. He would arrive in Alaska in late April 1992, his body would be discovered in late August of the same year. McCandless died of starvation. He was just 24 years old.

I not sure if I liked the film or not. It's not that kind of movie. It was like watching The Autobiography of Malcolm X, you know that Malcolm X is going to be murdered, it's just a matter of time before the film gets to it's sad, but inevitable conclusion. It's hard to have a personal feeling about films like this, you just want the story to be told honestly and fairly. As I watched the dramatization of McCandless' life unfold, I was first struck with the feeling that he wasted his life. He had a loving family, a great education, and privilege, but he chose a different path. McCandless was searching for something, himself, his purpose in life, the meaning of life, whatever. And he was willing to risk everything to find whatever it was he was searching for. Maybe he found it, no one but McCandless will ever know.

After thinking about the film for a couple of days, I had a change of heart. I thought about those young black men sitting in jail in Durham, North Carolina, close to the same age as Chris McCandless, waiting to be locked away for the rest of their lives for murdering people for little of nothing. I thought about how their names have been mentioned in newspaper reports in India because they by chance murdered a man from that country. A country they will never visit. The sad truth being these young black men have most likely never left the state of North Carolina. Thinking of them and reflecting back on the film, I thought differently of Chris McCandless.

McCandless died alone and penniless in the rough wilderness of Alaska and it was his choice. And discovered with his body would be his final words to the world, "I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!" Whether one agrees with McCandless' choices or not, he lived his life and he lived it fully in the short time he was here on this earth. That is more than those young black men sitting in jail in Durham, North Carolina can ever say, their fate will be decided by others. Their lives are no longer in their own hands. And there is an undeniable sadness in that fact.

Life truly is about choices. It is hard to be poor, black, and male in this country, but robbing and killing people is definitely not the answer. There are numerous ways out of the ghetto, none of those escapes come without extremely hard work and a little luck, but you have to be willing to do what is necessary and there are no shortcuts. Chris McCandless could have lived his ideal and privileged future, but he chose to do something else, something different. He saw a different way to be, a different way to live. It is frightening to consider that in some black communities there are black people who can see no other way to live, but through taking the lives of others. We must, we can do something to change that belief.

6 comments:

Miss Pinky March 17, 2008 at 8:38 AM  

I guess I see this differently; I have never had any tolerance for people who have everything at their fingertips and throw it away for whatever reason. It literally makes me sick when those of us who work our tails off for our education or success have to watch others with privilidge throw it away.

Ok, I'm in a bad mood this morning so maybe that's coloring things a bit..I dunno.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T March 17, 2008 at 11:10 AM  

yep, they got it like that, and i think i asked u before, what do u teach and research? i teach statistics and do infectious disease research

Professor Tracey March 17, 2008 at 11:20 AM  

Torrance -

Sorry, that day you asked me, I went to your blog to answer you back and got catch up reading it. Your blog is awesome.

I teach American History specializing in the American Civil War, African American History specializing in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Sport History (everything), and Black Popular Culture (hip hop and cinema).

Where were you when I was sweating through stats in my masters and phd? LOL!!!

Anonymiss March 17, 2008 at 1:42 PM  

Miss Pinky spoke my mind.

dottie March 18, 2008 at 1:28 AM  

I actually liked the movie, but have yet to read the book. But like you mentioned before, it's all about choices. You can have all the money in the world or a high-paying job and still not be happy. He also had some internal issues going on within the family. I'm sure anyone can relate to that.

La ~ msviswan March 18, 2008 at 1:39 PM  

When I was in blockbuster the other day, I heard a group of young white people talking about how good the movie is (it seems only them watched it). So I kept wondering for some time what it was about. Thanks for the heads up.

I also agree with Ms. Pinky, perhaps I need to watch the film before I make judgment. I'll try to do that this weekend.

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