Morning Tea: ‘The History of White People In America’ and ‘Them’

It’s been an exhausting year of reckonings of all sorts for all of humanity. Thankfully we still make art to help us process it all.

Favorite cup at the moment

As I do most mornings, I was sipping on my piping hot cup of Earl Grey from a new favorite mug and scrolling through my social media feed. 45 is no longer president of the US but the gears and servers of terror churn on no matter who is at the helm, as the comments section of any post about Meghan Markle will attest. It’s a machine that’s built to last–the terror machine–and it was forged by those in power well before we formed this imperfect Union.

I came upon two video clips that throw into sharp relief what has been forgotten about the history of race in the US and what bubbles and seethes just under the surface before erupting in shocking and grotesque displays of violence that are straight out of a horror film.

In the morning, I am always hesitant to click on any article that talks about race in America because I just want to enjoy a few moments free of all the blegh that runs rife through the human experience. But this morning, for whatever reason, I took the plunge. The first was an article from back in June of 2020.

Back then, here in Iceland, we were emerging cautiously from lockdown but over at World Channel (working with PBS), Jon Halperin and Ed Bell were releasing The History of White People in America, an animated musical series examining race and injustice in the US. Meanwhile, I was just giddy to be able to be in the same room with people I didn’t live with.

The first episode of the series, How America Invented Race tells the story of how ‘whiteness’ became a thing. It’s a musical, but manages not to pull any punches while showing how those living in colonial America went from regarding each other based on nationality or ethnic group to assigning a ‘race’ based on skin color.

You can find Meghan Smith’s interview with the creators here.

After that I was primed and ready to do something else I don’t usually do first thing in the morning, watch the trailer for a horror series. I used to love a good scary movie but having kids put a serious damper on my appetite. Now that they’re older and we no longer live in a place where I fear for their safety whenever they walk out the front door, I’m slowly edging my way back into the genre.

In horror, we get to see all the fear and shame that lingers in our collective subconscious. The usual horror flicks with white teenage boys murdering white teenage girls after they’ve had sex (and definitely kill all the black people first because in an ideal white America, there are no black people) and ‘aliens’ come from outer space to destroy ‘our’ way of life and take ‘our’ jobs are so 20th century.

Candyman punched a hole in the horror glass ceiling back in 1992 and since then films and shows such as Get Out, Us, Lovecraft Country and the like have broadened the scope of visual horror and thriller storytelling in the US.

And next up on the scene is Them a series created and executive produced by Little Marvin. A black family moves into a white neighborhood in 1950s Los Angeles. The neighbors welcome them smiling faces but we all know there’s more to it than meets the eye and terror ensues.

It comes out April 6 on Amazon Prime so I probably won’t be watching it as I canceled my Amazon Prime subscription and there’s probably some annoying regional restriction as well. Why can’t we all just watch all the shows regardless of where we live? Cause money and power, that’s why. And if you watched the The History of White People in America video up top, you know that’s also why we have race. Ugh.