bedded in his black identity. On the other hand, he treats his identity and
almost everything else as a big joke. His movies also have no detectable
political content. In the Beverly Hills films, he is a cop; ultimately, he
works for the white establishment. In Trading Places, he uses Wall Street to
ruin bad WASPs and to cash in for himself and for his white friends.Whenever Murphy encounters old-fashioned racism or any other form
of elitism in these movies, he immediately attacks and destroys it, excoriating the villains in the "naturally" vulgar language one ordinarily
hears in adolescent busting around the dorms. Nothing in Murphy's real
world is really very important, in fact; all that matters is wit, survival, the
pleasures of the con in a good cause, and--above all--loyalty to one's
friends. And Murphy is almost always portrayed in these movies as a black
man who has very good white friends as well as very good black friends.
Or, in Trading Places, he converts Bad Whites (inauthentic status-conscious
racists) into Good Whites (authentic egalitarian Americans), who then become good friends of his during the course of the film.If only all
American blacks were such very perfect human beings, the
white adolescent fans of these movies seem to be saying, then there would
be no white racism left in American culture at all.
A different version of part of
this chapter can be found in Moffatt 1986.
|1. ||You were "white" in
the contemporary American understanding of race employed by most
Rutgers students if your principal
ethnic background was western,
central, or eastern European, or if
you were a light-skinned, assimilated Latin American or Caribbean
without a strong Spanish accent.
Otherwise you were black or some
According to one college report,
the 8,270 undergraduates enrolled
at Rutgers College in 1984 were
79 percent "white," 7.3 percent
black, 2 percent Puerto Rican, 3
percent "other Hispanic," 6 percent "Asian/Pacific Islander," and
3 percent "other/no information"
( Rutgers College 1985).
|2. ||Most of the residents of
Hasbrouck Fourth in 1984-1985
knew that Danny, the one Puerto
Rican student on the floor, was a
Puerto Rican; but the student racists, like other white Americans
with other Puerto Ricans, tended
to feel the same way about him
that they did about the four blacks|