Originally, I was not going to see Jordan Peele’s film, “Get Out.” I had seen previews and trailers of the film for weeks and decided while sitting in the theater that I was not going to see it. For one, I am no fan of the horror genre. Second, it seemed so predictable that I didn’t think it would be worth my while. However, after its release the buzz about and around the film peeked my curiosity. People who I trust implicitly insisted that I go see it. Finally, a Black colleague suggested that we were outside of an important conversation and we needed to go see it. So, on a relatively quiet Sunday afternoon we decided it was time to go.
I don’t want to write about some of the obvious components of the film like the “Becky Treachery” or the “love-hate, desire-revulsion” dance that Whites seem to constantly play with Blacks in this society. The one aspect of the film I want to comment on is the role of loyal friends in the lives of Black people. Without giving away too much of the film, “Get Out” is a story of an African American young man, Chris who is dating a White young woman, Rose. Rose invites Chris for a weekend to meet her parents at their secluded suburban estate. Almost all of the film’s action takes place at this estate and when things begin to go wrong, Chris’ only link to the outside world and his former life is his buddy, Rod.
Although Rod initially comes across as the film’s “comic relief” there are some lessons he teaches as the Black buddy. Every Black person needs a “Rod” in his or her life. One of the things a friend like Rod brings is a sense of clarity to your relationships with White people. For most Black people interacting with White people is unavoidable. Our work places, our access to capital and other social benefits typically place us in contact with White people. Every time we think we can trust a White friendship or relationship we need a Rod to remind us that leopards don’t change their spots. Now I know my White readers of this blog will say I am being cynical to suggest no White people can be trusted. However, Rod is not saying that. He is asking you to go over the facts and ask yourself what is basis for believing this White person is someone you can trust. After the November 2016 Presidential election it was our Rod friends who told us you cannot count on White people to put anything before whiteness. When 51 percent of White women voted for Donald Trump we saw the allegiance to whiteness in action. When Rod tells Chris NOT to go to those people’s house that is the BEST advice in the entire film. Rod knew that neither the numbers nor the optics looked good for his friend.
A second lesson your Rod friend will teach you is just because you develop a relationship with one White person do not assume that goodwill will extend to their other White friends and family. Some of the most “liberal” White people I know emerged from the most racist roots imaginable. Indeed, one of the reasons a White person may choose to befriend you is to irritate and infuriate their parents, family, or friends. Your Rod friend can sniff out when you are being used as a boy or girl toy to prove “Amber’s” or “Chad’s” independence and “open-mindedness.” But, your Rod friend has heard plenty of stories about “liberal” White people sitting across a Thanksgiving table listening to a “beloved” grandfather spew epithets about Black people and how they are “lazy,” “dumb,” and “criminal.”
A third lesson your Rod friend will teach you is telling you about yourself and cussing you out can be the best thing somebody can do for you. Real Black friends are not trying to spare your feelings, especially when your health and safety are at stake. Rod friends are not about kindness and tippy-toeing around your feelings. They are about the reality of Black life. They will risk your anger and the silent treatment if it means keeping you from doing something really stupid. Your Rod friend is the one who will grab you by the shoulders and “shake some sense” into you because your Rod friend loves you. Rod friends do not bite their tongues. It is their bluntness that can sometimes shake you out of your complacency or failure to act in your own best self-interests.
Finally, when all else fails your Rod friend will come and get you. When you get to that place where you cannot help yourself, a Rod friend will show up to say, “Let’s ride!” Your Rod friend comes to the party or bar in the middle of the night to get you when you are so wasted or devastated by a breakup. Your Rod friend shows up at your house after the dissolution of a relationship to pack your stuff and move furniture. Rod friends don’t need an explanation or details. Rod friends just need to know what time you need to go and whether you have some place to go. Sometimes you don’t even know you need someone to come get you but Rod friends do. They show up to get you.
Yes, a friend like Rod is indispensible in this racially charged society. They don’t care what other people think about them. They care what happens to you. Thank you to all my Rod friends and I hope I’ve been a Rod for my close friends and loved ones!
Stay Black & Smart!