In my first post on Alas I wrote about how racism and sexism shaped the definition of heroes in the wake of hurricane Katrina and 911. Here’s a quote:
In the days after 9/11 I was glued to my TV, watching what seemed to be the same cable news stories over and over and hoping that someone was going to tell me why this happened. The only refreshing new stories were the ones that followed heroes — the everyday folks who risked their lives to save others. Indeed there were many 9/11 heroes, but I quickly became frustrated at how few of those who were portrayed as heroes were white women or men and women of color. I just kept thinking; the rest of us are heroes too. Certainly, the firemen and police officers who died trying to save people in the World Trade Center were heroes, but the media and many average Americans seem to be much more content with white men as heroes. In fact, because of our race and gender stereotypes white men are constructed as brave, bold, dependable, powerful, righteous, and strong — all of the makings of a hero. Certainly the rest of us have many of those traits too, but what keeps our heroism out of sight? The contrast in the construction heroes in the aftermath of World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina reveal how much racism and sexism shape our definition of heroism.
Well I guess Oliver Stone didn’t read my essay, and didn’t bother to accurately portray the race of at least one African American hero in his new 9/11 movie because one of the mystery heroes portrayed in Stone’s movie has come forward.
His name is Jason Thomas, and here is some of his story.
Thomas, who had been out of the Marine Corps about a year, was dropping his daughter off at his mother’s Long Island home when she told him planes had struck the towers.
He retrieved his Marine uniform from his truck, sped to Manhattan and had just parked his car when one of the towers collapsed. Thomas ran toward the center of the ash cloud.
“Someone needed help. It didn’t matter who,” he said. “I didn’t even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, ‘My city is in need.’”
Thomas bumped into another ex-Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes, and the pair decided to search for survivors.
Carrying little more than flashlights and an infantryman’s shovel, they climbed the mountain of debris, skirting dangerous crevasses and shards of red-hot metal, calling out “Is anyone down there? United States Marines!”
In Stone’s movie Thomas is portrayed as a white man. The movie producers claim the “mistake” was made after production began, which doesn’t seem like a legitimate excuse to me. I guess they didn’t bother to do their research. I’m all for cross racial casting when appropriate, but given the continuous subtle and not so subtle stream of of white male heroes anointed by the mainstream media, they could have at least gotten this hero right.