February 24, 2013
BH90210 5.11, Hate Is Just a Four Letter Word: Black, White, and Mad All Over
Summary: Steve urges Kelly to get a manager now that she’s going to be modeling for Seventeen. They’re surprised to see Rush on campus; Rush is there for yet another flag-football game. Brandon heads to a student senate meeting, even though no one ever attends them. This one, though, is full of students, including Alex Diaz and Janice the student senator. Andrea drops off Hannah with her grandmother (who is NOT played by Lainie Kazan this time – I feel cheated) and learns for the first time that one of her family members died in the Holocaust.
At the student senate meeting, everyone watches a video of an African-American man ranting about the Jews on Wall Street running everything and needing to apologize for charging the poor too much. He also wants the Jews to apologize for the deaths of slaves on their ships in the Middle Passage. Janice (who’s black, remember) objects because the speaker, Roland Turner, made the comments five years ago, and they were taken out of context. Jewish student Noah wants the senate to rule that Turner can’t speak on campus Friday night.
Janice wonders why the Maccabee Center gets to decide who the Black Student Union can invite on campus; the other students don’t provide the funds. She thinks it’s a First Amendment matter. Brandon starts to say something neutral, but Alex calls for a vote. Brandon adjourns the meeting, calling for everyone to come back at two. For the first time, both groups of students agree on one thing: Brandon’s annoying. Alex is sure he’s going to check with Chancellor Arnold before doing anything else.
Dylan’s still in the hospital and Iris is still with him. He tells her he doesn’t want to see anyone, especially Valerie. Jamie’s there, and is apparently doing research on patients who’ve had dreams while unconscious. Dylan claims he doesn’t remember anything. Brandon can’t talk to Chancellor Arnold, who’s about to go on a retreat, but Dean Whitmore will bring everyone together for a discussion. However, Brandon doesn’t like that idea since the student government is supposed to run itself. He also knows that Alex will use Brandon’s lack of support when he goes before the review board to determine whether Brandon’s really in charge of the student body.
Brandon hurries to the flag-football tournament, where the KEG guys have just lost. Brandon then goes to the student union and runs into Janice, noting the significance of her bringing an issue to him after skipping meetings for two months. She says this is the Black Student Union’s 25th anniversary, and Turner’s appearance is just one of the events they have planned for a celebration. Janice wanted Anita Hill, but everyone else wanted Turner.
Brandon notes that Turner’s views are extreme, and Janice replies that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views were seen the same way. Brandon suggests letting the university pay for Turner’s appearance, but holding it off campus. Janice thinks this is a horrible idea. He asks how she would respond if Nazis wanted to hold an event. Janice still thinks it’s a First Amendment issue, and Brandon needs to support that.
Donna learns that Ray’s birthday is Friday and decides to throw him a party. He declines because he thinks he’s old. (For the record, he’s turning 25.) Donna tells Clare they’ll throw him a surprise party. I’m sure that will go over well. Noah runs into Andrea in the library, remembering her from her relationship with Dan. She clearly doesn’t want to talk to him, and he clearly doesn’t get the hint. Noah asks her to use her influence with Brandon to keep Turner from speaking on campus. He gives her a copy of the tape of Turner’s anti-Semitic speech.
That night, Andrea goes to the Walshes’ and blasts Brandon for defending Turner. Apparently the tape includes Turner saying that Jews faked their deaths at Auschwitz so the UN would vote to create Israel. Brandon says that Turner apologized for that speech. Andrea argues that he only did so because ABC News saw the tape. Brandon tells her the students will probably vote 10 to 5 in favor of Turner speaking on campus. He plans to abstain since his vote doesn’t matter. Andrea thinks that if that happens, Janice and Alex will drop their challenge to Brandon’s presidency. Brandon chastises her for lobbying him for his vote, but Andrea has a better argument here.
In the gym the next day, Brandon runs into D’Shawn, so of course they talk about Turner. D’Shawn thinks Turner’s shady since he charges $10,000 for appearances and tells poor people what they want to hear. (D’Shawn should work for CNN.) Valerie goes by the hospital, but Iris tells her Dylan’s too ashamed to see any of his friends. Valerie thinks he just let things get out of control, so there’s nothing for him to be ashamed of. Iris sends her to Dylan’s house to get some toiletries for him.
Kelly gets made up for her photo shoot, the theme of which I think is mom haircuts. Donna and Steve show up for moral support. The shoot is supposed to take place on the quad, but the Maccabee Center has taken it over to protest Turner’s appearance. David shows up for the first time in this episode to remind us that he’s Jewish. Andrea wants him to show his support, but David wants to stay out of it. He thinks the other students make too big of a deal out of their Jewishness. Andrea shames him with that “first they came for the Jews” story.
Valerie tears up Dylan’s house, looking for the rest of his drugs, which she flushes. His dealer shows up, claiming to be an old surfing buddy, and Valerie agrees to put them in touch. Back on campus, some black students are standing up to the Maccabees, and since Andrea’s involved, Alex just has to gloat that Brandon can’t even control his friends. If Brandon had taken a vote the day before, “like a real president would have,” there wouldn’t be any demonstrating.
Kelly’s photo shoot is officially canceled because of the demonstrating. The makeup artist, who’s black, tells Kelly and Brandon that she’s worked all over the world, but America is the only place where she’s reminded that everything’s always about skin color. Brandon calls the student-government meeting to order, but they immediately have to evacuate the building: Someone called in a bomb threat.
The meeting is held anyway (off-screen), and the students vote to allow Turner to speak. Dean Whitmore assures Brandon that he’ll bring in more security. Brandon thinks he might as well work on a resignation speech; he doesn’t want to be remembered as the president who had to deal with this “Civil War.” Whitmore tells Brandon that he was one of the first black students at the University of Georgia. He was also a Freedom Rider and present at King’s “I have a dream” speech. He’s sad that Jewish people supported blacks during those times, but now they’re against them.
Kelly’s shoot has been rescheduled, but it won’t take place on campus anymore. Oh, and they might put her on the cover. The only problem is that the shoot will take place Friday night, so Kelly can’t go to Ray’s party. Donna and Clare tell her Steve isn’t coming either, out of loyalty to Griffin. Donna wonders if she should invite Valerie. Clare suggests that the two of them, Ray, and David just have a small dinner party instead.
Kelly randomly calls Donna “Bubbe,” which leads David to ask Clare what she thinks about him being Jewish. She says she doesn’t think of him that way, or in any way at all. (Um…thanks?) David isn’t sure if it means anything to him. At home, Jesse teases Andrea for thriving on controversy. He thinks there’s a big difference between free speech and hate speech, and people are allowed to have different opinions – people like Brandon. Andrea argues that Brandon abstained to avoid offending anyone but wound up alienating people. Jesse tells Andrea she’s great, but she’s not very tolerant.
Andrea somehow makes it onto the news, ranting that the Maccabees’ lives feel threatened, and Turner’s presence will just further the racial tension on campus. Brandon complains to Jim that he tried to come up with a compromise, but now Andrea’s on the news, making him feel like an idiot. Jim reminds him that he’s a white dude in a world where non-white non-dudes are gaining power. Dylan’s dealer visits him at the hospital and offers him some medicine that’s definitely not covered by his insurance. Dylan has a bunch of flashbacks to his dreams. The dealer orders him to pretend they’ve never met when the cops eventually come to question him.
Brandon and Andrea are both on campus early the next morning, and she apologizes for her comments. She’s now on the board at the Maccabee Center and has tried to convince Noah not to interrupt Turner’s speech so the Jewish students don’t lose any sympathy. Brandon suggests that Andrea and Janice meet to come up with an agreement. Andrea declines, thinking Janice wouldn’t agree to it, but he tells her it was Janice’s idea. They approach the campus Interfaith Center and see that it’s been defaced with swastikas.
Dean Whitmore wants the swastikas to be painted over immediately, but the Maccabees want to keep them there until after Turner’s speech. Whitmore doesn’t get the statement they’re trying to make. “That it could happen again,” Brandon replies. David sees the swastikas and all the Maccabees protesting Turner again.
Janice tries to talk to Andrea, saying the tape isn’t a true reflection of Turner’s organization. Andrea counters that she has her own video for Turner – it’s of her grandmother describing her experiences at Buchenwald. Dylan’s worried about delving into his dreams and possibly facing jail time. Iris promises to find him some kind of treatment. Donna’s all ready for Ray’s party, but David has decided to bail to go support the Maccabees’. Clare’s going with him, so it’s just Ray and Donna.
Andrea, Jesse, and Andrea’s grandmother have Shabbos dinner together before Turner’s speech; Andrea assures Rose that she won’t cross any police barriers. Andrea knows that her grandmother hates that discrimination still exists at the end of the 20th century. Rose is also disturbed that Andrea has been fighting with Jesse and Brandon. Andrea wants to speak out against someone who’s dangerous; they can’t let themselves be intimidated.
Rose advises her to know the right time to speak and the right time to listen. She quotes the Talmud, which says that an anti-Semite must be spurned because he can’t listen to reason. But if a man wants to seek good from the community, others need to reach out to him in hopes that he’ll understand what he’s done wrong. Andrea doesn’t think Turner is that second kind of man. Rose advises her to be in the auditorium instead of outside protesting when Turner speaks.
Ray arrives for his surprise party, which is now a party of two. He doesn’t care since he doesn’t even like Clare and David. Donna gives him a really nice guitar. The Maccabees stand outside the Black Student Union holding candles, having promised not to do anything violent. Rose has come with Andrea, and both will be inside for the speech. Noah thinks Andrea’s just taking her grandmother inside because that way the black students won’t do anything to her. Janice welcomes them, inviting them to sit with her. Then Brandon stands around looking like a doofus, possibly because he’s realized that no problems have actually been solved.
Thoughts: I could go into this whole thing about free speech and First Amendment rights, and how hate speech is a whole different animal, and how we should stand up for injustice and right wrongs, and how even Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” but this show is not worth my energy.
I’m interested to know what Janice thinks Turner really meant by his supposedly out-of-context remarks.
I wish they’d said something about why Alex sides with the Black Student Union, because he doesn’t serve any other purpose in this episode. Why didn’t they just say the Latino Student Union was supporting them?
I like Jesse, and I get what he means about tolerance, but tolerating hate speech only allows it to spread. There’s tolerating other people’s beliefs because we all have the right to believe what we want, and then there’s not standing up for what you believe when people use racial slurs or degrade your religion.
Can we trade David for D’Shawn? David is boring and never does anything. D’Shawn rules all. And I still think he’s cute with Donna.
The administration should have gotten involved after the bomb threat and definitely after the swastikas. Chancellor Arnold sucks. The situation was two seconds away from turning violent. Brandon was clearly not getting anywhere. I’m all for letting students engage in a meaningful dialogue, but when they’re resorting to hate graffiti, it’s time to step in. Run your school, Chancellor. If your students can’t behave civilly, someone needs to be a grown-up.