Updated: Jul 1, 2020
A note from the filmmaker:
Watch (That) Yuppie
I’m Clark. If you know me, you know that I’m a black boy from the suburbs of New Jersey. I come from a privileged background. I’ve had mostly white friends growing up. I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school, and it wasn’t until later in my academic career that I began to understand and interrogate my blackness in different contexts. I’ve said this many a time, though most recently I experienced a new iteration of that deliberation last summer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
I mention this to say that my background does not conflict with my claim to blackness – being surrounded by white people has made me no less black. Rather, it has informed my observation of otherness.
Crown Heights. I was interning in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I lived in the house my father grew up in. I took the same 4 train he took while commuting to school decades earlier – catch me on Utica and Eastern Parkway taking the 4! That’s right, this suburban boy can use subway terms JUSSS’ WATCH. Living like the younger version of my father was poetic, and surely I could have written some incredibly Capital-D-Deepandpersonal journal entries about the many parallels of our footsteps, but I instead resolved to *cough cough* get this money, and reflect on it later (a reductive summary, but you get the idea).
I may not have journaled, but I found it impossible to not consider myself in relation to my surroundings. I stood out. I knew I stood out. The part of Crown Heights I stayed in was predominantly West Indian, and in spite of my Caribbean roots, my suburban upbringing made a lot foreign to me. Otherness was now defined not by my blackness for once, but by the years I spent as another kid in the ‘burbs off to soccer practice.
I felt more at home with time, but never fully. I noticed the new Starbucks on Franklin Ave, farther down Eastern Parkway. I noticed white people more. I grappled with complex feelings of having more of a right to Crown Heights than they did (Where are all these white people coming from?), in spite of the fact that I was just as new – if not newer – to the area. I wondered what white people thought of finally being the minority of the area. If I felt something, surely they felt a more extreme version of otherness. So, I made a film and asked them.
Yuppie was originally created for a seminar called Constructions of Whiteness taught by Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Grant.” It is a film about whiteness in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and more. It is only a fragment of a much larger discussion about racial history, gentrification, and perception. I hope it starts a discussion (as art often does).
I could not have made Yuppie without the help of my friends Margaret Sage and Laura Plata.
Thanks for watching.