HOW THE WIZARD OF OZ APPLIES TO BLACK PEOPLE

Oz Characters

{Note: I released a new book in October 2015 entitled “My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Racism, Politics & Culture.” It’s an excellent holiday gift featuring various essays from this blog.

I am a huge fan of movies and music. In fact, I often think in terms of movies scenes or songs. Far from simply being a form of entertainment, the best art arranges symbols, words, and ideas in ways that inspire and educate us. Bear with me then, as I take you on a journey to explore the larger themes in the famous musical, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Problems Facing Our Youth

If I asked a room of people to list the problems facing our youth, most could easily do so. These are some of the common responses to my question:

•Teenage Pregnancy and Promiscuity
•Violence/Gangs
•Incarceration
•Lack of internal/external respect
•Using/Selling Drugs
•Poor School Performance/Dropping Out
•Little connection to history and culture
•Lack of motivation and initiative
•Easily influenced

Many of us know the whats, but we must have serious discussions around the whys and hows. In this article, I will address the issue of how we can understand and change the attitudes and behaviors of our youth, and I will use the famous “Wizard of Oz” movie as my primary reference. I know you might believe I’m crazy, but again, just bear with me.

Let me begin by suggesting that this is not your typical children’s movie. “Oz” contains symbols, actions, and truths we can use to understand the problems our youth face in society. Several years have passed since some of you viewed this movie, so we’ll begin with a summary of the characters and plot:

Summary of Movie

•Dorothy (the main character) finds herself in a new and strange place far away from her home

•She meets up with three main characters who like her, have a conflict

•They are told to follow the yellow-brick road to “Oz” where they will find the all-powerful and wise “Wonderful Wizard” who will solve their problems

•The “Wicked Witch of the West”, threatened by their unity and quest for empowerment, sends several traps/obstacles their way to sabotage their progress

•They eventually meet the Wizard and the story concludes

Understanding the Characters & Their Problems

When we saw this movie as children, we probably did not appreciate many of the motifs and symbols presented. The four main characters in the “Wizard of Oz” have major problems or conflicts. Each character represents a type of person with a specific problem. Examine the chart below:

Character Problem What problem Represents
Dorothy Away from home and can’t get back Being lost, confused, and disconnected from God and culture
The Scarecrow Has no brain Lack of intelligence and capability
The Lion Has no courage Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, failure to claim authority
The Tin Man Has no heart Being insensitive, lacking compassion and humanity
We can think of these characters as being types of people. One believes herself to be unintelligent, and not capable. Another lacks self-esteem and authority, and another is ruthless, heartless, and unfeeling. Sound familiar? When you add all these qualities together, you get Dorothy, a person that is LOST and disconnected. I submit that the problems we see in our young people stem from these same factors. They are victims of a society (and in some cases parenting and educational systems) that teaches them they are not capable, not worthy, and destined for lives of failure. With thinking like this, we can understand why they display some of the symptoms we see, right?

Poppy Fields

The Wicked Witch of the West (get it?) observes the actions of our characters from a great distance. How can she do this? She uses a crystal ball, of course. Today’s “wicked witches” use cameras, satellites, and surveillance devices. She does not like to see these characters unite and seek empowerment. Looking to sabotage their agenda, the witch sends them through a Poppy field, causing most of them to fall asleep. Observe the clip below:

But the question is, what is the significance of Poppy plants? Why do they cause some characters to sleep? What does this mean? Poppy plants are used to cocaine heroin dispenserproduce Heroin, Opium, and Morphine, three powerful narcotic drugs. Interesting when you consider how the government sent Black and Brown communities through

similar “poppy fields” in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Just think about the Heroin, Cocaine, and Crack epidemics in our neighborhoods and all the organizations and families destroyed. The Wicked Witch of the West is alive and well it would appear….

About the “Wizard”

Our characters manage to stay together and overcome all the obstacles thrown their way. They finally meet the “Wonderful Wizard” who supposedly has the power to resolve each of their problems. The only problem is, he is a fake wizard. Quite simply, he is an ordinary man using gadgets and propaganda to make himself seem all-powerful and superior…..sound familiar? View the clip below:

Naturally they are upset upon learning the wiz is a fake. They invested so much time, travel and energy to reach him. In fear of his life, and to pacify the people who are now ready to revolt, the Wizard gives them mere symbols of the intelligence, courage/leadership, heart/humanity they seek. At this point, we learn that they had the qualities they sought all along! Observe in the clip below, how the shrewd Wiz pacifies them.

Interestingly, the “Wizard” gives them a diploma, medal, and award to symbolize the qualities they believe themselves lacking. Hence two lies materialize: One, that they were deficient in the first place, and two, that they magically obtained certain qualities once the wizard validated them. See how this works?

Bringing It All Together

•This society and its institutions work to turn our youth into The Lion (no courage or self-esteem), The Scarecrow (no intelligence or capability), and The Tin Man (Insensitive, impolite, dangerous). When you add all of these qualities together you have Dorothy (someone who is lost, confused, and disconnected from God and culture)
•Our youth are often steered into “poppy fields” to sabotage their progress (drugs, incarceration, gangs, dropping out of school, etc.)

•Our youth are taught to believe not in the authority of God, or themselves, but of men and women who set themselves up as gods

How Do We Resolve These Problems?

•Provide our children with a strong spiritual foundation so they don’t bow to false gods, or wicked witches!
•Create opportunities for our children to develop a sense of genuine and earned achievement and accomplishment
•Imbue our children with knowledge of their ancestors, culture, and history (“There’s no place like home”)
•Teach character development. Our world is over-run by vain, arrogant, ignorant, and selfish people. We must raise children who are useful, helpful and qualified
•Teach our children to be leaders and problem-solvers, not followers and whiners; create opportunities for them to develop and utilize these skills
•Make education and self-improvement non-negotiable and mandatory in your household
•Connect them to good “witches,” or mentors
•Do not set them up to fail by coddling them, failing to discipline them, or giving them undeserved gifts and awards
___________________________________
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.
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14 thoughts on “HOW THE WIZARD OF OZ APPLIES TO BLACK PEOPLE

  1. Brilliant! I have likened the USG to Oz with the Federal Reserve serving as the force, if you will, behind the screen and whomever is stage center (POTUS) being the matinee idol Wizard.

  2. Your blog has surpassed all the others to become my go to favorite, brother!

    It’s a trip to me how Hollyweird has made these expose type films to show the masses how things work. I’m not a “conscious film watcher” as I heard a brother describe it, but I do read many blogs and watch many conscious Youtubers, and those who are film buffs speak on this aspect of the film industry. I especially like the piece I read about how the name “Hollywood” itself is no accident. When we look up the term we find that magic wands of old European history were made from the Holly tree, ie:Hollywood, and we know that Hollywood casts spells on people today with their movies.
    They love to trip us up with hiding the truth in plain sight. What I learned about the negative embedded sexual stuff inside of Walt Disney children films, I realized just how far the game goes. http://youtu.be/YRdyEIXyDeQ

    Anyway, those films like The Matrix, Avatar, etc etc – and now The Wizard of Oz gives us the truth hidden in plain sight. Well I guess we can’t say that they didn’t warn us.

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  8. I just thought of something in relation to the symbolism or metaphors used in this movie..the yellow brick road..the cowardly route or path of least resistance..and this is the road that unfortunately, MOST seem to follow..

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