Black History Month Heroes: Adrian Helmsley from "2012"

In 2012 the earth was saved thanks to a Black geologist

When looking at the work of Roland Emmerich, what is most striking about his film resume is the intense devotion to Black Fictional Heroes. Will Smith as Captain Stephen Hiller in Independence Day flying a F/A-18 Hornet, when less than 2 percent of military aviators are Black was one thing; the most politically incorrect scene in film history was also included in that film when a half-naked African emerged from the bush clutching a spear and celebrating the downing of a 15-mile wide alien spacecraft as if he actually had something to do with disabling to the ship, is another.

That particular scene accompanies the montage at the end of film, showcasing the downed alien ships throughout the world. How on earth an African was able to chuck a spear miles into the atmosphere and bring down an interstellar spacecraft is a hilarious question that Emmerich seemingly leaves unanswered in Independence Day.

Recovering from this racial faux pas, Emmerich would cast Danny Glover in yet another “Black POTUS during the end of the civilized world ” that has become the predominate theme in film. 2012 was a visually stunning cinematic experience showcasing implausible action and an over-reliance on destroying popular landmarks that Emmerich’s movies have become gratuitously famous for in the process.

2012 is the anti-Knowing and I am Number Four, a film that exists in a parallel universe where Black people fill virtually every important vocational role instead of our reality where Black people enjoy an onus on barbershops and government employment.  This is the beauty of Black Fictional Heroes, as popular culture through the medium of film, television and even pop singers and other entertainers are manufactured and carefully placed in a colorful form of Black product placement to let the viewer know that yes, Black people can be anything they put their mind.

Real-life employment and labor statistics might showcase a paucity of Black people in positions that movies and television routinely casts them in (think computer programmer, scientist, geneticist, inventor, dentist, vet), but this is why behavioral modification techniques and propaganda are so vital to propping up Black Run America (BRA). All Black people come from families as loving as that wonderful Cosby family was in The Cosby Show. Right?

2012 can be boiled down to, what OneSTDV called Hollywood Liberalism Personified:

The picture’s main premise is global warming on steroids, as large solar flares are found to be heating the Earth’s crust to an unstable level. An Indian physicist, working in conjunction with America’s chief geologist Adrian Helmsley, a black guy, makes the discovery. The black American scientist relays this information to his dubious boss, a white man who subsequently represents the moral failings of pragmatic government frugality, and then the black President. A global consortium of nations resolves to save humanity by appropriating funds from rich donors who are offered seats in exchange for their donations. Of course, thisprivate fundraising effort is later criticized by Adrian, the moral compass of the movie, for unfairly limiting occupants to the rich…

After establishing John Cusack, his ex-wife, and their children, the dismantling of Earth’s crust begins. I generally love disaster films, but that usually doesn’t imply watching billions of people die. This extreme seismic activity that eventually destroys almost all of Earth’s landmass is an allusion to the Mayan’s 2012 calendar prediction popular amongst the “woo” sect. In a nod to the noble savage meme, several characters mention the foresight of the Mayans and, in doing so, belittle Western technology as practically equivalent to antiquated superstition. 

The movie continues in China, where the Chinese have been building ships to save humanity. Cusack is joined by a Russian billionaire who later dies in a horrifically violent manner, justified due to these reprehensible character traits: having a hot young blond as his trophy girlfriend and being a rich capitalist. In between, we get Mr. Miyagi Eastern mystic wisdom while the Vatican disintegrates, killing a bunch of Catholics. (Coincidentally, no Muslim monuments were eviscerated in the film.) 

While in China boarding the arks, the black American scientist delivers a “We are the World” speech that inspires all of humanity. At the end of the film, with the natural disasters having extirpated almost all of civilization, one continent stands alone as the new birthplace of humanity: Africa. Yes, the only continent to survive a worldwide flood was Africa (South Africa to be specific!). So with the entirety of civilization destroyed, humanity can now progress into a new dawn free of the restrictions imposed by all those pesky conservative institutions.

Wait a second, a Black geologist? Everything else sounds entirely plausible, but a Black geologist? Here is a list of the 10 vocations with the lowest Black participation:

1.   Artists and related workers—0.8%
2.   Environmental scientists and geoscientists—1.0%
3.   Cost estimators—1.1%
4.   Farmers and ranchers—1.4%
4.   Dentists—1.4%
4.   Surveying and mapping technicians—1.4%
7.   Farm, ranch, and other agricultural managers—1.5%
8.   News analysts, reporters and correspondents—1.8%
9.   Millwrights—2.1%
9.   Miscellaneous physical scientists—2.1%

So what are the positions with the highest Black participation? Find out here.

Black geologists are rare in the field of geoscience; yet like the wine industry, the study of rocks and the ground we walk upon continues unabated.  But a crisis exists, of course:

African American earth scientists ponder strategies to attract more students of color to a field with growing opportunities 

Reston, Va. — Their work is essential to the production and preservation of things we take for granted every day — resources like water, natural gas, and petroleum. Yet, if you asked the average person what geoscientists do, most would be stumped.
And if you asked the average geoscientist why so few among them are African American, the reaction wouldn’t be much different. 

Last month, a group of roughly fifty African American geologists, geophysicists, students, and corporate recruiters convened here on the campus of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to discuss the future of their profession and strategies for expanding their numbers. The theme of the seventeenth annual conference of the National Association of Black Geologists and Geophysicists (NABGG) was “Diversity in Geoscience.” 

“Within five years, approximately 25 percent of our current staff will be eligible for retirement,” said Cynthia L. Quarterman, director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service, a major federal employer of geoscientists.
“MMS has a five-point strategic plan for diversity,” Quarterman adds. 

Noting that five different world records for offshore resource production were set on the outer continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico in the past year, she said that resource production is expected to double there in coming years.

A Black geologist can save the world in 2012, but in reality, a Black student interested in becoming a geologist can scarcely be found. So yes, Black students studying geology are between a rock and hard place (only 373 Black students were studying geology at American universities in 1996 and you can bet that every company that hires geologist for mineral inspection and oil exploration were interested in landing their prized Black employee from this lot) though the National Association of Black Geologists and Geophysicists does have exceptional corporate backing.

The desire to rectify the lack of Black participation in geology (and virtually every hard science) has been an Sisyphean task, though Sisyphus at least got the boulder up the hill before it came crashing down again. This article from 1994 showcases that Black participation in geology shows no signs of ever improving:

Bernard Hubbard, a graduate student in the Department of Geology at the University at Buffalo and one of the relatively few African Americans in the U.S. who is studying geology, has strong advice for inner-city kids. 

“Don’t fear the professional fields,” he advises. “There are more of us going into these fields than you’d ever know. You’d be surprised at the number of people who come from the ghetto who really make it to the top, but you never hear about it. Your people are there!” 

While the under-representation of minorities in all the sciences has received much attention lately, many studies and programs focus on biology and chemistry, and other more “popular” sciences. But African Americans are especially under-represented in geology. 

The American Geological Institute estimates that out of 26,522 students studying geology at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the U.S., only 362 are black. 

The National Association for Black Geologists and Geophysicists estimates that of the 80,000 working geoscientists in the U.S., just 0.4 percent are black. 

Thank God for Black History Month Heroes, or else we’d only have Black people playing roles like in Mad Men that more align with the profession that they are found in real life. Here’s to you Adrian Helmsley, a Black geologist that we can all be proud of, and who saved the day in 2012.

What’s increasingly melancholy though is that the continued usage of the Black Fictional Hero in film doesn’t translate to an increased Black participation in that particular vocation in real life.

And thank God for Emmerich, as the mulligan he was offered for the horrid shot of Africans, holding spears and admonishing a downed alien spacecraft as if they had something to do with its defeat was completely forgotten with the ode to Black people that was 2012.

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