12 Years a Slave

I recently saw the movie “12 Years A Slave”.  I had been putting off going to see it because I can’t stand watching torture or anyone/anything in pain (yes I take after my mother who couldn’t even stand to read the hunger games) and I knew it would lead to depression and open up difficult and painful questions/reflection. Andddd I was right!

The film was brilliant and the acting incredible, seriously phenomenal.  I don’t know how those actors put themselves in that state of mind and then recovered from it.  I definitely recommend that everyone and anyone should see it because it is such a well done movie.  I just wish there was more conversations being had after the movie.  Maybe there are, I am sure there are.  But it just feels like this powerful film had to of made a statement in the minds of Americans, and I am interested in what that statement was.  I would guess that most people left “12 Years A Slave” with one of the following reactions:

1. Man that was so awful I feel so bad for those people

2. I can’t believe that happened, thank God its not like that today (aka racism is over)

3. I feel like shit

and maybe shed a tear and did what I did with my friend who needed cheering up- watched 13 going on 30 (yes we really watched this after) .. and then life went on as such.  And when asked about the movie, the conversation went something along that lines of “Yes that was such a good movie, you have to see it!  It is really really sad though, you may need some tissues.”

When are we going to say to talk about slavery and teach our kids about slavery in a more meaningful way?  I really didn’t understand (well probably still don’t) the history of slavery story until college when I took an African history class.  This seems so odd to me since it was such a large part of our history, of the world’s history.  Not to mention the number of Africans that live on earth.  But when I left 12 years a slave I left with the third reaction “I feel like shit” +” what the fuck do I do now?”.  All I could think about was how things really have not drastically changed for Africans and 1. how much this sucks 2. how embarrassing it is.  Africans still have it the worst in the world, and are the lowest on the ladder.  They are the most oppressed population, they are the poorest, they are the hungriest, the list goes on.  This is even more true for African women.  And these things are all applicable for African- Americans too.  African Americans are still treated like shit in America.  Just because people are no longer in chains and or that were all allowed to use the same bathroom doesn’t mean we have reached racial equality or equity(which I like better than equality)!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a grateful American.  I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I have rights and were I feel safe (most of the time).  But it’s like we always have the “look how far America has come” conversation and I do want to have that conversation but I also want to have the “why the fuck has it taken us so long to come this far?” conversation along with the “we have so much further to go” conversation.  Now I know like-minded people are having these conversations (which is awesome and I need to find them), but it is my ambition to get those who aren’t reflecting on this, reflecting on this.  I guess the reaction I fear the most from this movie is #1 Man that was so awful I feel so bad for those people or #2. I can’t believe that happened, thank God its not like that today (aka racism is over).  Because this is obviously far from reality.  I just hope Americans spend more than 5 minutes reflecting on this movie.  And I hope that reflection is not pity.  I hope they are wrestling with the uncomfort they felt while they watched a free man get beaten, and the joy they felt when he was rescued with the simultaneous heartbreak as he left behind Patsey with the rapist slaveowner ( I could write another whole entry on Patsey and that scene alone–but I will save that for a later date).  I am optimistic about this because of today.  Today I read my students a story that was about racism and honestly this was accident.  I was not prepared for read aloud and just grabbed one of my co-teacher’s book.  The story was about a black boy who loved books and going to the library.  He wanted to check out books from the library  but was not allowed to because he was black.  He stood up for himself saying that it was not fair and that he deserved a library card– and then the police were called.  The book has a happy ending and the boy gets a library card from a nice white lady who gives in.  Anyway the conversation my kinders were able to have after this story was awesome.  They were stunned this little boy couldn’t get his library card and didn’t understand what the deal was. When I told them this was based on a true story (because there was a picture of the man in back of the book the story had been based on when he was a boy) they were even more shocked.  They made it clear they thought this was wrong with their words and faces.  They were also able to draw parallels between the boy and Rosa Parks.  My students rock.  So if five and six year olds can have this reaction to a book I hope that adults can have a reaction other than sympathy to this movie.  I challenge ya to 1. see the movie and 2. have a reaction to it.

On a light- hearted note– My friends and I found it pretty entertaining that Brad Pitt– who was a producer in the movie, casted himself as the “good guy”

AND

this woman is stunning

Lupita Nyong'o

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