Thursday, January 16, 2014

12 years a slave and other things

I am noticing more and more black women make unconventional choices.

Maybe not unconventional re the rest of the world but re black women themselves and the fact that they have largely limited their range within the wider world and the broader context. Because of our experiencing hurt and heartache at a time from the wider society, we pulled back from it, but the times of comfort within black boarders has ended and what we can observe now is that black men have been busy building links and making contacts. They are now able to convert these links and contacts and even broader goodwill for their betterment.

If a black man is not making it it is very likely because he has set himself against the wider society, deciding against education, delayed gratification or choosing to go the wrong way (bling and criminality). I say this because most black men can now rely on the liberal left to champion him as the victim of white men and white society and thus open up opportunities that are even denied black women. You even see white society frame the issue of oppression in such a skewed way that it facilitates black men's move in society and provides a stumbling block for black women.

Speaking of framing of the issue of oppression, I went to see the film '12 years a slave.'

I had some misgivings about seeing the film in part because we have talked about only supporting films that are made by men who support black women. Of course the issue of the lead actor of 12 years a slave and of course the producer (and who knows who else in the cast), being married interracially (and thus funnelling the money out and away from black women) was raised about this film. However as soon as the film was released in the UK a rash of articles appeared about it, and one of them essentially changed my mind about not seeing it.

It was an article in the Guardian written by a white female journalist acknowledging that the film had opened her eyes (or made her admit) to the role played by white women in brutalizing black women during slavery (the name of the author of the article is Hadley Freeman and you can google her article). Not only was this the first mainstream acknowledgement of this dirty little secret that keeps being 'white washed', that I had come across, she linked it to the resulting difficult relationships that continue to exist between black and white women re feminism. And the comment section warmed my heart even more because it became evident that many folk had long since given short shrift to the popular framing by feminists that white women were 'oppressed' alongside black men and women by white men during slavery, or that they had very little social power to do much more than watch the brutality meted out impotently, or that if they victimized black women, it was under instructions of the white slave master which they had no choice but to carry out. My oh my here were folk commenting (mostly white), that white women not only supported the system of slavery because they were invested in the wealth it created for them and their children, but that they participated in the brutality and even egged on their 'masters' in their vile joys, just as the film portrayed. For the first time the brutality of white women to their black female slaves was thoroughly captured on screen so much so people had begun to comment on this particular angle whereas before it would have not have been in anyway delineated.



Wow, blow me away with a feather!

So I duly bought my ticket and took my seat in a packed cinema.

I wont give anything away but I want to personally thank the director Steve McQueen for brilliantly illustrating how harrowing the whole slavery thing was for black women in particular. You cannot come away from that film feeling black women had a jolly ride as a few folk have tried to claim in recent times. You came away knowing that black women had it worse. They got it from both ends and no one watching that film will come away feeling how impossibly untenable the situation was for a black female slave.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the message we have been trying to get across. We have been trying to buy black women some sympathy, at least consideration if anything. We have been trying to shine a light on the situation for black women which has been callously overlooked or pushed to the back ground until it has fostered this notion that black women can come out of anything unscathed. With one film Steve McQueen has changed the narrative of black men suffering the worse during slavery to one where there is a dawning realization that 'Hang on, black women experienced the middle passage, the starvation, the fields picking cotton and as women their sexuality was readily and easily also exploited'! Call me a fool but I am happy for black women to get some due sympathy at some point.

And there was no 'light skin' heroine to engage the sympathies of black and white folk (because you know we cant feel no black woman's pain unless she is lightskinned). Light skinned women were so for a reason in the film (to show the link between slaves children and their masters).

God bless Steve McQueen! He dared to show white women there alongside the slave mastered brutalising with physical violence, with cruel denial of food and drink, soap, heartless disregard of the heartbreak of black mothers grieving over their lost children and maybe worse of all selling freed black women back into slavery!

He Steve McQueen is probably the only interracially partnered black man who consistently pays his dues to black women, deliberately choosing to highlight dark black women positively (in Shame the only woman Fassbender falls in love with is a black woman, the actress Nicole Behari) or tell their pains . So yeah props to Steve.





on another note this woman is 30 but looks like a darn teenager! Black don't crack for real!


 

Next blog post 7th Feb

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15 comments:

Faith said...

Thanks for this! What I'm loving is seeing Lupita slay the red carpet. She just got a fashion contract with Miu Miu and I hope she teams with people to create projects and not just wait for things to happen.

E.N. said...

Thank you for writing this!! I really didn't want to put my money behind 'yet another slave movie making black women look like the toilet of the world' ... but I'll give it a try based on this review. If it evoked empathy from the masses, I think Mr. McQueen must have come through for BW.
It still doesn't sit right with me, however, that:
- though Lupita is beautiful and talented, she was selected to play a role that an African American actress should have been considered for
- as far as I know, there are no major roles given to AA women in the film, 'light skinned' or not
I'll give the movie a shot, try it out for free online, and if it's good I'll support in theatres.

Mrs. Glam said...

Thank you for this well-written post, Halima. My spirit cannot endure seeing BW being mistreated on screen, but I am relieved that Steve McQueen has chosen to give this accurate portrayal of BW during slavery.

Hombre-Lupa Gardner said...

Welcome again Halima. I love your blog and love the strenght and spirituality of BW too. The movie is a must-see and Lupita is sooooo beautiful.

Greetings and my best wishes from Spain.

Kelly said...

The movie was incredible and your review is spot on!

Patricia Kayden said...

@E.N.

Are you also upset when African American actors play roles of non-African Americans? Several African Americans have played Nelson/Winnie Mandela. In the movie COOL RUNNINGS, three out of the four Jamaican bobsledders were played by African Americans.

I'm cool with the casting of 12 YEARS A SLAVE and very glad that it's done so well, not only in the U.S. but also apparently in Europe.

Go Steve McQueen. I've watched SHAME but need to watch his other movie about the Irish hunger strikers. Deep man.

Mitchell Jones said...

Your article was mostly accurate except your statement about white liberals making life a cakewalk for black men. I know it was equally hard on all of us so don't sit here and act like we had it easy our nuts got cut off and shoved in our mouth! In the early to mid 50s.

ak said...

The more liberal whites and white feminists HAVE succeeded along with the assistance of a lot of black people in making life a cakewalk for black men TODAY. Rome wasn't built in a day as the saying goes so of course that goal and its results weren't yet apparent and visible back in the 50s and 60s but that cakewalk has been achieved from back a while ago now.

ak said...

Other situations and issues about white women's roles in certain people's oppression are coming to the light too now Halima.

I have read recently about more truth coming to light about women who worked for the Nazi party and their own first hand physical cruelty and cruel order-giving against Jews in concentration camps.

I'm surprised that Jews on a whole didn't lift the lid on the roles of the women who were openly against them from a long time ago since they've been so vigilant against anti-semitism since the Nuremberg trials I mean look how they ruined Galliano's reputation not that long ago. But on TV in the UK they've been showing documentary shows of interviews of some Jewish Holocaust survivors who have said what they've witnessed or what they'd said fellow survivors alongside them had witnessed about women working for the Nazis and their inhuman cruelty.

One old male Holocaust survivor said that he saw one Nazi woman take a two year old Jewish baby by the feet and swung the baby around to bash its head up against the wall repeatedly. And other interviewed Holocaust survivors had similar stories. I think only one Nazi woman was put to death after WWII anyway , a big-boned ugly 22 year old one who was known for having hideous behaviour towards those trapped in the camp she worked in.

There's even been another UK TV show where they interviewed the children and grandchildren of Hitler's head henchmen and their wives and what they'd said about their mothers or grandmothers was quite eye-opening. One woman who was the daughter of I think Amon Goeth said that when she was 14 she asked her mother about Goeth who had already been executed a long time ago by that time and she said her mother took the cord out of some old broken lamp and beat her with it out in the yard because she was tired of her daughter's questions about her own father. And a man who was the son of another henchman said his mother was as cold, distant, unfeeling and ungiving as his father was and he had no nice memories of any nice conversations, etc with either of them at all.

E.N. said...

@Patricia Kayden:

I'm not upset, but I think it's telling that when African-Americans have played notable African characters, those African communities did not support those films in droves.
For example, South Africans did not rally in numerous support of Denzel Washington playing Steve Biko.
On the flipside, there's an almost fanatic media fever surrounding Lupita Nyong'o, who is an amazing actress without doubt - but the black community propelling her to fame is not benefitting in any way from seeing her success off of an AA story.
Does that make sense?

ak said...

Apologies Halima but with your permission, this link talks about what I mentioned above earlier also:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1142824/Nazi-women-exposed-bit-bad-Hitlers-deranged-male-followers.html

Patricia Kayden said...

@E.N.

I have no problem with Lupito's success based on her playing an African American woman. By the way, how do we know that Patsy (the enslaved woman played by Lupito) wasn't African herself or didn't consider herself to be African?

But you are entitled to your opinion. I just don't care about issues like that. When Jill Scott played a Botswanian (spelling?) detective, I was thrilled for her. I never gave it a thought that she was another African American woman playing the role of an African woman. **Shrugs.**

E.N. said...

@Patricia Kayden:

We can disagree but I just want to clarify that my point was never about cultural division. I'm concerned about the money trail, and I think other cultures are, too. When AAs play other cultures in film, sure, there's support, but it's never on a fanatic level. E.g. South Africans did not go out in large numbers to put their dollars behind Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman or even Idris Elba - on the other hand, the people behind 12Years are set to become very wealthy and recognized largely thanks to mass AA support. I don't think that's fair to AAs.

Faith said...

Are you sure South Africans didn't support Idris and Naoemie playing the Mandelas? Because the family did, including Nelson Mandela personally? And TYAS hasn't made a huge profit and had a limited theater run. Especially compared to a movie like Django Unchained. And now this new hideous release Ride Along. It was a niche film at best, but admittedly it has received a lot of press. The actors worked for scale and maybe some backend, but it had a small budget compared to a typical movie as well. Still, the conversation about support and who merits it and who benefits from it is always a worthy one.

Welcome said...

And it's not just AA's this has been happening with White American actors for years. Learn about the old Hollywood system and you'll learn that not everyone was American playing Americans nor was everyone an American producer, writer, director etc.