*i drafted this when the move Selma came to town. like a couple of years ago. i know, i know, buuuut in my defense, I was birthing a dissertation. anyway, it triggered a reflection i had after i went to see 12 Years A Slave. i am posting this to clear cobwebs out of my blog which has other drafts. i think this still holds water regarding #antiBlackness, #racism and not even mentioning the beautiful memory of baby boy Tamir Rice. his death shook me to the core. he was just a baby in my mind. 12 years old? nah. police violence is at an all time sickness. i also did not anticipate or see the presidential candidate elections when i drafted this piece. nonetheless, here it is.
I went to watch Selma and had to sit back and let the film sink in a bit before we left. I will be going back to watch it again but it was the lyrics in Glory that John Legend featuring Common that struck me.
I was immediately reminded of when I went to watch 12 Years A Slave I could not shake the disbelief I had with such inhumane acts against ancestors of African-Americans.
In my naive ignorance I thought I would be able to go back and watch 12 Years A Slave with a colleague and that we’d be able to digress and talk about it. What I didn’t anticipate (nor she) was the flow of emotions. Granted, after watching it the first time, I was emotional and wasn’t able to rest easy. I knew that she hadn’t seen the film and I offered to go along with her because it was a heavy movie.
Without spoiling anything about the film when we decided to go to the movie, I should have said these four words, “Unresolved historical grief trauma.” Instead, I said some remiss thing like, “It’s a deep movie?” Who says that?! I didn’t warn her and instead, I thought we just could talk about later. Well, as an empath, at the end of the move, I ended up crying along with her and just listened. I let her cry, as I shed tears just listening to her I knew it’s all I was supposed to do. Sometimes, all we need to do is sit and listen. No more, no less. Listen and allow a person, especially our Black sisters and brothers to be in that moment that they need to grieve their heart felt story. In that moment, all I wanted was for my colleague to feel safe and let her cry, grieve, and process as best as she could. As a third generation Black woman she had three generations of blood memory. Of righteous anger, hurt, grief, and trauma to recall.
I went into 12 Years A Slave with some inkling of trauma based on the tweets I had read by Black feminists from Twitter. However, I also went in without any previous knowledge of the characters. Understanding the abolition of slavery is not something I can state I know well. In fact, up to that point, I did not know much other than what little I had read during Black history month. I did recall a chapter, “Holding My Sisters Hand” that I had read from Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks (1994) that talked about the envy and hate that white women had towards Black women in slavery.
I can’t un-watch or unlearn what little I have come to learn about the slavery of African nations.
For Selma, I read these two articles with deliberate intention so as not to be wowed by the Hollywood hype. I hope they are helpful to anyone who may not be familiar with the historical events that led up to the violence in Alabama with the 50 mile march from Selma to Montgomery.
Ten Things You Should Know About Selma Before You See the Film was a great read, however I read another article that was a bit longer and filled with more information that was intentionally written to create social justice, The Selma Voting Rights Struggle: 15 Key Points from Bottom-Up History and Why It Matters Today.
What I appreciated about the latter is it can be used as a teaching tool for classrooms. For educators in public schools, whether teacher, administrator, staff, this website Teaching for Change is a great tool for public schools. In this modern age of technology innovative tools and methods for teaching about social justice in U.S. have changed since the outdated textbooks and required curriculum instruction mandates.
While policy and legislation such as Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies in their public classrooms, I believe Teaching for Change is an excellent tool that can be used to “rethink the world inside and outside” public education systems.
The reality of white settler colonial state violence has never been more pronounced as it has been in the last two years in current U.S. history.
The current state of domestic politics in the U.S. is astoundingly offensive and wrought with racist beliefs and bigoted ignorance. One would think that we were still in the Civil Rights Era given this example of photograph from the Washington Post, the left taken in 1954 #Selma and 60 years later in 2014 #Ferguson.
What this country has been experiencing further substantiates what Indigenous people from North and South America have been fighting and resisting, a political system of “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy.” (bell hooks, 2000) While the settler colonial power structures built imperialistic, white supremacy notions and ideas of land ownership, the violence through genocide involved annihilation of culture and the social and economic oppression of Indigenous people AND the enslavement of African nations.
The politics of the U.S. in its present state is as racist and violent in history. Despite what I read in U.S. history textbooks regarding the Civil Rights Era, today, I do not see a change. If anything I have seen a progression of state violence and oppression of non-white people especially those of socio-economic status that is not in the 1%. Although there are “successful” #Indigenous and Black people in this country, in my opinion, if their success is not eradicating racism, it will not help dismantle the master’s house. If anything, they continue to add bricks to that house that has kept non-white people out.
The stark reality has reminded me we are not post-colonial as some social theorists might believe. We may be post-Civil Rights Era, however, legislative acts have been passed and humanitarian efforts still demand justice for Black youth like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. I have stopped asking why this keeps happening, and started to critically analyze how I have participated in Anti-Blackness with my complicit silence.
It ends with me.
When we consider how this country was settled through the genocide of Indigenous people and built by African slaves, I also think of hip-hop legend KRS-One whose lyrical genius states, “There will never be justice on stolen lands.” There can be no reconciliation until the U.S. of A acknowledges it’s genocide against #Indigenous and African people.
If there is any restitution that demands justice, it is U.S. recognizing how it continues to perpetuate it’s oppression of Black and #Indigenous people.
hooks, b. (2000). Feminist Theory From Margin to Center. New York: Routedge.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress. New York: Routledge.