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12_years_a_slave_soundtrackEveryone has their slavery, black historical film limit.

It can be taxing to be reminded of the tragic past, bombarded with images of indignity and forced servitude, but some have taken that “slavery film fatigue” to another level, claiming they will never watch a film like “12 Years A Slave” because they believe it’s dangerous to see films where disempowered black people are placed in subservient roles. In the case of The UK Guardian’s Orville Lloyd Douglas, he took that sentiment to another level, announcing he would not be watching the film due to his belief that these movies like “12 Years A Slave” and “The Butler” are a way to ameliorate “white guilt.”

From The Guardian:

I’m convinced these black race films are created for a white, liberal film audience to engender white guilt and make them feel bad about themselves. Regardless of your race, these films are unlikely to teach you anything you don’t already know. Frankly, why can’t black people get over slavery? Or, at least, why doesn’t anyone want to see more contemporary portrayals of black lives?

While it’s easy to feel some initial sympathy for Douglas, he takes a strong left with the “why can’t black people get over slavery” sentiment. It’s one that Kirsten West Savali, writing for TheGrio, couldn’t ignore. There’s a difference between not wanting to be depressed by a slavery epic and the willful ignorance of simply wanting to “forget” slavery ever happened. This, according to Savali, is a far more dangerous mindset.

In her article about the “backlash” both films have received from African-Americans vowing not to watch them she writes:

There is danger in limiting the scope of black history to one-dimensional depictions of butlers and slaves; however, a deeper read suggests that Douglas’ entire article is a study in black insecurity and a quest for white validation.

Douglas never explicitly states that white acceptance is his motivation. Yet, silencing slavery is a pathway to assimilation, because there is nothing powerful about forgetting the victimization of our ancestors. We should feel empowered by slave narratives, not “exhausted and bored” by them.

Savali adds that, “Avoiding films such as 12 Years a Slave would only silence their voices when many of us are finally willing to listen.”

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  • MZ

    Why are we attacking Jews? The Jews are not our enemy. They didn’t ship us from the gold coast.

    • Ms. Vee

      Read up on history before ever making such a statement. The jews were one of the main financiers of the Atlantic slave trade. We have no friends and they definitely are our enemies. The media propaganda they perpetuate to this day on our behalf shows this.

    • mil

      You dont know your history..Blacks who were captured in tribal wars between rival factions in Africa were sold by there black captors for european furs ,gold and other commodities. .There is absolutely no documentations that these people were Jews or any other religous group in fact they came from many countries to trade for cheap labor.

  • The RealKay

    I think he had a point up until that “Why can’t Blacks get over slavery,” comment. I do think we need historical movies that reflect on the past. And honestly I think there are tons of Black people on the whole who WANT to forget about slavery but White supremacy just won’t let us. That said, there are so many complex stories about the lives of Black people that don’t include slavery that should be heard as well. Stories of love, life and relationships that no one ever gets to see because Hollywood has this sick, twisted fascination with slavery tropes and White saviors. There are tons of Black filmmakers who could make all kinds of worthy films, but people don’t think that we’re relatable, because they don’t see us having lives outside of perceived stereotypes. And furthermore, films on slavery don’t often really explore the ways in which White hegemony has created a system of disenfranchisement that continues to THIS DAY. Folks don’t want to see that. They want to see a safe movie about times past, cry a little and say to themselves, “I’m sooo glad we got rid of this racism b.s.” and go on living their oblivious lives doing racist things on the daily and not having to critically analyze any of it.

  • Velma

    I find it interesting that it takes a brit, to get it right on slave movie that had a COMPLETELY serious tone. We do need to stop worrying about white validation and just make serious movies. Wake up people.