Monday, June 2, 2014

reaction to 12 Years a Slave

I have been trying to make myself watch "12 Years A Slave" for 2 or 3 weeks. (I bought it on itunes.) I decided I needed to see it after I read a short article about it in which I think the director was quoted as saying there have been hundreds of movies made about the Holocaust and only a handful have been made about slavery. That caught my attention. Because both are black marks on our collective history as human beings but why would we allow one horror to be kept silent while demanding the remembrance of another?

I don't know.

To watch this movie has taken me weeks because I did not want to watch it with young children about and at the end of the day I am so tired and I wanted to watch it when I was able to truly immerse in it. And then once I began it I had to keep pausing the thing because my reactions were so strong. To watch it in the theater must have been like getting the wind knocked out of you.

I found this description by a journalist, Dan P Lee in Where it Hurts: Steve McQueen on Why 12 Years a Slave Isn't About Slavery:

I’d seen 12 Years the night before, at the huge cineplex in downtown L.A. My friend sobbed quietly through a good portion of it. At least one black couple left midway. As we walked out of the ­theater, no one seemed to be speaking; breaking the ice, one stranger next to me said, “Well, that was intense,” which made us all laugh anxiously.

I think it is interesting that the actress Lupita Nyong'o is said to have watched "The Color Purple" and realized that people who looked like her could be actors. I think Whoopi Goldberg is said to have stated something not too different, that her father would only let her watch Star Trek on T.V. because it was the only T.V. show with black people. I have my own experience with T.V. and color: I remember when I moved to southern Spain for a few years circa 1980 and was told by Spanish Schoolmates that I couldn't be American because I wasn't blond. My sister was blond with blue eyes, the other kids totally believed her to be American but not me. I was in 3rd grade and I remember wondering where they got their information from? America, the great melting pot, and I was supposed to be blond? We did not have a T.V. growing up. I didn't know who Christy Brinkley was either. I had no context for this misinformation.

If you haven't seen 12 Years a Slave yet, you ought to. For the same reasons people need to visit the Holocaust museum. Because we all need to be reminded that it happened. And it was horrible and brutal and about greed. And we also need to be reminded that slavery continues to exist. And we need to be reminded that we can make small changes in our lives not to be part of that slavery. If you don't know what I mean: "Modern slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually"
via the Washington Post: A map to show where the world's 30 Million Slaves exist.
CNN Money: Modern Slavery in the U.S.

In my house the small changes we've made: We stopped eating most chocolates. The chocolate industry continues to utilize children smuggled across boarders. We buy "Fair Trade" sugar and coffee and whatever other items we can find "Fair Trade." We buy local as much as possible. No I have not gone and inspected the local farmers to be sure they are paying any laborers a fair price but I'm hoping they are. (perhaps that is naive) The clothing industry is harder for me to track and figure out. You don't know when you are purchasing clothes if they were made ethically or not. On the occasion I get to have my nails done I ask the people providing the manicure little questions to find out if they are free to move about the country. I don't want to be supporting a business operating on indentured servitude.

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