Over the weekend and in the coming weeks, I’m immersing myself in the movies, documentaries, and TV shows that depict a closer rendition to the experience of blacks in America. I’m a white female who has privilege simply from being white. I’m not immune to the suffering of others but have seen a wide chasm between reality and the stories I’ve been told. My two excellent history professors, the first semester covering American history leading up to the Civil War, the second being ‘modern’ history, from the civil war until the 60s, did their best to disseminate all the information they could in just a few weeks’ time.
It wasn’t enough. It was never enough. It created in me this deep desire to discover more about the past and its true reality. These recent events have pulled back the thick curtain of bullshit that covered up so much of what really went down, that I have a lot of catching up to do. Those two highly educated and deeply passionate history professors I had the honor to learn from couldn’t even begin the story of the black experience because they knew it was far too complex and faceted to cover in the time they had with their students. For what they gave me, I am extremely grateful. They’d sown the seed and only now, 3 decades later, am I finally seeing that seed break the surface.
Friday night and Saturday I watched a great movie in two chunks because it was so hard to take at once: “Just Mercy”
I’m told it’s being streamed for free on all streaming platforms; check your listings if you do streaming media (ie: Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.) It was profoundly moving and extreme in that it not only told the story of one black man’s incarceration, it touched on the stories of men with whom he shared Death Row in an Alabama prison. After the movie ended and the updates appeared on the screen showing photos of the real people who’d been portrayed by actors, I lost it. These were incarcerated men whose cases hadn’t been defended the way they could’ve been. This happens to blacks so often that the statistics are staggering. It’s been this way throughout all of America’s history. Get the tissues ready.
After that I watched “Harriet Tubman: The Called Her Moses”
This documentary depicts her passage from birth through her own childhood slavery, to her eventual marriage, and her inevitable escape to freedom. Late in life she was honored for her heroic efforts to save slaves as she worked tirelessly in the Underground Railroad. It was a well-deserved honor and I will never forget her work to help others. We’d all do well to take a page from her book.
The films I intend to watch over the next few weeks, and this only scratches the surface:
Prime: “I Am Not Your Negro” | “Moonlight” | “Fences” | “Crown Heights” (Amazon Original) | “Freedom Summer” | “4 Little Girls”
Netflix: “Malcolm X” | “13th” | “For Colored Girls” | “Django Unchained” | “The Black Godfather” | “The Two Killings of Sam Cooke” | “Burning Sands”
and there are so many more. After yesterday’s two films, I am changed. I’ve never been overtly racist but I can see my failings in a comparatively tunnel-visioned world, and I am desperate to do better. It’s simplest to say ~ I’m woke and I want to stay that way.