i'm chris. i take some photographs. they are here, you've found them.
After seeing Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, I walked out of the theatre with both the movie, and the reviews I read about the movie beforehand, weighing heavily on my mind. The reviews had heralded it a masterpiece BUT, the critics said, the ending was anti-climatic. It lacked the emotional punch of the triumphant human spirit. The critics were right, I thought.
As I thought some more though, I realized the critics were wrong in this regard. 12 Years A Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), adapted by his own accounts of these events by John Ridley. It begins with Solomon being ripped from his family and home, and ends with Solomon rejoining his family in their home. In between we will witness him fight his predicament, be beaten down, fight again, be beaten down some more, fight again, until finally he breaks and accepts that he is in fact a slave. But, in the end he escapes and returns home to his family in a scene that had me in tears.
How is this anti-climatic? Simple. It’s fucked up when you stop and think about it. The reason why this story about a free black man, who goes through unmitigated hell, gives up and loses all hope, only to be released and rejoined with his wife and kids after TWELVE years is considered by critics, white critics, to be anti-climatic, or just missing some emotional oomph, is because there’s no cookie for white people at the end.
As white movie goers we are accustomed, when it comes to movies about slavery, to have at the end the abolition of slavery, or at the very least an act that signifies a clear path to the abolition of slavery. Some movies even take place during the Civil War and act like the North wanted to free slaves and that’s why they were fighting. In other words in movies about slavery, made by white people, there is a sort of “Hey. We fucked up. Our bad. But hey, we helped out in the end. Are we not merciful? Didn’t we save you in the end?”
McQueen does not do this. In fact McQueen and Ridley do something so daring that they it will surely cost them any chance of being nominated for an Academy Award. They shoot the entire movie from Solomon’s point of view and in doing so force white people for the first time in my generation, to identify with a black character. A slave.
Early on Solomon is told by another slave not to reveal to anyone he can read or write, or they will beat him for being uppity. Repeatedly throughout the film Solomon tries to seek help from the white people that surround him. There are no white saviors in this movie.
There are no cookies at the end. This happened. There is a happy ending for Solomon, but it’s mired by all that came before it. It doesn’t forgive, and I think that’s what has white critics saying the ending lacks ‘something’. Well, pardon my Missouri roots for showing, but ya’ll can go fuck yourselves. There is no cookie for us at the end, and there shouldn’t be. 12 Years A Slave is a masterpiece from start to finish. I could go on some more but I fear I’m near to overstaying my welcome. It’s a must see. It’s that simple."
Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Columbus: Towards a True People’s History
Just your random reminder that this is a banned book.
In January of this year, district officials came into Tucson’s high schools, confiscated the offending books, put them in boxes, and carted them away. These books were taken while classes were in session, so that the teachers and students wouldn’t miss the point.
What’s even more terrifying is that their actions were in compliance with an Arizona state law.
HB 2281 has terminated Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, a virtually one of a kind social studies and humanities high school program that seeks to close the “achievement gap” by encouraging Tucson students (of whom at least 60% are Latino) to look at American history critically in regards to race, gender, and ethnicity.
But Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal will have none of it, and threatened to withdraw 14 million dollars in state funding to the Tucson Unified School District if it failed to comply with the law, which criminalizes, among other things, “any courses or classes that…advocate ethnic solidarity…”
And so hundreds of students have had their curriculum literally snatched away from them at mid-year; their teachers are now required by law to assign them more “traditional” reading material that ignores the racial, gender, and class biases that have so tragically shaped our country.
Another gentle reminder that there are *ahem* various places I could be arrested for teaching this to you in school.
The reign of The Fragile White