I recently went to see 12 Years A Slave. While I was deeply impacted by this film and had thought I would blog my response to it, I’ve decided not to. Instead, I’ve decided to listen to the responses coming from women of color. There’s a time to listen and hold one’s tongue and I think, for me and maybe for other white folks, this is one of those times.
Enuma Okoro “Why I Would Not See 12 Years A Slave with a White Person.”
“I’m not a racist. But I do have a race problem. I finally owned up to it as I was anticipating seeing 12 Years a Slave. In the weeks leading up to its opening in my state of North Carolina, I tried to think of whom among my friends I could see this film with. I have a number of racially and ethnically diverse friends and acquaintances who would love to see it, and yet, I knew I could only see this movie alone or with another dark-skinned person.”
Rebecca Wanzo “12 Years a Slave and the Problem of (Black) Suffering”
“Looking away has become a national pastime — from the poor, the sick, and the civilians killed by war and drones. It is unclear to me what kinds of representations of suffering can always escape condemnation as sentimental, or manipulative, or “suffering porn.” But when we disparage 12 Years a Slave for trying to capture the essence of pain in chattel slavery, we are disavowing people whose pain can never totally be represented. There are, of course, other stories about slavery and black people that can and should be told. But that does not lessen the importance of this one.”
Agunda Okayo “The Women of 12 Years a Slave”
“Undoubtedly, 12 Years a Slave is a film written and directed by men though produced by Dede Gardner, president Plan B Entertainment, who approached McQueen after seeing his film Hunger. Taking a cue from the overt empathy of Solomon Northup, the chief author of this narrative, the film succeeds in eliciting compassion for the many women and men who bore the burden of a life in physical and spiritual chains.”
Christena Cleveland “How Feeling Each Other’s Pain Changes Everything”“This is why films like 12 Years A Slave are so important. Christians of all colors must listen to each other’s stories, learn of each other’s pain and take up each other’s causes. One important step is to gather in culturally diverse groups to watch films like 12 Years A Slave (and other films that highlight various cultural histories/experiences), and create spaces for us to discuss topics like slavery’s enduring legacy of inequality in the U.S. In doing so, we begin the process of expanding our sense of self to include people who are culturally different than us and allowing our souls to be pierced with the irons of the unjust experiences of our brothers and “sisters.”