As African-Americans attempt to find their footing in contemporary society, 12 Years a Slave helps put the struggle to exist as equal citizens in perspective. This tale is about a respectable black man, Solomon, with a wife and two children. He lived very comfortably and interacted with white counterparts as equals. During this time, slavery was thriving and the source of his white counterparts’ fortunes. Solomon didn’t even seem to notice or be concerned about the lifestyle difference of the black people who were clearly enslaved around him. Solomon is soon introduced to two white men for a business opportunity. He told his wife he had a chance to make money. After doing business, they celebrated over dinner where Solomon drank some wine and became ill. He passed out and woke up in chains inside of a barren cell.
As more and more young African-American students graduate from college, many have a disconnect with the struggle and plight of average fellow young black people. They feel as if they “have done what it takes” to move up in society and cite black people’s problem of unfair treatment in the judicial system, disparities in unemployment and lack of desire for a better education as the real reasons for their low quality of life. These educated youngsters graduate and pursuit of employment in their desired “field” only to find that regardless of their educational training, employers or “masters” only hire people who can do fill these for meager pay without the likelihood of making any “problems” by thinking for themselves.
After being passed over for opportunities for employment themselves, many of these graduates find themselves standing next to the same people they once looked down upon as they both occupy unemployment lines and welfare offices.
American society hasn’t changed much in the sense that African-Americans are pigeonholed to serve the purpose of their present “master”. Although many employers say they prefer “experience” or “education” what they really are searching for is the slave personality who have been taught how to follow. If it be by educational indoctrination or any impeccable record of servitude, they will only allow a certain type of black person into their organizations. They want someone who doesn’t know they’re real value or worth complete with an eager-to-please mindset, an exceptional work ethic and ability to blindly follow the leader.
When Solomon met other black people who had been captured, he almost didn’t know how to relate to them. Once he understood his fate relied on his ability to unify with his peers, he became aware of why black unity in the attempt to positively change social or physical conditions of our community doesn’t succeed: Death and selling out (abandoning the cause for the group in exchange for securing the interests of oneself). When the black community look for leadership to construct the master plan for everyone’s escape from poverty, violence or injustice, all the great leaders die violent (often times, public) deaths. A large percentage of people who were closest to those great leaders who remain, sell out the interests of the whole for their own personal gain. They leave all the others behind to fend for themselves and as the new “leaders” are only concerned with elevating themselves to a position of power over their still-enslaved brethren.
This film was an excruciating awakening in regards to religion. The master would give sermons on Sunday to his slaves. He emphasized how they were to be humble to him because he, their “massa”, was their Lord. This scene revealed to me why so many African-Americans today reject Christianity is a religion and abandon this faith. They believe Jesus Christ is akin to the assimilation and acceptance to exist as a second class citizen. Christians were forced to embrace the fact that they couldn’t look for justice, peace or prosperity in this life. Everything they work for in this life was for the one who was authorized by God to lord over them which were their masters. The slaves were forced to embrace a character called Jesus who died for their sins and who was whipped, hated and bruised for the world’s iniquity but wouldn’t save them from receiving the same fate. It is almost like Jesus was a superhero created by slave masters to teach their slaves to idolize to make it easier to physically control.
Black people are taught to pray, be patient and “wait on the Lord” (which translates to the white man) to save them. It would be considered an “honor” to suffer as Jesus did. They were encouraged to pray to Jesus to be saved but were also discourage from taking any steps or action to save themselves. To remove themselves from this terrible existence was to wish and and look forward to death as the only honorable, feasible escape.
Today we watch the hip-hop generation embrace the culture of death as an acceptable and welcome event. Death is glorified by promoting promiscuity, gun violence and hostility towards peers. The African-American community seem to still look to death as the only route to a peaceful existence without struggle and strife. We martyr ourselves by sacrificing our hopes and dreams in order to emulate Christ. We sit back and allow injustice to happen so we can please are Lord. Our people are frustrated because we have been taught to work hard but also never expect to personally benefit from it in this life if we are to be real believers or Christians.
The reoccurring themes with black women seem to be highlighted their ability to control their environment with their bodies. One of the main characters, Patsy, was a woman who was the object of her Master’s affection not only because she was the most efficient worker but he was sexually attracted to her. His wife knew of this and openly physically abused her as well. This young slave was raped so often she had become suicidal. She was allowed to visit another plantation where there was a black mistress of the house married to a white man. This ex-slave would brag about her status as she sip tea, gloating over the fact that she now had people waiting on her hand and foot. She had once been a slave but had used her body to change her social position. With movies and other media portraying to black women a false history of having always changed their social status by becoming sexually involved with the white man (or any man for that matter) is the poison responsible for killing the black family.
The sexual encounters the young girl slave had with her master failed to save her from her hellish life.
The master regarded this young girl as his property and he aimed to do with it what he pleased. Because black people were considered chattel, there was no regard for their feelings or humanity.
The portrayal of black people as property was another reoccurring theme. This woman and her children were sold away in exchange for money so that the master could take care of his family.
Men of that time (and this) have a limited means of protecting and providing for his family outside the white, male-dominated economic society. We wonder why black men deal with anger and violent outbursts due to the legacy of the inability to effect or control certain aspects of his life. Even today, Regardless of how good a black man is, he can be harassed by the police or disqualified for economic opportunity based solely on his race.
Today like men and women seek to recover all self-respect self-esteem hope or happiness by dating outside their race. This concept is a fallacy that is running a chance to truly overcome the negative effects of slavery.
This movie proves that America wants to keep the Caucasian male betrayed as both the villain (to instill fear in his balance and the ability for him to avoid consequences for his misdeeds) and has picked door (to reinforce that any and all good done in the world will come through him). The African-Americans must fear and revere the white race our economic survival although we are the original source of their wealth. We’ll always carried the load and worked our fingers and bodies to the bone as they chipped away at our self-esteem with lies. We are told that we are no worth to society because we have no work ethic when we built this country with our own blood, sweat and tears. We are told that we depend on others to do for survival while they lived their lives being waited on hand and foot while we were busy growing and cooking food for them and their children. Today Our culture is criminalized and accused of “ghettoizing” America when white boys attempt to emulate our hip-hop artist and white girls attempt to move rhythmically while scantily clad, both making a total mockery of us. We can never accept what this movie attempts to deliver as the moral of the story: keep trusting, depending upon and expecting the white man to deliver you. The only way to achieve your dreams or have an earthly paradise is through persistent petitioning to a white person somewhere.
Just this was never served to the parties responsible for this 12 year debacle this man in doing. This movie shows that from the top from that time to this America has yet to release the unfair, subhuman attitude towards a victimized person of color. It seems as though white people hope to one day convince us reconcile with the fact that we should not to expect and accept fair, equal and just treatment in America. 12 year slave taught me that in order to propel our people far into the future we must identify the mental shackles before we can successfully secure freedom. Notions that we must “follow in order to lead”is just another way for whites to convince blacks to surrender their power to evil change. “Suffering for Christ sake” and being a good Christian is another idea they keys black people from reaching their own hands toward ingenuity and responsibility. As we keep our heads down in prayer our eyes closed to the truth we will continue to blindly enjoy the scraps thrown to us as we scavenge the bowels of society in subpar housing, schools and communities. 12 years a slave taught me to attempt to appeal to white people as if they are doing something for us instead of the other way around is the epitome of the perpetuation of false inferiority that drives the power of slavery. To appeal to, seek or beg white people for the essentials for sustaining a mentally healthy race is counterproductive and backward.