I am about to say something about a movie, one praised by many publications and even heralded as a masterpiece, specifically within the black community. What I have to say about the movie may possibly bring my very blackness into question, a fact that I have accepted and am prepared to deal with. With that being said, I have absolutely no interest in spending money or time to watch “Selma.”
It’s not that I question whether or not it’s a good film. On the contrary, I understand it is a very well executed piece of work. I have seen it ranked on Rolling Stone’s “Top 10 Movies of 2014” list and read reviews of its praise. Yet, I have no plans on viewing it any time soon for reasons that may or may not be understood.
First, I am slightly offended that this film is being promoted as a “must see” for black people. We are the only race whose authenticity is based so heavily in group thought.
The fact that I know I will be criticized and shunned by my own people for voicing an opinion that I have a God-given right to have … well, to be blunt, kind of disturbs me. Oprah’s cosign be damned.
Considering the currents events of racial tension in our society, I do not think that African Americans, or Americans in general, should rush to see this movie. To blindly do so is to severely underestimate the power of propaganda.
It is worth mentioning that every widely acclaimed piece of black cinema for the past five years or so has shown blacks either being brutalized or submissive, in some cases both. “The Butler,” “12 Years a Slave” and “The Help” are all examples of such works. While some may argue that these are mere historical representations of actual events in black history, I would have to argue that it runs a little deeper than that.
Admittedly, I am far from a psychologist, but one would have to question what effect this may have on black people. To see a group of people who look like you being constantly victimized on screen — only to be rewarded off screen — has to damage the psyche. Does it subconsciously condition black people to accept a victimized role?
I think about the first time I ever read about myself in a history book … was as a slave. I’m not sure that I ever fully recovered from that.
For those who still lean on history to justify “Selma,” let’s talk facts, not sensationalism. The fact is that there were two very different faces of black empowerment in the ‘60s. Dr. King’s non-violent, pacifist philosophy would not have been as effective if it weren’t for his more aggressive counterparts in the North. Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton and Fred Hampton all offered an “if not this, than that” alternative that frankly, scared many into accepting King’s request. There were simultaneously pleas for civil rights and fights for human rights at the time. The fear was that if the pleas were not appeased, the violent struggle would become more of a reality.
Both sides were equal in importance, so why is it that one is portrayed in the highest of light, while the other is reduced to the verge of domestic terrorism in history’s context?
As for the film itself, I believe it is strengthening an emotional bond to a tradition, a “dream” that, now more than ever, is apparent to be a dream deferred. The constant retelling, and re-sensationalizing of said dream is part of the reason the current generation is so shaken by the racially-heated incidents involving Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Gardner and others.
We have been so conditioned to accept the idea of a “post racial America” that we are ill equipped to deal with the ugly truth that has been slowly, yet blatantly veering its head at us for the past couple of years.
I read in a USA Today that “Selma” could provide answers for the problems being faced today. My response would be “how?” How could a movie about people being beaten and brutalized ensure the fair treatment of future generations, when some 50-plus years down the line, justice turns a blind eye to those future generations being shot down in the street?
If anything, it’s time for black folks to reevaluate the “dream,” something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself did before his death. But it appears our sensationalism of him won’t allow us to accept that.
I’m not saying that the Civil Rights movement did nothing. I’m not saying Dr. King shouldn’t be honored. I’m not even saying that “Selma” shouldn’t have been made. What I am saying, however, is not right now.
This is not what we need right now. I’m sure my comments will be dismissed by a good number of people. But I too, have a dream. I have a dream that we will stop dreaming. I have a dream that we will no longer allow our attachments to the past hinder us from seeing things for what they presently are. I have a dream that progress will override tradition. But in the sum of all things: what’s a dream worth?