If you haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave then you are missing a part of history that should have been taught all alone. This movie is heart wrenching, emotionally charged, and filled with facts from the person who went through the trials of slavery, Solomon Northup. It’s no surprise that Northup’s story of being coerced to leave his home in upstate New York to travel for musical performances (he played the violin/fiddle). Once in Washington D.C. he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and sent to several plantations in Louisiana. His story, like many others, was hidden from American history because it truly depicted the lengths some Whites went through to deny African Americans their basic right to just be a human. Fortunately, director Steven “Steve” McQueen was able to take a piece of history and turn it into Oscar buzz worthiness.
While watching this movie the notion came about to list out 5 things that African Americans need to learn from watching 12 Years A Slave:
Know your history
African American history in America has been overly diluted and reduced to over exaggerated tails like D’Jango Unchained, who by the way died before he got to his long lost wife. African Americans today are unfamiliar of the things that their ancestors had to endure just to survive. Men, women and their children were kidnapped – especially those who were born “free”; women were raped constantly by the slave owners; men, women and children were lynched and either burned, hung or tortured through whipping, tar and feathering or boiled alive. Millions of slaves were only treated as property and if the “owner” didn’t value his property then they were treated as such. Pigs often were treated better than some slaves. Unfortunately, America continues to hide these stories of atrocity in American history.
Don’t be so easily insulted by the truth
Slavery happened. It was not a walk in the park for slaves. Oh no it was absolute torture. African Americans became totally dependent on someone else, who hated them and treated them like property. They were torn from their families – fathers and mothers from their children, husbands from their wives – so many torn families it’s no wonder it still exists today. It seems that we are so blinded by the watered down version of slavery that we are easily insulted by the truthful depiction of it. It happened. Racism existed then and it still exists now. Stop being so easily insulted and thinking people are going to respect that part of history when we don’t educate our children about it now.
You are still an N-word
Regardless of your accomplishments and feats some people, even in your own race, will still only see you as an N-word. Even in the 21st century we are still experiencing our firsts. First Black president, first homecoming king and queen to an all-White university, the list is endless. It’s sickening to see that the majority of America do not recognize our culture as equal and our accomplishments as subpar. Yes, we can be the first to walk on the moon, discover a cure for cancer and AIDS and to end hunger in the nation but to some Whites, and even among ourselves, we will still be considered a N-word. Sad reality really that our accomplishments are not touted in the news, only our failures make headlines; that the justices we overcome is seen as hostile takeovers; and the representation of our significance is seen as twerking, fighting in the streets and scarf wearing project individuals who become auto-tuned and known for their quirky sayings.
We need to get out of the 400 year old slavery mentality
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. So many African Americans have been accused of being crabs at the bottom of a barrel, uncooperative, and other terms that demoralizes the human and cohesive nature of the African American community as a whole. The mentality of many, not all, African Americans can be classified as stagnant at its best. Some seem to think that influential African Americans are ‘sell outs’, while others believe that African Americans are codependent leeches draining the federal government for every freebie it has to offer while living luxurious lives with expensive hair weaves and shoes. These varying views of African Americans as a whole show the current mental condition of our culture. It doesn’t have to take another 400 years to recondition and erase the slavery mentality that has plagued our communities across America and even the world.
Finally, 12 Years A Slave is just a movie
Yes it was factual. Yes it showed the truth about slavery, especially in Louisiana, but at the end of the day it was a movie. So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to shrink away and wait for it to hit DVD; talk about it on Facebook and other social media sites; or are you going to work towards correcting the laws that are still in effect that hurt African American communities across that country? Choose the latter. Choose to become informed about the laws, policies and ordinances that impact your community. Know who your representatives are and what they truly represent. Don’t just be mad from watching the movie; instead channel that anger you have from watching Northup go through those trials into action to change the wrongs that still happen.
Change will not come just from watching movies; it has to be a movement that leads everyone out of the trenches of mental captivity into the enlightenment that we deserve to be Americans without the preface of African. We are more than the color Black. We are stronger than our God given strength. We are giants among men. We were kings and queens at one time and that doesn’t stop because of slavery, that’s more reason to regain our thrones. So if you have or even if you haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave, it’s time to move forward and become better people.