I’ve been mulling over writing this for awhile but I could never find the right words.
However, in the midst of the uproar following the lack of indictment of the officers involved in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, came the movie Selma. To say that it is a good portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggles he overcame in 1965 is not only an understatement, but a flat out lie. The movie is intensely vivid, delivering an acute pain that sits heavily in your chest. It cut open the suffering of all of those men and women who marched and left it out for 2 hours for us to see. It was more than enough.
However, this opinion is not the consensus. The film has been labeled as black propaganda, grouped together with extraordinary movies such as 12 Years a Slave and Malcom X and deemed as another piece of the anti-white propaganda that’s been shoved down our throats lately. Many people cry out that it is a portrayal that all white people are evil, hateful, violent people who target nice, law-abiding black people. This is exactly what these movies are fighting against: stereotypes and judgments. Labelling all people in a race as one thing. Putting them into a box that suffocates. Not all white people were malevolent or horrible – there were those who understood the fundamental wrongness of society and marched. Those who understood that human vs. human is an overrated, overplayed story that needs to cease. Selma is not hateful propaganda; it is history.
It is the same history that involved Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Elvis Presley. The story was always the same; some parts were just hidden better. Some parts were just swept under the rug more. Some parts were ignored. Finally, these stories are being told; a part of history that was kept in the cellar, and for some reason, mirrors some elements of the 21st century.
Racism is not dead.
There are protests still happening, marches still being led, and rights still being fought for. Four hundred years of prejudice cannot be changed overnight, which is understandable. But why is racist social programming still apparent in our culture today? In film, black people are still cast into supporting roles, and even when it is their story being told, a white character is the one leads them through it, holding their hand. In the news, there are only pictures of black people behind bars, not behind office desks. In school, black children are taught that shedding their black skin and black vernacular and black roots is what will land them a career. You can’t deny this.
Ignorance is not bliss. Denying black people of this right, the right to feel pain, the right to acknowledge a past of suffering, the right to speak up because apparently “racism is dead” is not progress. Yes, the world has opened up; yes, it has allowed black people to achieve and reach heights never before reached, exemplified by the likes of Oprah or Robin Roberts; yes, I, as a young black woman, can have realistic dreams to be successful in the work force.
But I’m still afraid of not being good enough. I’m still afraid that my skin will blind my employers to anything underneath. I’m still afraid that I will get that job only because the company needs to cap its ‘multicultural quota’ and not because of my mind. I’m still afraid that my brother, my cousin, my dad, will get forced to the ground and murdered because they were blessed with more melanin.
Racism is not dead.