theradishpress

Friday, May, 8, 20

The Ridge – make/shift

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 4:13 pm
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This was originally published in print for make/shift magazine in 2015.

 

The Ridge

make/shift magazine

2015

The first four episodes of The Ridge are available online at muzz.nyc.

The Ridge is a science fiction comedy web series about four Muslim friends in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, surviving racial profiling and alien attack. Created by Ali Abbas, the show playfully and intelligently highlights and deconstructs Muslim stereotypes. The Ridge is about beating viewers to the punch, while dissecting realities of Muslim life in the United States. 

While some stereotypes are played up for comedic effect, Aneesa (Layla Khoshnoudi), Laila (Sunita Deshpande), Isaac (Ali Abbas), and Sam (Abraham Makany) are not like any Muslim characters on television. They reflect their environment, mixing New York City hipster attitudes of apathy and irony with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Coming from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, all four display their heritage in clothing that meshes fashion with tradition, such as Aneesa’s modern scarves and Isaac’s sweater checkered with flags of Muslim countries. It’s not just the wardrobe–each character represents often-unseen facets of Muslim communities. Isaac is openly gay, Sam is a self-proclaimed lady’s man, and Aneesa and Laila are independent and commanding women. 

Aneesa’s scarf and Isaac’s sexuality are the two most obvious and challenged stereotypes on the show. Aneesa’s scarf is a style never shown on television, but recognizable to Muslim viewers. Laila questions Aneesa, telling Aneesa that scarves attract certain assumptions from within and outside the community. The exchange allows Aneesa to declare her choice in how she presents herself. Just as Aneesa’s scarf does not define her, Isaac’s sexuality does not define him, nor is he a gay stereotype. Homosexuality is a contentious issue within the Muslim community. Despite a queer Muslim population, homosexuality is illegal in Muslim countries. A gay Muslim character challenges assumptions for Muslim and non-Muslim viewers.

The biggest stereotype about Muslims revolves around terrorism. By looks alone, Aneesa, Laila, Isaac, and Sam do not fit the typical image of Muslim as terrorist. The characters are however under NYPD surveillance, and are eventually attacked by the police officer, Katherine, (Jade Lane) tasked with watching them, a reminder that to be Muslim – no matter how one appears and behaves – means to be targeted. The friends kill Katherine in self-defense, and hide her body, fearing they won’t be believed. Mixed up in the seriousness of racial profiling and victim blaming there is humor and some self-deprecation. Laila, for example, is more concerned about damaging her rug than the fact that her rug is being used to transport a dead body. Laila’s anxiety over the rug feels like an inside joke for Muslim viewers, but also relatable for all viewers in its absurdity.

The Ridge strives to create Muslim characters unique to those in popular culture, and based in reality. To see one’s self represented in a believable way is empowering and validating. Aneesa, Laila, Sam, and Isaac challenge assumptions of non-Muslim viewers, while legitimizing Muslims. The Ridge proves it is possible to portray a community in a positive, funny, and compelling way.

 

Sunday, March, 29, 20

Quarantine in the time of Corona

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 4:55 pm

Productivity is hard to come by in this realm of uncertainty. My quarantine began 22 June 2019 when I broke my leg – compound fracture of tibia, broken fibula, multiple ankle fractures. I moved from a hospital bed to my bed to the couch and in between. Anxiety coupled with physical limitations meant confinement. I began to venture out independently in November, back to campus January 2020. Quarantine with mobility is entirely different. I no longer have to call upon friends to bring me things or pick me up. I can do at home workouts – sometimes multiple times a day because body image and disordered eating don’t do well in forced isolation. But teenage me would have killed to be forced into isolation – the ability to be left alone, to tell folks they CANNOT come see me. I would have flourished without the internet…I say as I type this on the internet. And here I am on day 18 of social distancing and trying to be productive because I feel like I have not done enough. And that’s the problem, or part of it, the need to be productive, the feeling that if I am not productive there is something wrong. As if being in contact with students and working on courses and exercising and surviving are not productive. As if there is some measure of productivity. My partner’s lost work – indefinitely – brought about new levels of stress. Being a freelance writer without work for a year+ brings on stress. Being an adjunct professor has its own stress. Being rejected from the four phd programs I applied has its own stress. And here I am also enjoying the sunshine when it is out, the walks I can take uninterrupted. Here I am writing. Nothing of import. Here I am bringing myself to write, to think about more than mindless media consumption. Here I am trying to create. And here I am trying to reconnect with myself. And I am learning over and over and over again that that never ends.

Edited poem – edits 29 March 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 4:43 pm

False trials bring forth their smiles

White men lie from wooden podiums

refuse to speak without lies

their words are written as truth

MOVE, they say

or we’ll shoot.

MOVE, they say

and we’ll shoot.

Build a hearing and you will hear

more lies.

No one was wanted left alive.

They sit in suits with high ties.

They force false words out from

lying lips.

MOVE, they say

into our li(n)es of fire.

MOVE.

Friday, June, 19, 15

#blacklivesmatter

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 9:33 am
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Depayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Celementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.

These are the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, Wednesday, June 17.

Nine people. Nine African Americans. Murdered by a white man. Dylann Roof opened fire after apparently announcing the need to stop African Americans from raping “our” women and taking over the country.

As the story has been unfolding in the media, Dylann Roof is being presented as someone with a troubled mind and altercations in the past. Despite the fact that Roof blatantly targeted African Americans in an historical Black church, and authorities are calling his acts a hate crime, Roof is still being presented as some sort of wounded individual. Wounded by mental illness or a dark past. And, the most obvious words are not being stated by the authorities, that this is an act of racism. That Roof acted out of hatred for Black people. To call it what it is would require examining why. And examining why would lead to acknowledging that racism is still very present in the United States and that, according to this country, Black lives, in fact, do not matter.

Labeling Roof’s act a hate crime is also a very purposeful choice of words, South Carolina does not have any laws preventing or punishing hate crimes. As far as the state of South Carolina is considered, from a legal standpoint, Dylann Roof committed murder. Not murder prompted by hate or racism, just murder.

Roof’s arrest is being compared, by some, to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (just to name two). Brown and Garner were brutally murdered by police officers despite the fact that both were unarmed and begged for their lives. Brown asked why he was being shot and Garner, who was choked to death, declared his inability to breathe. The recent death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore, who was killed while in police custody, is another example of how Black lives are taken by the people who are supposedly intended to protect and serve. Meanwhile, Dylann Roof was escorted to a police car wearing a bullet proof vest – for his protection.

Let us not forget Jonathan Ferrell. Ferrell, a young Black man, was killed by police in Charlotte, NC, not far from where Dylann Roof was arrested. Ferrell had crashed his car and after a white home owner would not assist him and rather called police, Ferrell was shot multiple times, and killed as he ran towards police disoriented and seeking assistance.

When will we, as a nation, acknowledge that racism is still very much a part of the United States experience? Will we? What if Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s bombing of the Boston Marathon had not been considered an act of terrorism? What if their attack had been referred to simply as a hate crime or as murder?

To call Roof’s attack an act of terrorism would mean involving the federal government. And involving the federal government would require some deeper analysis. It would require more attention, long drawn out attention that would last throughout the trial and sentencing. By keeping Roof’s actions locally based, this story can die in the mainstream media. The media can abandon it the second Kim Kardashian bats an eyelash or Brad Pitt takes a shit.

The terrorism enacted by Roof against Depayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Celementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson, as well as the entire Black community, needs attention. It is up to us to keep calling out the names of those killed by the terrorist actions of Dylann Roof, the police, and the United States government. Senators, governors, the president – they can all talk about how sorrowful they are. They can all talk about gun control. They talk and talk. What they do not do is acknowledge the terrorism that is racism. They do not act.

Dylan Roof is 21. If racism were truly over, a 21 year-old would not sport confederate flags and think he has the right – the duty – to kill Black people.

Dylan Roof just did what he saw authorities doing. This country is systemically removing Black people from their homes, keeping them poor, and killing them. To call Roof a terrorist is absolutely what he is. To call this country terrorist is true too.

Let us not forget:

Rumain Brisbon, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Cochran, Jordan Baker, Miriam Carey, Jonathan Ferrell, Kimani Gray, Freddie Grey, Chavis Carter, Kendrec McDade, Shereese Francis, Wendell Allen, Alonzo Ashley, Aiyana Jones, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, the list goes on.

And because there is already so much literal white washing of the terrorist attack and attention being given to Roof and his personal life , let us remember who was killed:

Depayne Middleton Doctor – Retired, 49 year-old mother of four.

Cynthia Hurd – Regional Library Manager for St. Andrews Regional Library.

Susie Jackson – 87 year-old member of the church.

Ethel Lance- Cousin of Susie Jackson, 70 year-old retiree.

The Rev. Celementa Pinckney – Emanuel AME Church’s pastor and a state senator. He has a long history of outreach with the Black community.

Tywanza Sanders – 26 year-old who was shot when trying to protect a family member. He recently graduated from Allen University.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr. – 74 year-old pastor at Emanuel AME and also a graduate of Allen University.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton – She was a mother of three, reverend, and high school track coach.

Myra Thompson – 59 year-old, and the third pastor of Emanuel AME.

Sources: The Root, CNN, Think Progress, Gawker

Tuesday, June, 17, 14

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 12:01 pm

Look out for your broken heart.

I don’t know how to make it stop.

Sleep well with thoughts of loss

I hold close to you.

Dreams fill empty rooms 

and all I do is wait.

Look out for your broken heart,

it beats to rhythms without end.

This time I can make it stop.

Thursday, May, 29, 14

NY

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 2:29 pm
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Image

 

I missed NY for the first time today.

Or the thought os no longer living in NY. I will miss the ease of movement, the ability to be invisible, the endless supply of new food, music, at, and people. I will miss me in NY. I found myself in that city. A city so cluttered with objects and scents and sounds and people, so possible to get lost within. Not me. I found me. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always fun. It hurt much of the time. But I am better for it. I am without the same pains. Or now I know them and how to heal. I will miss wandering streets and finding new things. I will miss 11pm cupcake runs and 4am film screenings. I will miss walking along the river with a book in hand, searching for the perfect spot to read. I will miss my friends. I will miss NY even when it brought me down. I will miss the comforts I found.

I miss NY.

Wednesday, May, 28, 14

MOVE into the Fire

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 10:32 am
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False trials bring forth their smiles

White men lie from brown podiums

refuse to speak without lies

their words are written as truth

MOVE, they say

or we’ll shoot.

MOVE, they say

and we’ll shoot.

Build a hearing and you will hear

more lies.

No one was wanted left alive.

They sit in suits with high ties.

They force calm words out from

bigoted lips.

MOVE, they say

into our li(n)es of fire.

MOVE.

 

Thursday, May, 1, 14

Game of Thrones – Mythical History and Why Rape Need Not Exist

One of the appeals of Game of Thrones is that it appears to be historical fiction. In reading the books and watching HBO’s adaptation, it’s easy to get lost in a seemingly historical portrayal of our world. Then a dragon or a White Walker appears and you’re quickly reminded that this is fantasy.

The third episode of the fourth season featured a rape scene. It’s not the first rape scene in the series – the books are sadly more explicit when it comes to rape – but it is one of the more disturbing violations yet. Jaime Lannister rapes his sister Cersei next to the dead body of their son, Joffrey. Sadly, the fact that the Lannister siblings are/were lovers has caused some viewers to question whether or not it’s rape. She said no. It’s rape. End of fucking discussion.

Before this episode aired, I’d been thinking a lot about rape in Game of Thrones. That anyone is debating whether or not Jaime raped Cersei is problematic and disturbing. It is also telling of our society. Why is rape up for debate? Why is there so much violence against women in Game of Thrones? I realized one reason the series feels like historical fiction is that it is riddled with white supremacy and sexism. Aamer Rahman has written about the white supremacy and white savior complex in the series, specifically in regard to Daenerys TargaryenShe isn’t just fair skinned, even her hair is strikingly white. She walks from Brown city to Brown city liberating poor Brown people from their slave masters. You know, so they can fight for her, win her the crown, and then…what? And Daenerys herself is the victim of violence. She was sold by her brother into a “marriage.” She was raped by her husband, but it’s written so that she totally gets into the rape and falls in love with him, so no worries, bros! Did I mention her husband was totally a savage and she helped tame him? So much racism and sexism intertwined, my head might explode.

Cersei and Daenerys are not the only victims of rape. In the fourth episode of season four, former Night’s Watchmen are seen raping women “until they’re dead” and threatening to rape Meera Reed. I felt my stomach churn watching these disgusting men. And I found myself wondering, “why I am still watching this show?” Every female in the story is either raped or threatened with rape.

Considering that Game of Thrones is fantasy, why is rape (and white supremacy) necessary? George RR Martin could easily have created a world without white supremacy and rape. And listen, watching vengeance enacted – most often by men – against the rapists is not as satisfying as it NOT EXISTING. 

I understand that when creating art we use things we know, and all stories are variations of stories that have already been told. I also understand that this kind of writing is lazy and lacks creativity.

Arguing that Daenerys is a strong woman and genuinely invested in freeing enslaved people is a convenient way to ignore both issues. So what if she is? She still inhabits a made up world that allows her whiteness to gain the loving devotion of Brown people only she is apparently capable of saving; it also allows for her to be subjected to violence against her female body. As a female bodied person of color, I am tired of being on the receiving end of violence and discrimination.

I want creators like Gene Roddenberry who can imagine worlds where humans have evolved and are trying to better themselves. Star Trek is by no means perfect, but at least Roddenberry tried, and worked against expectations. I want writers who make up entirely fantastic worlds that reach outside the realm of what our reality is and create something better, something that challenges us, something to aspire to.

Tuesday, February, 11, 14

My Body. Not Myself.

Filed under: a moment in my head — theradishpress @ 2:12 pm
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I naively thought that as soon as I was out of New York – perhaps as soon as I was on the plane leaving New York – all my troubles would go away. The things that had been weighing heavily upon me mentally and emotionally would dissipate into a thin layer of fog – one more piece of someone to cloud the murky skyline. But of course, that did not happen. Once I was alone in Denver I was faced with myself. As a friend later pointed out to me, I was busy helping take care of other people in New York. Too busy to focus on myself. Here I was, alone, forced to really look at myself, inside and out. I was faced with fears I had buried for survival, and self-hating thoughts. Perhaps the biggest challenge was something that began to surface when I was packing for my trip back in New York. After my last day at work and the frenzy of a quick trip to Virginia and Christmas had died down, I was left to to turn my room into a small storage space. My days were dedicated to inviting friends to hang out while I packed up my room and all I could need for my trip into a hiking bag and waist pack.

My mind wandered to my body. I began to scrutinize every part of me. Back in August I weighed myself at a friend’s house. It was the first time I stepped onto a scale – outside of a doctor’s office – in perhaps ten years. I learned that weighing myself caused me to fixate on the number, obsess over bringing it down. In my younger years, I had done very unhealthy things to lose weight: thrown up and followed a horrific diet that made me lose ten pounds in three days. When I weighed myself in August, I was giving into the temptation to obsess, to know what number I was at, to hopefully disprove my suspicions of weight gain. I discovered I had gained almost twenty pounds in a little over a year. The next few days were a spiral of downward emotions. I had a breakdown and was so angry and disappointed in myself. I told two friends at first who I thought might help offer me some comfort, but I was not made to feel better – rather worse – by their assurances that I looked great. The point was, I didn’t think I looked great, and I felt even worse having known for certain I put on weight.

After feeling myself sink deeply into sadness, I decided to do something I never had. I reached out for help. I wrote out exactly what the issue was, how I was feeling, the despair that encased me. This – my body and my weight – has been a lifelong struggle. I have always been overweight. I have always been treated unkindly and often cruelly because of my weight. This isn’t just about wanting to look a certain way, it’s about wanting to have some sort of control over my emotions, and to not feel so badly about myself. In addition to being a lifelong fat person, I’ve always been an emotional eater. Food has suppressed my anxiety and comforted my depression. It has brought me moments of ease. It still does. Of course,  the irony is that food has also greatly contributed to my anxiety and depression, as well as physical ailments.

I have had digestive issues as far back as I can remember. By the summer of 2011 I was so sick that everything I ate practically passed right through me. I soon was eating primarily rice, potatoes, avocados, and bananas. I feared anything else would incapacitate me. Even those foods were not always kind. Finally, after feeling a serious impact on my school, work, and social life, and being told by my general physician I simply had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), I saw a holistic doctor. I was afraid to leave the house most days, for fear I wouldn’t make a short subway ride without needing an emergency bathroom break. The holistic doctor did something called Nutrition Response Testing and told me I had Candida – an overgrowth of yeast in my stomach. I was put on a strict diet of no yeast, no sugar, and nothing fermented (in summary). This was a three week intensive diet that once cleared the Candida would require I keep to it 80% of the time for the rest of my life. Additionally, I was given supplements to help me detox and later probiotics to repair the damage done to my stomach. Due to my illness, I had already lost a significant amount of weight from my inability to eat. The detox caused even more weight to drop. For the first time in years, I did not feel physically sick, and I was admittedly excited about the weight loss. I could finally fit into clothes I liked. I could shop in the not plus sized section. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying being plus sized is bad, I am saying that I felt excited about how I looked and what it meant in terms of my shopping. I am fully admitting that I liked being smaller.

I also began to notice a shift in my mental and emotional states. I realized that gluten made me sluggish and depressed. Dairy and caffeine made me anxious. It was amazing to finally make connections between what I ate and how I felt – physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. The thing about being an emotional eater is that I was never really aware of what I had eaten. If I was asked at the end of the day what I had eaten, I couldn’t remember most of the time. I ate to push emotions down, to cover feelings, to hide myself deep down inside. For at least five months I stuck strictly to the Candida diet. Once I began to eat outside of it, I slowly felt more and more that I could eat whatever I wanted without getting sick. It’s a funny thing, my stomach still gets upset from time to time, and I can’t help but momentarily panic that I am sick all over again. I found that mental health was just as important to treat in conjunction with my physical health. I was already seeing a therapist, but I needed to talk about these issues specifically and draw more connections between all the aspects of me.

The thing about weight is, no one really wants to talk about it. Yes, I could discuss it with my doctor and therapist, but weight and body image conversations still border on taboo. It took me years to even broach the subject with my therapist, mostly because I didn’t want to acknowledge that my weight was in any way contributing to my states of anxiety and depression. And most of the time, I didn’t even think about it. I learned to not think about my weight. My residual self image was so far removed from my actual body – I so often thought of myself as much smaller than I was. It was a sort of way to cope with my actual size. I found that I was getting a lot of compliments on my weight loss, never mind it was all due to sickness. But it got to a point where some people expressed concern, and specifically about how much I talked about diet. I suddenly felt I needed to keep my mouth shut about my diet and weight. It was so central to my life at this point, and having never been thin, it was all new to me. I needed to talk about it. I had this new body and felt lonely in it. As with so many things in my life, I learned to bury what I was feeling. And so, as addicts do, I returned to food. My occasional strays from the diet became daily acts of consumption. I kept telling myself that I could get back to a healthy diet, that one meal a day with something unhealthy wasn’t bad, and then two meals a day, then maybe three, snacks. I began to wonder if in order for me to succeed at healthy eating habits, I would need to completely cut junk out.

I have an ability to maintain focus and follow strict rules, but once I falter, I lose sight of myself and my goals. It’s not only with food, but with food it’s the most difficult. So much of my day is me thinking about what I will eat, and what I will eat based on where I am going and what I am doing, and what will I eat for the next few days and how much will I eat. Food consumes me as much, if not more so, as I consume it. In order to be able to heal from this body hatred and to move forward in a healthy fashion, I need to be open and honest about the role(s) food plays in my life. I need to learn to love myself, to truly love the body that I have, no matter its state. And at the same time, I need and want to work on my relationship with food.

I could write so much more about this. I could write essay upon essay about the impact weight and food have had on my life. I am going to take a break here because even opening up – despite being helpful – brings so much focus to the issue that I need to step back and not fixate and obsess.

Friday, February, 7, 14

12 Years a Slave

When the film ends – over two hours of a harsh reality I have never seen so blatantly exposed on a Hollywood screen – words come across the screen declaring that there is no knowledge of how, when, or where Solomon Northup died. There it is, the value of Black life in our society. Solomon Northup survived being drugged and sold into slavery, wrote his own story, and then worked as an abolitionist, only to be forgotten and swept under the proverbial rug. I began to think back on my public school education in Fairfax County Virginia – one of the wealthiest and (boasting) most diverse school districts in the United States. The topic of slavery was glossed over. There was never any room for debate – an agreed upon bad thing from our past, but there was never any examination of slavery and its impact on African-Americans and the entire country. 

While slavery was never up for debate in the classroom (I guess good job on that front teachers), there was a definite period – primarily in elementary school – when we were taught about Columbus, Ponce de Leon, and other colonizers as if they were heroes. If these men were heroes then presumably their actions were heroic. Thankfully, I was raised in a house where we were told the truth in regard to colonization – after all, I am from two heritages that have been colonized – and the subsequent genocide of indigenous tribes on North and South American soil, and then the slave trade. But still, that was my fortune at home – the school system made little effort to expose the horrors of colonization and slavery.

As I watched 12 Years a Slave I kept thinking about how important Northup’s story is. Steve McQueen does a brilliant job of not shying away from the brutality of slavery. And there are no white saviors. Yes, Brad Pitt portrays a man (Bass) who assists Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in regaining his freedom, but when Bass is first introduced he uses the “n” word when speaking in reference to the enslaved men he is working with – at the same time, arguing with Epps (Michael Fassbender) over the immorality of slavery. Bass’ use of the word and hesitation at helping Northup set him apart as not a clear hero – too often stories about oppressions against people of color are told from a White perspective (Dances With Wolves, Geronimo, Cry Freedom), and the writers could have easily tried to make Bass a completely likable character. But this is Northup’s story, not Bass’, not Epps’, no one but his.

The film is a reminder of the ways in which slavery and the oppression of African-Americans is still so engrained in US culture. That Northup could not trust White people, the rifts created between Black and White women, pitting Black folks against each other, denying proper education and disenfranchising Black youth – all these experiences that Northup and other Black folks in the film endured, are in effect today as well. Yes, I know that Black folks are not in shackles, so don’t bother commenting that. And I know that there are people who would argue this point – White people, let’s be real – and ask for specific examples. The thing is, if you don’t know this to be the case and refuse to believe it, I have zero interest in engaging in a debate. There is nothing to debate. There are DC public schools that are a reflection of how our country values or devalues Black life and education, there is Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s current celebrity status, there is Miley Cyrus co-opting Black culture and identity along with a long list of other White pop stars, there is the fact that the majority of men in prisons are Black, and I could continue. But these are only the blatant discriminations, not even the micro-aggressions that occur on a daily basis. And as I stated, there is no debate.

When Mistress Epps (Sarah Paulson) throws the liquor bottle at Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) I was so stunned by the pure cruelty of the act. As Mistress Epps’ jealousy of Patsey grew and violence toward Patsey escalated, I began to think about the layers of complexity within the story. There are moments of sadness for Mistress Epps – I was shocked at the sadness I felt for Mistress Epps, stuck in a marriage to a cruel man who has no interest in her sexually. Slavery and the constant rape of Black women by White men created animosity from White women, only the anger was directed at Black women. As if Patsey and other Black women had some say in the actions of these White men. That Mistress Epps’ rage was directed at Patsey and not her husband goes to show the depth and reach of racism. I was also reminded of the ways in which patriarchy prevails, pitting women against each other, while men remain without fault. 

Armsby (Garret Dillahunt) and Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) were fascinating characters as well. tHe latter because he seems in some ways genuinely kind, but when it came down to it, he was just as scary as Epps. In some ways, a man like Ford is more terrifying because at least Epps was clear in his cruelty. There was no question that Epps could not be trusted. Ford seemed perhaps to have goodness to him, but ultimately, Ford only wanted to protect himself and refused to hear Northup’s truth. Ford also gave Northup to Epps. Armsby though, is the perfect example of White guilt and White supremacy. Armsby works the cotton fields along the African-Americans who have been enslaved. It is a reminder that poor White people were also subjected to some of the labors of slavery. Armsby, though, is not beaten and is publicly forgiven and shown kindness for doing a terrible job, while the African-Americans are whipped and beaten routinely. Armsby reveals to Northup – as he helps salve Northup’s lashed back – that he was once in charge of regulating slaves for a plantation owner. Armsby became a drunk and could not work, and was then sentenced to the cotton fields. Armsby tells Northup that the task of hitting another human takes its toll, which led him to drink. He said that some men buried the pain of it, and others drank it away. Armsby’s acknowledgment that his work was inhumane causes Northup to think he can trust Armsby with the task of helping him regain his freedom. Armsby’s quick betrayal is yet another reminder of White supremacy – Armsby saw a way to gain himself loyalty from Epps and get money from Northup. By the time Bass was on screen all I could think was “No, don’t trust him! He’s white!” 

When Bass came through for Northup I wondered at the casting of Brad Pitt. I could not help but think that as one of the producers Pitt would rather be in a favorable light. And I wondered at the extent to which White guilt can dictate actions. Did Pitt want to be a “good guy” in a film with so many horrible White characters? And can we blame him? I can’t say that I wouldn’t necessarily want the same. It made me wonder at Ejiofor and Fassbender as well. The former is an English native of Nigerian heritage and the latter a German native of Irish and German descent. This particular story is not native to their homes, but as Fassbender stated in his Daily Show interview, it is a universal and important story. Slavery was common in other colonizing parts of the world – it lasted longer in the United States, but not exclusive to it. And I wondered more at McQueen, a Black Englishman. Perhaps this story is best told from an outsider perspective. There is no desire to hide behind guilt or shame. The first McQueen film I saw was Hunger (starring Fassbender) about Irish nationals who went on a hunger strike under English imprisonment. I wondered at an Englishman telling this story, but upon realizing McQueen is Black my thought was “oh, he gets it. He knows what it’s like to be Othered”. The point is, Northup’s story, and the story of slavery in the United States is an important part of our history. It is part of what has shaped our nation, and we cannot ignore that fact. We cannot ignore the fact that its impact is prevalent. There are Black folks alive today who have relatives not that long dead who were enslaved, and there are Black folks alive today who lived under Jim Crow. To argue that slavery is a thing of the past is to diminish or straight out ignore the consequences of its existence. 

 

 

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