I Am Not Your Negro
I went to a screening of I Am Not Your Negro last night with my partner. It was a compelling, demanding film. I’m not going to review the film here as there are plenty of reviews already on the Internet written by people with a great deal more skill and discernment than I possess. All I’ll say on that matter is this: Go see it.
What I do want to talk about, and what I am most qualified to discuss, is the answer to the question my partner asked me as we were walking home. She asked, “How did you feel about the movie?”
At the time, I felt a mixture of anger and sadness. I think that’s a reasonable spectrum of emotions, given that I’d just watched a film describe years of despicable, demeaning, and violent treatment that has been endured by other Americans -- by other humans. However, I also understood that time brings clarity, particularly when it separates you from tragedy. So, that was my answer then, but it wasn’t a particularly good answer. It wasn’t a particularly useful answer.
Now, a day later, I ask myself the same question: How did watching I Am Not Your Negro make me feel? It made me feel responsible. Not responsible in the way I’d feel if I was directly the cause of systemic injustice against black people, or brown people, or people with fewer opportunities and less privilege than I have (though I, by no means, believe I am absolutely guilt-free in this regard). I feel responsible because I understand that inaction equals complicity. I feel responsible because I understand that part of the benefit of being privileged is having the capability to help others. I acknowledge that the ability to be ignorant is due to my privilege. I understand that it’s not “their problem”, it’s “our problem”.
I feel responsible because I know I am part of that problem, but I also feel responsible because I know I can be part of the solution.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin