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Day 28: I Am Not Your Negro

“The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have the nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger, I am a man. And if you think that I am, then you better find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.”

-James Baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, that is based on Remember This House a manuscript that James Baldwin never finished before his death in 1985. This film commemorates Baldwin, while reminiscing on his relationships with civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Surely this is a film that I think every American must see - especially at a time like this, when we are struggling with race relations in this country.

It is a brilliantly extraordinary piece of artwork that any person, of any race, religion, background, or education level can learn from. A compilation of videos, images and texts, from the archives are assiduously combined to create a piece that is aesthetically beautiful. Conceptually it all makes sense, and is incredibly relevant without any modern visual. Through a lens of exploration, viewers navigate through the history of racism in this country and are challenged to learn from the history of this country. Our society so often forgets the importance of remembering and repenting those sins that were committed in the past; Instead, we commemorate and honor aspects of this country, forgetting that which we should remember. And race is a topic that has been ignored for entirely too long.

Watching this film was assignment for my African-American studies class on the representation of black bodies in all avenues of media. My teaching assistant, Jesse Motif who strongly advocates for learning history and its importance, invited my class to see this film. When Jesse expressed his thoughts on history, I was reminded of a quote that I think we should pay more attention to. Jorge Santayana said that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote reminds us that studying history, learning from history and our pasts are a crucial part in the effort to avoid repeating those same mistake made. And if we don’t learn from it, what type of hell on earth will we be condemned to live in?

I mean, think about it. How do we as individuals learn from our mistakes? How do we grow? How do we better ourselves? We learn from the decisions we have made in the past. We learn from the good, bad, and the ugly. And if we hadn’t learned from those things - we would not have been able to grow, we would not be the individuals that at we are today - we would be stuck in the same place. Learning from mistakes is a crucial part of growth. In order to grow, we must constantly nourish ourselves, learning about ourselves and ways to make ourselves better. The same thing applies for America, she is too old to be making the same old mistakes.

So what is the solution to race issues in this country? I am not entirely sure, but as a young artist and social activist, this is a question that constantly rises in my mind. But here are a few thought provoking solutions that I invite everyone who reads this to think about:

  1. Talking about race. Having the necessary, but uncomfortable conversations. Educating people on issues of race in this country, especially the systems that flourish and profit off of racism. Realize that some people lack the knowledge, and do not become upset with them just educate them. Ridding of the fear to talk about race and race as an issue in this country, might then give us the courage to find a solution.

  2. Educating yourself on OUR-story. Now is the best time to educate yourself on the history of this country, your people, and everything surrounding you. There is a plethora of resources that we can and must take advantage of in order to learn about our history. Go outside of the textbooks, outside of what the teachers are telling you, outside of what you hear in the news, and find the information. I even invite you to tell your own story, because “until the lions have their historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” meaning that no one will know your story, until you tell it. Much like we wouldn’t know the stories of those who came before us, if they weren’t able to tell us.

  3. Making a change. As the people of this nation, it is our job to make a change. No matter who is the president, who is in the senate, or who is in any position that is “deemed” greater than us, we have the power - this country would be nothing without . We can not look for those people to make changes for us, because they will only make change in a way that is beneficial to them. If you can make that change on any medium, do it!

  4. Prayer. This statement is simple. Pray for this country, and the issues of race in this country. If you are not a person of faith, meditate, think about solutions, and hope for the best.

  5. Bloodshed. That one word answer, is what the film left viewers to think about as the film came to a closing. James Baldwin, a very profound intellectual, expressed that the only solution to the issue of race in this country, is bloodshed - the problem will not solved until blood is on the leaves. This answer is something that will stick with me, because of the unfortunate truth behind it. Major changes in this country only seem to happen, when blood is shed. We can’t put band-aids over our issues, be need to dismantle this country from its top, all the way down to its foundation, and rebuild it up. But the unsettling thing is, how much blood needs to be loss this time?

Watch this film! It is a must see - it will be a film that reminds and educates you on this country’s past while prophesying the direction that we have the potential to head in...that we have already headed into. I task all of you to continue to think about the history of this country, and solutions to the issue of race that engulfs us. Post your thoughts of the film below, your thoughts on this article, and anything else relating to this topic.

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