Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

'12 Years A Slave' And The White Fantasy Of A New Species

Features
by Márcio de Abreu
February 3, 2014 1:24 PM
76 Comments
  • |

12 Years a Slave will not be released in Brazil until February 28. I could not resist the urge to watch it. As a Brazilian who lived in the US for four years, and who had the chance to experience American culture from the standpoint of an ethnic minority member, here is what I learned from Steve McQueen’s latest masterpiece.

In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup, a free black man, is forced to fight two distinct battles. The first one is lost before he even has a chance to fight. Tricked and drugged by two white men, Solomon is kidnapped, sold into slavery and sent to work at a plantation in Georgia. The second battle lasts over a decade and represents the most sordid and horrifying feature of American slavery exposed by Steve McQueen’s new film. Throughout the 12 years during which Solomon spent in captivity, he had to fight against the restless and brutal attempts of his white oppressors to force him to embody the most bizarre of all racist fantasies: the existence of a different type of species – not quite an animal; not quite a human – which they called “niggers”. Certainly, to a great extent, that was the fate of not only Solomon Northup, but of every African-American that lived in the United States during those days.

No other movie before 12 Years a Slave – not even Tarantino’s parody of slavery, Django Unchained, and it’s 115 uses of the most infamous of American racial slurs – has been able to reconnect the word “nigger” to its past in such a genuine way, and to present such a clear and explicit demonstration of what the term actually means and does. More than just an offensive racial epithet used to refer to individuals of African descent, in 12 Years a Slave the word “nigger” symbolizes a subhuman being, a creature incapable of self-rule, doomed to live under the yoke of a master, and whose presence in America represented a necessary and convenient burden with which white folks had to cope.

It is, although, important to acknowledge that however convincing slaves would be when displaying their submissiveness, their ignorance, their servitude, their inferiority and their childlike ways in the face of their “master”, they did it with the sole purpose of preserving their lives. In other words, the existence of a grotesque creature such as a “nigger” could only be real in the racist mind, and the conformation of black slaves to this white fantasy a strategy of survival. To role-play while preserving his true identity was a skill Solomon Northup had to learn the hard way. The strength of spirit African-Americans needed to have in order to endure such a state of psychological warfare was best summarized over one hundred years later in the words of James Baldwin: “you can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger”.

It is, however, curious to see that the echoes of such a horrific white endeavor resonate today through the mouths of black youngsters and hip-hop artists. Is such phenomenon a product of ignorance? Is it the expression of a deeply rooted lack of self-worth? Would it be the result of an ongoing systematic racism in America? Is it internalized hatred transformed into self-hatred? Or is it, as many like to say, just cultural appropriation? Whatever the case may be, after watching 12 Years a Slave, I am inclined to agree that the acceptance of such a trend by some African-Americans does not represent a continuity of the struggle endured by their ancestors in order to preserve and affirm their humanity. One of the most valuable lessons one can learn from Steve McQueen’s film, and its shockingly raw portrait of the reality of slavery in America, is that a “nigger” is not a human being, but a fantasy of the white racist mind. Today, to label someone or allow to be labeled a “nigger” is to be respectively a perpetrator or an accomplice of such a fantasy.  

But, perhaps, as a person who is not from the United States and who is not African-American, I can’t completely grasp the appropriation and contemporary use of the word “nigger” by some Blacks in the US. However, the fact that there are today a significant number of African-Americans who advocate for its abolition, and that repudiate its usage regardless of context, tells me that I should not regard my own position on such matter as a result of a supposed inability to fully understand Black American culture. In any case, I can’t imagine how any American of African descent, after watching 12 Years a Slave, could still be able to call one another a “nigger”, or even a “nigga”, without feeling slightly uncomfortable, to say the least.

*In Brazil, to address or refer to someone using an offensive racial slur is considered a non-bailable criminal offense that can result in 1 to 3 years of imprisonment.


Márcio de Abreu is a Brazilian Cultural Critic and Producer specialized in Afro-Brazilian culture.


Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

76 Comments

  • Alfredo | April 22, 2014 3:27 PMReply

    I think we have freedom of speech on this country,having said that,every single emigrant group in America has been called names, I experienced that myself,but I will never call names anyone, because I choose to do so.

  • veritasorior | April 7, 2014 11:41 PMReply

    How old are you people? You are disrespectful to older black Americans. Although you know our sacrifice and what we survived it doesn't stop you from offending us. Young people insult us while enjoying the fruits of our labor. Our relatives and friends suffered and died. We were denied freedom, beaten, jailed, abused and called the N-word by whites, not you. We are the ones that marched and knocked down doors that locked us out; The same doors you have no problem walking through while disrespecting those that sacrificed so that you could be free. We know what the N-word represents. 12 years a slave and 42 defines exactly what the N-word means. To say that we "haven't moved on" is self-serving comment from those that sold out the Robinsons, Kings, Evers, and Merediths. The use of the N-word has not brought money into the black community. This music is sold by white record companies and 70% of the sales are made to young white males. Those dollars stay in the white community. Racism still exists and those that you say "haven't moved on" are ones that are still being beaten and abused because we refuse to bow our heads to racists. In my day we called you house negroes, Uncle Toms and sell outs. We behaved circumspectly because we knew that our misbehavior would reflect upon all black people. If we did use the N-word, it was because a black person was ignorant, disrespectful, and didn't know how behave.

  • Marcio | April 8, 2014 11:15 PM

    Always great to hear the truth being told by an elder. Thank you for you comment, VERITASORIOR!

  • Janet | March 10, 2014 11:08 PMReply

    Maya Angelou to Dave Chapelle...

    “I believe words are things,” she says.
    She begins to describe a bottle that has the word “poison” written on it.
    On this bottle, we know that what’s inside is poison.
    It’s evident. But then, she says, if you put that same poison in Bavarian crystal… that doesn’t mean it’s not poison. “The ‘n’ word was created to divest people of their humanity,” she says, “Words are things.” -

  • Marcio | March 11, 2014 9:02 AM

    Tell them, Janet!!! Thank you!

  • samm jay | March 4, 2014 6:33 AMReply

    "Thank you so much for telling me you age, CJ. Now I understand your inability to have an honest debate"

    That is the most blatantly intellectually dishonest thing you could pull. Using a obvious logical fallacy to disregard another person's comments, do you realise how pathetically ironic your statement is?

    "I am also qualified to talk and write about it since I have a Master's Degree in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies"

    You have a thing for arguments from authority don't you?

  • Marcio | February 20, 2014 1:01 PMReply

    All right CJ, let's change the tone of our conversation and hopefully we can learn something from each other. The reason I say you are not being honest with the way you present your arguments is because, from the beginning, instead of sticking to what I wrote in my article, you keep making flawed assumptions about what I believe and stand for without knowing anything about my background and who I am. Here are some examples:

    You said in your first comment, "I'm curious as to how you can see the ugliness of the N word in 12 Years a Slave but not in Djungle Unchained?" I never said I didn't see the ugliness on the N-word in Djungle Unchained. You assumed that. I basically said that Tarantino's movie did not transmit what the N-word actually means and does with the same eloquence that 12 Years did. Please, ready the article.

    You also decided to assume that I only have a problem when African-Americans use the N-word: "If you were really sincere and despised the N word you would have an issue with the word being said at all, your problem is you don't like Black people saying it otherwise you would've included how can anyone say it not just African-Americans".

    CJ, did you really read the article? Did you not notice my attack on white supremacy? Do I really need to literally spell, word by word, that I do have a problem with the white use of the N-word. I thought that was pretty explicit in the article.

    These are just a couple of examples. For instance, you kept suggesting that I have a problem with the black empowerment and agency embodied by Djungle, even after I compared him to Sweetback. Have you ever watched or heard about the groundbreaking 1970s black film Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song? If you had, then you would have not insisted on another false assumption.

    That is why I think you are not being honest, CJ. Here is another one: "Your points are similar to Anne Coulter, Bill O Reilly…" Really, CJ? You really think that the article I wrote is the type of material that would feature on a Bill O Reilly website or that would be supported the FOX network?

    CJ, I'm not trying to convince anyone to stop using the N-word, or any other word for that matter. I was just expressing my views. You could have done the same without having to try to paint a picture of me based on your own assumptions and that has nothing to do with who I really am or stand for.

    Finally, as a Latino who lived in the US for four years (including living with an American family in Michigan and going to high school in upstate NY), who has worked with African-Americans for over eight years, and who is engaged to an African-American woman, yes, I believe I am entitled to talk about race relations in the US. I am also qualified to talk and write about it since I have a Master's Degree in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies with a focus on Black representations in mainstream American media. And before you even try to go there, no CJ, that does not make me an expert on African-American culture, which I never claimed to be. In any case, all of that doesn't necessarily explain why Shadow and Act decided to post my article. What really does is the fact that they thought it was relevant and a well-written piece of work. Fortunately, the great majority of people posting here seem to agree with them.

    I hope it is now clear why I think you were being dishonest in your comments and in the way you responded to my article. We do not need to agree with each other, CJ. Neither we need to leave this debate felling either victorious or defeated. That's not the purpose. I have my views and you have yours, and I respect them even if I do not agree with them. So, please, next time you post a comment, limit yourself to expressing your views on the subject, and try not to paint a picture of me based on your mere assumptions. Thank you!

  • Marcio | February 15, 2014 8:43 AMReply

    I would like to ask the folks who don't have a problem with the glamorization of the N-word by some hip hop artists what they think of Nicki Minaj's new album cover. I'm pretty sure some of you think it is problematic. But is it problematic because it associates Malcolm X with the N-word, or because it was done by Nicki Minaj? Would it be ok if it was a Tupac's album cover? Would it be ok to use Malcolm's picture associated with the N-word in that way if the album's content was revolutionary? Would it be ok if it was a picture of any other African-American rather than Malcolm X? If so, why is it disrespectful towards Malcolm X but not towards any other African-American? From my limited understanding of African-American culture, and given the consequences of the glamorization of the N-word, would I be completely off to say that "the chickens are coming home to roost"? Btw, I'm not trying to be offensive or sarcastic. I hope some of you will agree these are legitimate questions. And yes, we are still talking about the use of the N-word.

  • Malmuaa | March 5, 2014 2:21 PM

    What type of Latino are you though? Latino is not a race, I am of Afro-latino descent and my family comes from Brazil. We also have Angolan, and Ethiopian roots. There are Blacks all over the world. The first Slaves of Africa, went to South American countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Brazil (having the largest population) Guatemala, Peru, and so on. In other words what type of Latino are you White Hispanic, Mulatto, Zambo, or Mestizo?

  • CJ | February 20, 2014 9:33 AM

    How am I not having an honest debate? Am I calling you names? You have yet to refute one fact I gave you yet you state Im not having a honest debate. Your getting emotional, sir. Your telling me what I am because I dont agree with you. Im dont know who you are or what made anyone deem you qualified enough to write an article on this subject, on this blog but I hope this is the last time any person who cares about the real root & gist of this topic hears from you.

  • CJ | February 20, 2014 9:32 AM

    I think its hip to use the N word. Really, thats what I think. Blacks are getting rich off words not, "Black on Black crime, misogyny, sexism, and so on." Reiterating: Anne Coulter, Bill O Reilly, Dr Laura Schlessinger, & Google double standard N word. Disprove me. "they are the ones showing to the world their lack of self-respect and dignity, not the whites," again, from a white perspective, not Black. You want the N word to me to Black people what it means to white people rather than just saying its a disgusting word & no one should use it.

  • CJ | February 20, 2014 9:18 AM

    "Maybe you did not literally put words in my mouth, but you claim to know what I dislike or believe (based on your flawed assumptions)" Hypocritical much, you just did this to me: "coming up with arguments to excuse the use of the N-word," I didnt excuse use of the N word not one time. I simply rejected your one sided argument & gross misunderstanding of anything related to the N word & race in America.

  • CJ | February 20, 2014 9:07 AM

    "white people don't give a damn that some blacks are making money off of it." Reiterating: Anne Coulter, Bill O Reilly, Dr Laura Schlessinger, & Google double standard N word. Your opinion is your opinion but thats all you have I have facts.

  • Marcio | February 19, 2014 6:37 PM

    Thank you so much for telling me you age, CJ. Now I understand your inability to have an honest debate, i.e. trying to be right at all costs as opposed to learning from each other. But, above all, now I can see why you're so preoccupied with coming up with arguments to excuse the use of the N-word. You probably think it's hip to use it, calling your boys by it, and you don't want to stop doing it. You don't even want to look at it critically. Your age also tells me why you believe white people have a problem with blacks glamorizing it and supposedly becoming rich from its glamorization. Don't forget that some of those same Blacks are also becoming rich from the glamorization of Black on Black crime, misogyny, sexism, and so on. No CJ, white people don't give a damn that some blacks are making money off of it. You know why? Because at the end of the day they are also making lots money from it. The only difference is that when Blacks glamorize the N-word, they are the ones showing to the world their lack of self-respect and dignity, not the whites. Like I said before, there are somethings more important than money, i.e. self-respect and dignity. Anyways, I'm done with discussing this with you. As you enjoy so much having the last word, feel free to keep posting your comments. Maybe someone else will reply.

  • CJ | February 19, 2014 5:45 PM

    Lil Wayne disparaged Emmett Tills brutal murder in a song without using the N word. Im a 22 yr old African American male, I do feel as though younger African Americans lack a respect & knowledge for their history. But the N word is uncontrollable. As long as Black people exist the N word will be as you call it glamorized. By your logic slaves & black people who lived under the Jim Crow regime glamorized the N word too. Or somehow influenced whites to say it & brought it upon themselves. Our very existed glamorizes the N word. But honestly I don't see how it helps or hurts us. I do not that the white supremacist world does not like us saying it, because as far as their concerned its their word.

  • CJ | February 19, 2014 5:33 PM

    So now with Nicki Minaj you see an opportunity to prove what? Your gasp of the topic of race in America is as you’ve owned up to is limited which is easy to see. Your points are similar to Anne Coulter, Bill O Reilly, Dr Laura Schlessinger & a whole list of others. What is your motive, sir?

  • CJ | February 19, 2014 5:29 PM

    Lmao, your sad dude. Disprove my points, dont come back with conjecture, disprove it. By your own admission you have limited grasp of the topic of race in America. I don’t know a thing about Brazilian culture,wont pretend to nor speak on it, please take notes. What you fail to understand is that the chickens are already roosting. As long as Black people exist the N word will be glamorized. You focus on Black Americans using it, which you find problematic. I pointed out that White supremacists find Black use of the N word problematic as well, which you disagreed with but I proved you wrong.

  • Marcio | February 19, 2014 3:54 PM

    Oh! I'm sorry CJ, I didn't realize that the N-word was there by accident. I also didn't realize that it has nothing to do with the fact that both her and Malcolm X are Black (among other reasons). Wait, maybe it was Malcolm's image that was there by accident. Oh my God, I'm so confused now! I guess you're right, the N-word featuring next to an image of Malcolm X is absolutely irrelevant. I'm so sorry! I will be more careful next time… I didn't mean to wound the feelings of folks who support the glamorization of the N-word when I said that "the chickens are coming home to roost". Please, don't feel offended. Are we still friends?

  • CJ | February 18, 2014 4:43 PM

    Whether she used the N word or not it is offensive. Like when Martin Luther King Jr's images was used for a so called Freedom 2 Twerk party. They never used the N word yet it was still offensive. Belittling the sacrifice any civil rights leader made to something frivolous is disrespectful, with or without the N word. So it is not the chickens coming home to roost. Know what you are talking about.

  • CJ | February 18, 2014 4:36 PM

    Nicki Minaj was not referring to Malcolm X as the N word. She was basically comparing her trials and tribulations with unworthy male suitors to Malcom X being on guard for his life from the terroristic wing of the Nation of Islam. That is offensive.

  • BluTopaz | February 15, 2014 9:49 AM

    "given the consequences of the glamorization of the N-word, would I be completely off to say that "the chickens are coming home to roost"

    HA! Tell them, Marcio. Half of these Black fools out here who excuse the use of the n word have to google that phrase to know what you're referring to.

  • MK | February 13, 2014 9:46 AMReply

    This discussion feels like the ones that arise whenever non-European blacks comment on African European culture, and when non-Latino blacks comment on Latino African/South American culture. We should accept that although our experiences in the African Diaspora are similar, they are not equal. We should learn to mind our opinions about each other. Let's focus on what holds us together, instead of searching for what sets us apart.

  • monkeysuite | February 5, 2014 9:17 AMReply

    So of all the lessons that could be applied today from "12 years a slave"-- the parallels with modern day mass incarcerations, the revisionists historians vehement attempts to say "slavery wasn't all that bad, how black bodies are still being brutalized by police and "authority figures," the white paternalistic attitude toward black America, the silencing of black struggle, the education systems failure to bring these messages to black and white youth alike, the foolish idea of post-racial society, the economic destruction of the black community as a direct result from slavery-- you chose to write about oppressed people's language choices. Because that's what's really ailing black America. It was our use of n!gga that killed Trayvon Martin guys. N!gga's the reason for stop & frisk. You solved it! Thanks, Marcio!

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 1:12 PM

    I never claimed to be an expert on Black America.

    Uh, who run big institutions, governments, and big corporations? Probably in a very near future the same white kids that today feel it is ok to use the N-world because hip-hop made it cool. Their Dads run it now.

    You still refuse to understand the difference between the glamorization of the N-word and its use to communicate a depiction of reality. Therefore, you continue to accuse me of attacking hip hop, which is not what I am doing here.

    I never said young black man were the problem. Maybe you should re-read the article, starting by its title.

    Yes, I read books! I also travel, talk to people and try to understand different cultures other than my own, besides having lived abroad for many occasions.

    I don't really like to get into my personal life but, as someone who has worked and lived with African-Americans for the last 14 years, that has many of them as part of my extended family, and who is also engaged to an African-American woman, I feel quite comfortable with my assertion that there is a great number of them, young and old, who do not use the N-word.

    Finally, I have been noticing the dishonesty of your comments. That is to say that you are not really interested on a healthy debate. Rather, you seem to be more concerned with attacking me with your flawed assumptions and false accusations. In any case, feel free to use the comment section to project your anger on me, or whatever it is that is eating you up inside. I'm not taking it personal.

  • monkeysuite | February 5, 2014 12:00 PM

    Lmao, you read some books so now you're an expert on black America? As someone who is actually black American, I feel quite comfortable with my assertion that black folk young and old say n!gga all the time. I'm not saying every single one. I am saying it's not concentrated within youth.

    And it's funny you say I have a narrow understanding of systematic racism when you've mis-applied the concept. Systematic racism aka INSTITUTIONal racism is connected to governments, corporations, educational system, etc.. The common argument against the casual use of the n-word is has to do with internalized racism-- not institutional. Last time I checked a rapper is not an institution. Nor is a young black man talking with his friends.

    And to answer your question, no I don't think female rappers or any female for that matter reclaiming the word "bitch" is advances misogyny. And why are you just attacking hip hop? Were you just as offended by the Meredith Brooks song? Or how about Bitch Magazine, a self-proclaimed feminist publication? Or are only white women allowed to reclaim so-called derogatory terms.

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 10:12 AM

    I will now stop trying to explain to people like you, Monkeysuite, that my article was about how 12 Years changed the way I see and feel about the N-word, from my non-African-American stand point. I do not need to talk about its use by non-Blacks, as CJ suggested, because they are obviously not the ones that were historically degraded by its use (that would be a whole other essay). I also do not need 12 Years in order to make a parallel with modern day mass incarceration or white paternalistic attitude toward Black America, as you suggested. For that, I rather continue reading books such as The New Jim Crow, Between Barack and a Hard Place, The Heart of Whiteness, Outlaw Culture, and so on (call me ill-equipped).

    Cause black folk young and old say the word casually everyday (your words). Speak for yourself, Monkeysuit.

    If you believe that rapper's glamorization of the N-word do not contribute to systematic racism, then I would have to say that you have a pretty narrow perspective and understanding of the intricacies of systematic racism (you seem to have the same problem as CJ in understanding the difference between glamorization and using it with the purpose of depicting reality). Perhaps you also believe that the use of the B-word by female rappers do not contribute to advance misogyny.

    Anyhow, if you think that by attacking me, calling me ill-equipped and ignorant, will discourage me from writing and expressing my views, be my guest. Fortunately, that is not the case of the great majority of the people who read and shared my article.

  • CareyCarey | February 5, 2014 4:08 AMReply

    Marcio, let's do a 360. Let's disregard our previous conversations and go directly to what I believe is the crux of your argument, the use of the N-word in today's culture. See, like the reader, Rocket, I just can't buy into the implication that your new found interest in the word was inspired solely from watching 12 Years a Slave. I believe the movie was merely a vehicle for your message to be heard by a broader audience... and presto-whamo, it appears on a popular black movie blog in The United States. Hey, I'm cool with that, no harm, no foul. Anyway, I'm going to bite the bait. The following is my position on the word "Ni**er". Maybe you can use it in your next discussion with your cultural critic's crowd.

    Listen, I am going to propose the argument that the word "Ni**er" is not a bad word.

    "Oh lord, CareyCarey has lost his mfking mind!"

    Nope, not in the least, I took my meds today. I am just going at the word from a different angle/perspective. Now check this, at one time in a not too distant past, those of us with dark skin would come to blows upon being called "black". I am serious (and Sergio can attest to that. He reads a lot of stuff and thus knows a lot of stuff (inside joke, you would have to have been here a few months ago to know where that came from), and he has been around longer than any writer (and possible reader) at this blog) fights would brake out when one African American (we were called colored back then), had the nerve to call another "dark" person, BLACK. But of course it's accepted now, from blacks and whites. So let's go back about 400 years to look at the evolution of the word "Ni**er.

    When the white man was on the shores of Africa gathering his cargo, he picked his products from various tribes throughout the continent. So, accordingly, many who were captured spoke different languages. Consequently, not only did the Africans speak in different dialects, the merchants (Europeans, Dutch, Portuguese, etc) at the many trading places didn't speak, nor understand each others language. Now, it's important to note that slaves were not the only imports being traded. So I am proposing that a name that everyone could understand had to be given to the Africans to distinguish them from the other chattel owned by the white man. Since the names pigs, cows, mules, aardvarks, sugar, gold and salt were already assigned to other merchandise owned by the merchants, someone (some slime bag) came up with the name "Ni**er* (don't ask me why or how). There was no history of the word. There was no record of that word in the list of bad words like "aZZhole", dumbazz, idiot, chink and motherfu*ker, etc. Nope, it was just a name given to the dark-skinned hard working men who were captured and sold into slavery.

    But then, a white man came along and decided to put the word in a thang called the dictionary. But he was met with a mighty challenge of how to define the word. He could have called him a strong enslaved warrior. He could have even described him a diligent worker, albeit a person forced against his will to work for free, but he was the best worker on any plantation that I've read about. But that would never fly in the minds of whites. There's no way in hell a man who was consider less than human could ever be describe as being "better" than any white person. So now we have the definition of "Ni**er" as it's presently defined in the dictionary, and that in which you and others have given it --> "an offensive racial epithet... a subhuman being, a creature incapable of self-rule... submissiveness, ignorant, inferior... In other words, a grotesque creature".

    Marceo, I am suggesting that just as many people of color have moved on from being offended by being called "black", the same goes for the word "Ni**er*. But as long as you (and others) continue to trot out this same lame argument/debate and the snide belittling of those who have found a way to move on, you have in essence bought into Webster's definition of a hard working black man who some prick gave the name "Ni**er".

    Now add that bit of insight into your next discussion group or article and listen to the feedback from the audience. In the interim, your thoughts?

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 11:46 AM

    Thanks again, Carey Carey! It's great to hear everyone's perspective in the comments, and I have learned a lot from this discussion.

  • CareyCarey | February 5, 2014 8:49 AM

    "Does it make it the most important or the best movie about American slavery ever made? Not at all!"

    Well Marcio, I have to disagree. In spite of it's white savior angle and the other "discrepancies" the infamous film critic Almond White spoke of in his excellent critique of the film, I think it is the best movie about American slavery ever made. I believe a person would be hard pressed to bring a worthy challenger. And don't get me wrong... or don't take what I say as the standard view of most African Americans. Fact is, from what I gather from the conversations on this site, the movie did very much for many African Americans, as did the movies The Butler, The Help, and oddly, even Django Unchained. Of course, as I like saying, the devil's in the details. You'll have to stop by when the news/conversations/debates are fresh out of the fiery ovens.

    Maybe it's I who should be apologizing. I didn't take into account your perspective as a non-African American. So please accept my apology for coming at you so hard. That reminds me, I have to eat a little crow (apologize) for other remarks that were a wee bit short-sighted on my part. So I am off to speak with the reader Alias. Thanks for the conversations, and your patience.


    CareyCarey
    The black man from the cornfield flatland's of Iowa

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 5:58 AM

    Thank you so much for this comment, Carey Carey! Please don’t get me wrong. I was already aware of the history of N-word and its implications on African-American lives before I watched 12 Years. I am also aware of the history of the word “black”, although I think that in spite of any negative connotations that it had in the past, it is still very different from the N-word.

    Maybe because it presented such a raw and realistic portrayal of the reality of slavery in America, and how the N-word fit in that reality, 12 Years really did something to the way I understood and felt about the term. Please, take in consideration that I am not African-American and, as Ciro said on his comment, my understanding of African-American culture will always be limited by this fact. I was not being sarcastic when I said in the article that the N-word represented more than just a racial slur, but a word that describes a grotesque creature that could only be real in the minds of white racists. This is how the movie made me feel (I had never thought about the N-word this way before I watched the movie).

    I believe 12 Years is a masterpiece from the standpoint of film directing. Does it make it the most important or the best movie about American slavery ever made? Not at all! For instance, with so many true stories to be told on the big screen, here is another one that features a white savior.

    Perhaps 12 Years will not do much for many African-Americans. But imagine how many non-African-Americans can learn from it, especially in regards to what the N-word actually means and does and to its hateful past. And especially today, when white youngsters all over the world think it is cool to use the N-word, thanks to its glamourization through Hip-Hop music.

    Finally, I once again apologize if I made anyone feel attacked by my article. That was honestly not my intention. I will be more careful next time. Thank you and everyone else that posted a comment, regardless of agreeing or disagreeing with my views. I think this is the best part of writing an article: to expose yourself to criticism, hear other perspectives, exchange information, and learn from it. Thank you!

  • Alias | February 5, 2014 12:30 AMReply

    Good for those of you who were already hip to Solomon Northrup's story. Consider yourselves incredibly informed and ahead of the curve. That being said, you don't have to put down the rest of us who were unaware. It's not as though we need to be shamed. Arguably, there IS a lot of black history that many Americans -- black and white -- are NOT taught; and is not published. OR, sometimes people are so overwhelmed that they simply don't know where to start beyond the obvious (MLK, Harriet Tubman, WEB DuBois, Rosa Parks, et al) to dig deeper into our history and learn about people who aren't as well known throughout the culture.

    Arguably, Dr. Henry Louis Gates with his articles on TheRoot, and last year's documentary on PBS, "Africans in America" provided a great deal of context and was a real conversation starter for where people can find more information and learn more about this rich history that OUR ancestors created.

  • CareyCarey | February 5, 2014 10:10 AM

    Alias, I am sorry for being so short-sighted. I didn't consider the fact that there is a generation of African Americans who were not and are not taught black history other than the popular white-washed version. In fact, in many school systems black history is not part of the curriculum and/or it's not a required course.

    In reference to digging deeper into our history and learn about people who aren't as well known throughout the culture, I've actually spoken about that in another forum. In particular, I gave my opinion on the value (or lack there of) and significance of the U.S.A's Black History Month.

    Actually, I wrote this at my blog, here's a small exert.

    IS IT REALLY BLACK HISTORY MONTH OR GOOD NEGROS MONTH?

    It should be renamed Uncle Sam's rendition of black history: The Edited Version - The Safe Way. The problem as I see it is, some blacks believe they have arrived and thus feel no need to pass down the real thang. They are content with their month of celebration, leaving behind (in the dark) the real and more gruesome past struggles of our ancestors. Some have no interest in passing down the stories of slaves being castrated for attempts to flee their bondage. Many were seen hanging from tree with their genitals stuffed in their mouths. Hundreds of freed black were burned at the stake for a protest in the State of New York of all places. However, the resilience, courage and spirit of the black man could not be broken. Many today has never heard of the Angola Warriors who started an uprising on the coastline of South Carolina. They tried to make it to a free colony in the State of Florida, but they failed, all were killed.

    Nope, many of our "leaders" would rather dress to impress and win the big prize that goes along with knowing that popular and famous black negro, than stand the risk of passing down the unpopular stories of slavery. The Jewish community has places like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a center that sees over 1/2 million visitor a year! It was founded to challenge visitors to confront bigotry and racism and to understand the Holocaust in both historical and contemporary context. They know they can't afford the luxury of ever forgetting the REAL thang. The American Negro has been tranquilized. They rest with their bellies full of special holidays and passes to the good neighborhoods and good government jobs and good straight hair. Yep, the Jewish community has a defined purpose and structure that they own, to promote their mission. The Black American has the NAACP and Black History Month.

    I am suggesting that although Black History Month highlights many great accomplishments of African Americans, our true gains and rewards can be attributed to many black Americans who are left off the championed list of who's who during black history month. Or at the very least, their stories are minimized to a safe and sanitized version. Truth be told, it wasn't Martin Luther King who inspired the USA to change some of it's evil ways, it was individuals like Malcolm X, Angela Davis and The Black Panthers. Never in the history of mankind has the oppressor relinquished it's stronghold on the oppressed without violence or the treat of it. And, on another note, how many blacks know the whole story of Dred Scott and Marcus Garvey? I wonder how many people know Dred Scott was sent back to slavery? How many of today's youth knows Marcus Garvey was stopped by being sent to prison on a bogus charge? I'm telling you, Black History Month does not tell the whole story. It should be renamed Uncle Sam's rendition of black history: The Edited Version - The Safe Way.

    Yes Alias, I am sorry for assuming you and others have been introduced to all aspects of that period of American History. Heck, even the movie Amastad didn't tell nor show the real horrors of the middle passage. You know, what did we learn about "That smell is death"! One man chained next to another who had died several days ago. The man laying above you is dying of dysentery. That substance on your chest and the rest of your body is his blood and bowel movement and the feces of several slaves in the tiers above you. That pain in your back is your flesh being rubbed off to the bone by the constant pitching of the ship. What history books or movie has brought those horrors to our attention?

    Yep Alias, we all have much to learn about those many years of suffering and triumph. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 6:02 AM

    Good point! Thank you!

  • CJ | February 4, 2014 6:07 PMReply

    A parody is an imitative work created to mock an original work. Django Unchained is an original work, not a parody. Get your facts right. Spike Lee never criticized Django Unchained for its use of the N word. He criticized Tarantino in the past for using the N word in the way you say Black youth do, glamorizing it. If you were not hypocritical you would have a problem with Tarantino use of it like you do with rappers. Lee criticized Django Unchained because he felt as you do that it is a parody of slavery, which is factually incorrect.
    I never said you disliked Django Unchained. I never put your words in your mouth. I pointed out the inconsistency of your argument on the use of the N word period. The N word is a variation of Negro, overtime used as a term to disparaged Black people, that’s what it means.
    Your beef is the glamorization of the N word by Black youth. If you dislike that than you should recognize the N word is bad whether it’s in 12 Years , Django or coming out mouths or anyone not just Black youth.

  • CJ | February 9, 2014 2:06 AM

    Are we discussing the films use of the N word or the films themselves? I never said they were the same. The filmmakers made their agendas clear: Tarantino wanted to make a Western, McQueen wanted to make Historical Drama, simple. You are straying from the conversation in regards to the use of the N word in both films.

  • CJ | February 9, 2014 1:46 AM

    I could point to Dr. Laura, Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly & other likeminded people who chide Black use of the N word.

  • CJ | February 9, 2014 1:22 AM

    I never attacked you. I never called you ignorant, which you are. Your opinion is your opinion but calling Django Unchained a parody is factually incorrect.

  • CJ | February 9, 2014 1:19 AM

    How does a word depict the reality or a meaning of a word? And if it does to whom? 12 Years a Slave does not teach what the N word means to Black people. Only from a white perspective it teaches what it should mean to Black people.

  • Marcio | February 7, 2014 6:10 AM

    As to the other topic, I would like to share this short video with you. But before you dismiss it without watching it (which you might probably do, since your goal is not really to learn something from each other, but to attack me at all costs), let me tell you that it is a short speech given at a Hip Hop Nation Community meeting. Since it is not letting me post the link, just go to youtube and search for Laws Are The New Slave Master - Divine Pryor.

  • Marcio | February 7, 2014 6:05 AM

    The film Django and the story it tells is just a fiction work, with exaggerations, unrealistic situations, overly stereotyped characters and so on. That's why it's a parody of slavery. I'm not saying that all the situations in the movie are unrealistic. In order to build the narrative, the screenwriter has to set the story in a somewhat realistic scenario. I'm not taking anything away from Django. Like I said, I even compared it to Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song (if you ever had the chance to watch it, then you know what I am talking about, if not, just google it and read the synopsis). The case is that Django and 12 Years are two completely different movies with two completely different agendas. I can't believe I am having to explain it to you. Either you are just too ignorant or you are just interested in attacking me and not really having an honest debate.

  • CJ | February 5, 2014 5:06 PM

    Again, get your facts right. The white supremacist world is not cool with Blacks getting rich off the N word. I know this as a fact, given their continued attacks on Rap music for using the N word. Please look it up. The white supremacist world hates Rap music, they attack it all the time, especially for its use of the N word. They are unable to cope with Black people being able to say the N word while they cannot; they constantly refer to it as a double standard. Look it up & then tell me how naïve I am as if this is pure conjecture & not fact.

  • CJ | February 5, 2014 4:43 PM

    Django is referred to as the N word frequently and it doesn’t destroy or even bother him because he doesn’t believe it. You failed to take notice of this. So to you the N word is only authentic and resonates with reality if white supremacy reigns supreme and Black people are being dominated, humiliated and killed. So to you both films depiction of the N word hinges on what exactly? Explain. If Django learned the hard way like you said Solomon Northup did & was more submissive would you be more favorable towards Django Unchained depiction of slavery?

  • monkeysuite | February 5, 2014 9:05 AM

    Ugh, are you saying that rappers use of n!gga is contributing to systematic racism? Are degrading themselves?

    First of all, black folk have been calling each other n!gga since black America existed. That has been constant that has not faltered. Rappers may have exposed this part of our culture to the mainstream i.e. white America and you obviously, but it's not a gimmick for them. It's their culture. Anybody with a basic understanding of hip hop knows that rap is all about refusing to apologize for who you are or sanitizing yourself for massa.

    So to put n!gga on rap music and black youth is making it glaringly obvious just how ignorant you are of black America and ill-equipped to even have this discussion. Cause black folk young and old say the word casually everyday. So you took the same road racist America always takes. Blame the young black man-- the enemy of America.

  • Marcio | February 5, 2014 6:40 AM

    You are right, Lee trashed Django for being a parody of slavery, although he criticized Tarantino in the past for the glamourization of the N-word. My mistake. In any case, Django is probably Tarantino’s first movie that does not glamourize the N-word. The problem seems to be that you do not really know the difference between the glamourization of the word and its use within a context that has the purpose of presenting a depiction of reality (some hip-hop artists do glamourize the word, others use the word in a context that intends to depict reality. It is the same in the case of movies).

    Maybe you did not literally put words in my mouth, but you claim to know what I dislike or believe (based on your flawed assumptions): your problem is you don’t like Black people saying it otherwise you would’ve included how can anyone say it not just African Americans (your words).

    By the way, here is another interesting quote extracted from your comments: a word that was designed to belittle and dehumanize a race of people who are now currently using that word to make themselves wealthy infuriates many racist white people, because if they use it they’ll likely lose their job but if we use it we get rich. That stings.

    I have to disagree with you. That does not sting or infuriates racist white people. In fact, the only way the white supremacist world will be cool with blacks getting rich is either you conform and bow to their cultural/ideological standards and beliefs, or you accept the degrading labels imposed by them upon you to keep you in your ‘place’. You really think they care that some rappers are getting rich by glamourizing a word that was created to degrade and dehumanize them? That sounds naive to me. There are things that are more important then money, i.e. self-respect and dignity. Note that I am talking about the glamourization of the N-word, and not its use to depict reality (just emphasizing it since you don’t seem to know the difference).

    White kids that enjoy rap music and that do not see a problem in using the N-word (thanks to its glamourization), will one day grow up and enter the adult world, and enjoy all the privileges of being white. It will not bother them at all that they will not be able to use the N-word in public. Meanwhile, African-Americans, no matter how rich they get, will always be subjected to systematic and institutionalized racism.

  • Rocket | February 4, 2014 4:49 PMReply

    I agree with CC and others when they say people are acting like the story of Solomon Northrup is new. Its not. I first heard about Northrup and his story back in my 9th Black History class. That was over 20 years ago. I read the Northrup's book before I was even old enough to drive. I don't need "12 Years a Slave" the film to give me some kind of enlightenment on the N-word.

    I feel this whole "Hipster" phenomenon building around this film. You know, when people "discover" something that's been there for the longest and want to act like its NOW special because THEY are now aware of it. Yes, how much more of a message will I get from "12 Years" that I didn't get from "Rosewood", "Roots", or "Malcolm X"?

    I respect the writer here for his opinion. I think it is important for us to have dialogue. But the folly here is thinking this film is more than what it really is. It is the dramatization of one man's story. A story that has been around for a LONG time. But it is not some kind of magical experience that will make black Americans stop saying the N-word. That's assigning more power to a film than it deserves. It is also showing a gross lack of understanding of an entire culture (American) and its history.

    It is also amazing that the implication here is black Americas are the only group of blacks in the Diaspora that needs to be enlightened by this film. So when it comes to telling this story any black person of the Diaspora can do it (preferable non-American based on Sergio's beliefs). But when it comes to being corrected as a result of seeing it only black Americans need that correction. I wish people understood how these kinds of assumptions and generalizations make them look.

  • CareyCarey | February 4, 2014 5:46 PM

    "I don't need "12 Years a Slave" the film to give me some kind of enlightenment on the N-word... I feel this whole "Hipster" phenomanon act like its NOW special because THEY are now aware of it.... the folly here is thinking this film is more than what it really is"

    HELLO! Drop the mic. You said it best, was there history books and parents and family storyteller loooong before this film? I mean, anyone (the hipsters, cultural "educators", writers, bobbin' head negros, etc) who admits/implies/suggests "12 years" was their first resource to the horrors of slavery and the n-word gets my deepest side-eye. And, like you Rocket, I wonder if they've even considered how that makes them look when they suggest the MOVIE "12 Years A Slave", yes A DAMN MOVIE, is a new awaking on the slave trade and the ways of white folks and the N-word?

  • LoAndBehold | February 4, 2014 4:23 PMReply

    How Brazil treats its black people: Naked black male found pinned to a post by his neck in Rio

    http://blackwomenofbrazil.co/2014/02/04/how-brazil-treats-its-black-people-naked-black-male-found-pinned-to-a-post-by-his-neck-in-rio/

  • CJ | February 4, 2014 2:11 AMReply

    I can’t imagine how anyone of any race can call another person the N word with or without seeing 12 Years a Slave. You wanna know why? Because I don’t have to imagine it, because I, like most Black Americans know that White people are gonna call you an N word regardless, if not treat you like one.
    I’m curious as to how you can see the ugliness of the N word in 12 Years a Slave but not in Django Unchained? I love how you can give props to 12 Years a Slave for somehow showing the true ugliness of the N word but refuse to give the same credit to Django Unchained. Why is that? African-Americans in both films take racial and physical abuse, what’s the difference? Rhetorical question, I know why. It’s because 12 Years a Slave is about a powerless Black man and Django Unchained is about an empowered one.

  • Marcio | February 4, 2014 8:50 AM

    In fact, I really liked Tarantino's movie, to the point that I compared it to Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and defended it when it was trashed by Spike Lee for using the N-Word so many times (just because Tarantino is white). So please, if you are going to criticize my article (which is absolutely fine with me), stick to what I said, and do not put words in my mouth. Thank you!

  • Marcio | February 4, 2014 8:47 AM

    Thank you for your comments! Let's jus make one thing clear. I never said I did not like Django Unchained nor that it was a bad movie. I only pointed out that it did not succeed to demonstrate what the N-Word actually means and does on the same level that 12 Years did. Perhaps due to the fact that it was a parody of slavery? (if you know what parody means).

  • CJ | February 4, 2014 2:24 AM

    Racist whites despise the saturation of African American music particularly rap which uses a variation of the N word to make African Americans rich. A word that’s was designed to belittle and dehumanize a race of people who are now currently using that word to make themselves wealthy infuriates many racist white people, because if they use it they’ll likely lose their job but if we use it we get rich. That stings. A discussion on the morality of the N word is pointless because Whites and Blacks will continue to use it. If you were really sincere and despised the N word you would have an issue with the word being said at all, your problem is you don’t like Black people saying it otherwise you would’ve included how can anyone say it not just African Americans.

  • CJ | February 4, 2014 2:14 AM

    You won’t give it any validation because unlike Solomon, who is only able to bow his head and do nothing, Django fought back. Django didn’t abide by the rules of white supremacy and was far from defenseless. Since Django didn’t learn the hard way like Solomon Northup (your words) the use of the N word is somehow inauthentic and doesn’t resonate with the reality of what occurred during slavery.

  • CJ | February 4, 2014 2:14 AM

    I just love how you psychoanalysis African-Americans and rap music as self-hating for using the N word because of the past or a movie. But I have to question your agenda, sir. Are you really concerned for the mental health of Black Americans? Or are you more concerned with the probability that it diminishes the legacy of white supremacy, which even many racist whites attest to?

  • c i r o | February 4, 2014 12:40 AMReply

    Wonderful essay, and the first I've seen that really connects the use of the word to film criticism in a meaningful way (that's probably not fair--let's just say it's my favorite). And I say this as someone who does not subscribe strongly to an opinion in the black-use-of-the-n-word debate.

    However, I was put off by the comment "supposed inability to fully understand Black American culture". Perhaps you do have some outside perspective to talk to the fish about the water it swims in, but I think it is safe to say you almost certainly do not fully understand it. It's true that some of Black American culture gets exported along with the rest via American cultural imperialism, so that some of the same arguments that allow blacks to tell whites about whiteness apply (i.e. those oppressed do not lack perspective on the oppressor), but the picture this presents is both distorted and largely incomplete; what it does not represent is where you are on shakier ground.

    My point is not that you do not have the right to speak, or that your understanding is too flawed to make a good argument, but that I worry that comment was too dismissive of a very real difference between you and the people you are writing about. Your understanding is not "supposed[ly]" incomplete. It is very likely incomplete. I can't remotely guess how material that is, but I think it's worth remembering.

  • Marcio | February 4, 2014 9:08 AM

    As my country is currently on the spotlight, we get a lot of cultural criticism coming from foreigners. I always have to remind other Brazilians that everyone has the right to express their points of view. The truth is that the criticisms that seem to piss off Brazilians the most, always have a lot of truth behind them. For instance, criticisms about the myth of Brazil's racial democracy. Some Brazilians still seem to be so emotionally invested in that lie.

  • Marcio | February 4, 2014 9:00 AM

    Thank you so much for your comment! You are absolutely right! No matter how much in-depthness I can reach, my understanding of Black American culture will always be limited by the simple fact that I am not Black American. I could not agree with you more. Thank you for pointing out my right to speak (although it seems like other commentators of this article might disagree with you on this point).

  • Donella | February 3, 2014 7:57 PMReply

    I agree with this article. Every single point that was made. I have no additions

    Good reading, Marcio.

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 8:05 PM

    Thank you, Donella!

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 7:50 PMReply

    Thank you for your response! I am sorry if you felt offended or attacked. It was definitely not my intention to offend or attack anyone, neither to present myself as an expert. In fact, I believe I was pretty clear when I said that perhaps I do not fully understand the contemporary use of the word. However, since there is a great number of African-Americans who fight for its abolition, I might not be so out of track after all. As you said yourself, "this debate ... is a never-ending-story". It is however interesting to see how some people get so angry and bent out of shape by anyone who brings up the subject (I always feel it's time for some critical self-reflection when someone's critique of my own culture makes me angry). But it is always easier to rationalize and give an explanation on etymology and the "CHANGES in form and MEANING of a word" rather then to look at it critically. Maybe we should just forget about being critical and be okay with the contemporary uses of terms such as "bitches", "faggots", "spics", and so on, for instance.

  • CareyCarey | February 3, 2014 9:19 PM

    "get so angry and bent out of shape".

    Really, defensive much... are you inferring that I went there? Not-in-the-least did my emotions cross that path.

    "it is always easier to rationalize and give an explanation on etymology and the "CHANGES in form and MEANING of a word" rather then to look at it critically"

    In the context of this "debate" (on the word "ni**er") IT IS "EASIER", but not a rationalization. It's a simple FACT that unlike the word "faggots" and "spics", the n-word, over time, has evolved to have several meanings (some endearing, my ni**a) depending on the context it's being used. So, looking at it "critically" as you say, is viewed by many as a fruitless effort by bobbin' head negros to strokin' each others egos, and a snide attempt to belittle and shame those who use it without a bit of discomfort. That reminds me, in reference to being okay with the contemporary uses of terms such as bitches, faggots and spics, I again do not believe a "critical analysis" is necessary. Listen, as Monkeysuit said "If you don't like the word(s), then don't use it". MOVE ON!

    @ Monkeysuit, whatsup Miss Lady, long time no see, but it's so nice to see appear on this post. I was beginning to believe I was the only one feeling the blows of the Brazilian's bamboozle stick.

  • CareyCarey | February 3, 2014 7:02 PMReply

    OH LORD... here we go again, the same ol' same ol' debate on the word "Ni**er. What's new!?

    Well, today the message or preaching, comes by way of a Brazilian Cultural Critic and producer specialized in Afro-Brazilian culture who saw the film "12 Years A Slave". But wait, he qualified his right to preach to us and disrespect us and back-hand pimp slap some African-Americans (those intelligent black youngsters and intelligent hip-hop artists and those who fully understand the meaning and significance of the word "etymology": "The origin and historical development of a linguistic form as shown by determining its basic elements, earliest known use, and CHANGES in form and MEANING of a word" by saying he lived in the US for 4 years. OH BOY! So surely he's qualified and has the right to reign blows upon our heads by implying (slipping it in) that those who understand the evolution of the word "ni**er", and how word's (many words) meanings change over time, especially in the context of which said word is being used, are products of ignorance, lack self worth and has internalized hatred transforming it into self-hatred, isn't he?

    Well, yes, he can say whatever he pleases. However, if it's good for the goose....

    Listen, personally I don't like being pimp-slapped nor disrespected, so please spare me (us) the insult of being talked to like we are the 3 monkeys.

    "I can't imagine how any American of African descent, after watching 12 Years a Slave, could still be able to call one another a “ni**er”, or even a “ni**a”, without feeling slightly uncomfortable, to say the least." ~ Marceo de Abreu

    Fine. That's all you had to say before rendering your verdict of "ignorant" and "self hating African Americans". Then, it's possible, if your goal was a debate on the word "ni**er, those who don't feel "uncomfortable" like you, might pull your coat (school you) and tell you why. But really, as I said, this debate is played and is a never-ending-story.

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 9:51 PM

    Thanks again for expressing your views, Carey Carey. Once again, my intention was never to attack anyone, as you suggested on your first comment. In any case, I will stick with the half that doesn't really see anything positive about the appropriation and use of the N-word, and that believes it to be degrading at one level or another regardless of context, as it seems to be the case of the great majority of the commentators here.

  • moneysuite | February 3, 2014 7:13 PM

    Amen!

  • james | February 3, 2014 6:32 PMReply

    great article... it boggles my mind why in this day and age black americans are the prime promoters of the word "n!gger". they give all kinds of reasons why they use it and none of it ever washes with me.

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 6:55 PM

    Thank you!

  • monkeysuite | February 3, 2014 5:34 PMReply

    Ugh, can we end this n!gga debate already? If you don't like the word, then don't use it. Don't try and shame others into stopping. Don't use our history to criticize us. Those black youth you're referring to are the most victimized by our history. They have more insight into black strife than any bougie NAACP negro.

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 6:50 PM

    Thank you for your comment!

  • Black Cinema Philosopher | February 3, 2014 4:57 PMReply

    I'd have to to disagree DJANGO Unchained far better slave movie merely for the escapism revenge fantasy factor.

    Being an African-American Male who has endured slave, civil rights, oppression, and "the first black_________" films and television shows for the majority of my 45 years on this earth: I can honestly say 12YAS- didn't affect me at all- it left me numb and disgruntled at the fact that after all this we: African Americans ( well let me say black people because Chiwetel is not american) are still playing slaves, subordinates, and all the typical parts we've always been allowed to play. What I saw in 12YAS was 2 hours of cliche', and a missed opportunity to tell a more interesting story about what happened to Solomon Northrup AFTER his ordeal.

    We, most educated African-American people ( more emphasis on those who went to HBCU's) were already aware of Northrup and his story as well as there'd already been a film on the story starring Avery Brooks in the 70's. So I've heard McQueen speak about the film candidly a couple times and he's under the belief that he and his wife "discovered" this story. The story wasn't lost; in his interview with Arsenio Hall, he said he wondered why there hadn't been more films about Slavery- And that's when I realized he was much like the Ike the lyrics of the Song by Sting, "An Englishman in New York" and he doesn't really get OUR culture. If you put room full of Black Americans in a room and asked what movie theyd want to MAKE - the last thing they'd want to see is a movie about slavery! This is a brief film history as African Americans with the Oscars; see a trend.

    Hattie McDaniel- 1st Oscar Winner- played a Slave in "Gone with The Wind"
    Cicely Tyson/Paul Winfield - blithe nominated for Sounder in which they played Sharecroppers under a white boss
    Sydney Poitier -playing an itenerant worker working for a gang of white nuns in LILLIE'S OF THE FIELD
    Denzel Washington- 1st Oscar in Glorywas for Playing for a runaway slave who joined the army during the civil war, as well as playing two Civil rights leaders, and a boxer falsely accused of a murder Due to racism.
    Morgan Freeman-nominated for being a White Woman's servant in Driving Miss Daisy and former slave in Glory
    Octavia Spencer- OSCAR- as A servant in THE Help- A movie I haven't seen and won't see especially since I saw the sequel called THE BUTLER.

    The list goes on and luckily just a few actors of color have managed to win awards in films where race was not a factor and they were judged on the merit of their talent rather than the Year's political agenda or political correctness. If you want some more food for thought:Check out the movie Savannah on NETFLIX, 12YAS is the second time Chewitel played a Slave LAST YEAR!

    I realize you were here in the US for I believe you said 4 months - there's no possible way you could understand the nuances of our culture, and probably not even the reason I would dislike this movie so much( and a reason a large number of blacks have no desire to see it at all) . We've seen it before and seen it before.

    As for the N- word, it bothers me but I can accept it as a term of endearment " within the confines of my community" much like in some Latin cultures the words "Negro" and "Azul" are acceptable nicknames. I'm pretty sure most African Americans either know or ( ir you were raised in an urban environment) grew up with someone called "Black" or "Blue" or possibly even a "Blue-Black". It's simply how one race can take pride in a word while the same word to another race could be derogatory.

    Take "Mexican" for example a proud people with a vibrant heritage. Someone who looks at them as servants might say, " Hey you need some help with that wall go to home depot and grab a Mexican to do it." Somehow in that sentence "Mexican" ends up being derogatory. N-word operates the same way from culture to culture.

    Just my 3 cents

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 6:44 PM

    Thank you for your comments! I agree with you in regards to the fact that mainstream films about slavery are still stock in narratives that always need a white savior (Brad Pitt in this case) and the biased way black actors and actresses are recognized for their works. I really would like to see a film about Harriet Tubman for instance. My article does not advocate for 12 Years as the best film about slavery ever made. However, McQueen's film is a master piece in terms of directing and the raw realness with which he portrayed the reality of slavery in America (although his portrayal of the North was way too progressive for that time in history). By the way, I lived in the US for four years (not four months), and worked for another eight years bringing African-Americans to Brazil and promoting cultural exchanges between African-Americans and Afro-Brazilians here in Salvador da Bahia.

  • jeni | February 3, 2014 5:10 PM

    Sorry. Tuned out after reading your love for Django. Tarantino is overdue for an a-- kicking for that cartoon of the horrors our ancestors experienced. That anybody liked anything other than Jackson and DiCaprio's performances in that piece of trash is beyond me.

  • Carol | February 3, 2014 4:51 PMReply

    Thank you; this article is so concise in describing the horrors of black American identity formation and its utility for survival. It's also beautifully conveyed. I really appreciate your bringing an outside sensibility to something, if one is not careful, can be forgotten or taken for granted.

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 6:29 PM

    Thank you!

  • Daryl | February 3, 2014 2:56 PMReply

    Good artilce, some black folks believe it's somehow empowering to make the n word a form of endearrment. The n word is an ugly word and we need stop using it in that type of form. it's nothing endearing about that word.

  • Márcio | February 3, 2014 4:53 PM

    Thank you!

  • nice | February 3, 2014 2:11 PMReply

    nice writing man, loved it!

  • Marcio | February 3, 2014 4:53 PM

    Thank you!

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Now Taking Your Questions for S&A Column ...
  • "Many Documentary Films Have Been Shot ...
  • 2014 IFP Project Forum Slate Includes ...
  • Apparently The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung ...
  • Ahead of 'Finding Fela's' Release, Watch ...
  • Watch the First Full Trailer for Justin ...
  • Nick Cannon Is Teaming Up w/ Syfy to ...
  • Third 'Best Man' Movie Gets a Title, ...
  • Tessa ThompsonInterview: Tessa Thompson Talks Emotionally ...
  • Watch Spike Lee Unravel His Slave Ancestry ...