LinkExchange Member Free Home Pages at GeoCities



Mobilization 2/21
Writers' Group
Roxanna, Friday Alexander, Jack Crawford, Aunt Dot, Alexander Hillian, Andrew Jackson

A few years ago I remember walking through Harlem, New York with a friend. We noticed there were many people with obvious mental deficiencies. Some showed outward signs of anger, others were depressed and silently looked into space. As we walked further we saw many more folk who just couldn't cope in some way or another. I've heard Minister Farrakhan speak about the sicknesses caused by racism and white supremacy. It takes a rather significant toll on people. The direct health effect manifests itself in simple things like high blood pressure, which leads to heart disease, strokes, kidney problems and complications from diabetes. But what about the mental side effects of racism? What happens to a person who is made to feel like a lesser being or is never given opportunities that are well deserved? It is simple - stress. Some of us take stress in stride and use it to propel us to higher heights. We work harder, run faster, jump farther, absorb more punishment to prevail another day. Some of us... Others learn to bite their lips and pay a silent, long-term price. And then some of us lose it all together and become deranged.

Slavery is anything but a normal condition for anyone. The associated total loss of humanity and basic control is far beyond any sane person's ability to imagine. How did people learn to cope with it? Living with the Jim Crow conditions that endured through the 1960s was in many ways no different from slavery. And the poverty, filth, daily murder and high crime conditions some of our inner city folk endure are as oppressive to the mental condition as was Jim Crow. Now, life is better for some of us and we have opportunities to improve our situations, right? So why are some of us so stressed?

Some of the most raw psychological effects of slavery are still here. We feel the racism in America that was born in slavery. Black people readily see "normal" people portrayed on television and in films so we know that others don't have to live in poverty. "What is wrong with me?" is the natural response. The answers too often focus on your color. These horrible conditions teach some of us to hate ourselves and hate being black. Since being black cannot be changed we suffer stress. We act out against other blacks. We pass down inferiority-related ideas to our children so they associate dark skin and nappy hair with ugliness, blackness with laziness and inability. Willy Lynch is still with us. We accept a white lawyer or doctor without asking for his qualifications but a black man will have to prove his worth and we are still not sure. We don't readily trust our own people to handle our most serious problems. We do this because a system has taught us to devalue black and everything associated with it. It is so important for our people to be re-educated to extract this poison from us. But how did we get here?

After this long introduction we finally get to the real point of this article. The movie, Beloved centers around a family born in slavery. It is set only a few short years after the Civil War. The mental and physical scars of slavery are evident. I can ask anyone today if they would survive slavery and most would say no. So what would you do? How would you cope? Would you commit suicide? Would you kill others so they could be spared life as a slave? Would you kil your loved ones? Your parents? Your children? Your babies? Of course these are all insane questions. But slavery is an insane condition. And, if, by some awful turn of circumstances, you had to make these decisions, could you live with the results?

Beloved tells a story about a woman who had to make these decisions and try to live with them. It is a story about a family haunted by the past. And this past is horrible and brutal beyond imagination. I have taught high school and college classes in history and have tried to get the participants to begin to understand what it means to be a slave. (See Mr. Jenning's Raffle on the main web page). How do you get people today to feel and identify with the degradation, loss of control of your most basic humanity, loss of self worth, frustration and loss of hope for the future? When you begin to understand how some person can take your life, rape your wife, your mother or your daughter and kill or sell your children with impunity, you are just beginning to comprehend. Beloved tells this part of the story of Africans in America as well as any movie ever screened.

But Beloved will not draw Academy Award fever. The pundants might discuss it but it will die down quickly. The movie is too real and brutal for America's guilt. White America will likely prefer to ignore Beloved's real messages. If Oprah Winfrey was not involved I'd bet big money that this movie would go from release to forgotten video in record time. Like the movie Sankofa, it would have never even been seen in the majority of theatres around America. And let me be clear: this is not because it is not a good film. It is truly a great film. Beloved has outstanding performances by all its main characters. The story is based on a true historical incident, a story that must be told. We should thank Oprah and all those who made this film possible. But Beloved will never get its fair viewing because it makes the viewer feel slavery, America's original sin that still haunts us. And unfortunately, white America doesn't want that message. But the movie should be seen, especially by all black folk. Drink a cup of coffee and be very alert. There are many symbols in this movie. It's a long movie with quite a few quick flashbacks that you'll need to understand to put the story together. I think I'll see it a few more times to be sure I really understand all the fine points.

When you leave the movie take a little time to reflect on people you know that have had a rough life -- especially those that display some form of mental illness. Think about their plights. How did life send them a bad turn? You'll probably never know the real story. So try to forgive them for any transgression. If you can, try to help them. The sickness in some of us is deeper than you can imagine. Whether it's from Vietnam, ghetto paranoia, white supremacy, sexual abuse during childhood, life in general or some awful parental mistake rooted in our slave-based past, we must recognize that many of our people have suffered and continue to suffer. We must learn to love ourselves so much more and, as well, learn to love each other.

R.C. - October 18, 1998

Click Here to Go Back To the Mobilization 2/21 Home Page

Visitors have stopped in!