Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Thoughts As An African American Male After Viewing Lee Daniels' THE BUTLER

Ever since viewing Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER, I’ve been trying to determine what angle I was going to take when writing this post, as I knew from the opening scene that I would be giving my commentary on the parallelisms between the obvious system of that time and now. For many, I am sure you may be amused by the fact that I am just seeing this much acclaimed film that was released in 2013, but that only speaks to how much time I personally give to movie and television watching. It is rare that I invest my time in movie or television watching because most of what is offered to us is garbage in my opinion.  Having heard so much about this film upon its release, I was intrigued when Netflix sent me the notification that it was now available on its streaming service and decided to watch it the other night.

From the opening scene I was riveted (the only other movie opening that impacted me so, was from A Time to Kill) and will not give it away for those who have not seen the movie as of yet. Suffice it to say that it was a common depiction of events that occurred between slaves and slave owners in the south during that period of time. As I watched, my mind immediately recognized the symbolism and parallelism between the events blatantly displayed in the film and the reality to this day. The emasculation of the African American male; the psychological and emotional destruction of the African American female and child; and the intentional separation of African American family unit are among the few atrocities that leaped off of the screen right away.  While this is not the first time that I have viewed films illustrating that time in history, it once again reminded me that while the actions of that time period were obvious, conscious and overt, that nothing has really changed other than now the same atrocities are occurring, only in a concealed, subconscious, and covert manner.

The opening of THE BUTLER forced me to realize once again how psychologically damaged generationally African Americans are based on the inhumane acts forced upon them as human beings, by human beings;  messed up psyches that could very well be in the words of President Obama, in our [African Americans] “DNA.”  Such psychologically damaging acts as the rape of African American women at will or the killing of African American men in front of their children and women (who in all likelihood had just been forced upon by their slave-owner). Yet, in spite of it all, the African American race has still managed to survive. When you think about the horrors perpetrated by humans upon humans (only because of the color of their skin), you can’t help but think, no wonder they [African Americans] appear to be so jacked up.  If indeed those horrible acts did make their way into our “DNA,” could it [being jacked up] not be understood?  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not one for excuse making or excusing any aberrant behavior by anybody whether black or white, but can you see where the “systems” that were put in place then and are still in place now are getting us what we are getting?

I am not well versed on our current welfare assistance system, but I do remember (and maybe it is still this way) a time when in order for the mother to receive the assistance, a man could not be in the home. In fact, social workers would visit to ensure that there was no male presence in the home (emasculation of the male, separation of the family).  Think about that and how it parallels the events that took place during slavery. The male was often sold to another part of the state leaving his wife children.  This same welfare assistance system also did not allow the mother to obtain any type of income or else she would lose the aid. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the family stay together with both parents working with maybe a needed financial supplement to ensure that the basic needs of the family were met? What type of system forces the male to not be present? Then we now wonder why so many African American men have chosen to not be present in the lives of their families. They’ve been systematically cultured this way and are then blamed for being that way.

When discussing thoughts such as these that I am sharing in this post with friends, family and colleagues, many have said that I am looking too deep into the movie or event (I took real issue with the roles Denzel Washington and Halle Berry received Oscar Awards for).  I beg to differ. THE BUTLER was filled with historical and current insights as to why we are experiencing what we are experiencing in 2015, the racial hatred; the killings; the hypocrisy; the duplicity; and the overall lack of concern for mankind. In the words of the 1984 Prego ad, "It's in there."  There is a point in the film where the African American servants talk about this need to have two faces, one when they are serving and the other when they are not in the presence of those who they are serving. Is that much different today? It really caused me to think.

I encourage you who are reading this post to view Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER and to indeed look beyond its entertainment value to see how conditions during the time frame depicted (which was not that long ago by the way) are not much different than now.  Interestingly enough, as I write this post, it seems as if we as a country (and world for that matter) are moving away from concealed, subconscious, and covert acts and back to obvious, conscious and overt. Don't believe me? Listen to the commentary and look at the actions. Just look at the news. There is so much more that could be written or said, but I will close here with a quote from Colin Powell's former State Department chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson. 

“The real reason a considerable portion of my party [Republican] wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin,” 

And the beat goes on. Something to critically think about…………  Hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET, as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley, streamed around the world on and heard locally in northern NJ on WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

1 comment:

Bob Williams said...

Thank you for your insightful commentary. "It's in there" is very true indeed. I did not see The Butler yet. Plenty of shared bias against NETFLIX's garbage factory proportions. I will make my way to the movie, some other way. Quentin Tarantino did an excellent job depicting the "DNA" concept when he cast himself as a bad guy blown up by Jamie Foxx in JANGO! Tarantino along with 2 other slave masters were stylishly killed by Foxx, while slaves sat in an open cage. Even when they were free to escape, they stayed in the cage. I took it personally in a positive revelation of how common fear rules the day in the black community. It helped with my fluctuating esteem issues, I will always have. Going right to the psychological reasoning of why we are off kilter sometimes. Aware of a system not built for us, I get weary of messages that are directed for me to react. I am however happier to believe, some in Hollywood are on a better track.