From the time the movie ended to when I sat down to write these words, I’m still in the process of understanding what I’ve seen. If I ruminate more on what I just witnessed, the whole point of this film will have faded away. The heaviness in my heart will have gotten a little lighter and once again, those impactful words will slowly fade away as I continue my life, free from fear of discrimination based on the color of my skin and slowly getting into the grid where I forget the fact that my Black brothers and sisters still continue on with that feeling everyday.
I Am Not Your Negro is a film I needed to see...that anyone who walks around in this country without fear of being judged on the way you look (before being judged on your character) should see. The words of James Baldwin brought new light to a topic I've heard of many times yet never truly processed because I'm not being directly affected by it. When someone who was born and raised in this country says that they would never come back because any danger the outside world could bring them would be nothing in comparison to what they would face at home...well, that gets a person thinking. How could we have let this happen? How could a group of people try so hard to belittle and demean another group of people in order to raise themselves above and feel more powerful?
This whole thing has me reeling. My friend Sabrina made the point after watching the movie that this is a story with no ending. As an example, she brought up on how our trip to Busch Gardens we saw Hidden Figures (another important film to see but for different reason), and how it was a movie where the real life heroes got to see the means translated to an end as the credits scrolled up and the audience was treated to a synopsis of the good life those women lived after. But that’s not how it really ended and that’s not how it ended in I am Not Your Negro because we’re still living in it. When people talk about the Civil Rights movement, they talk about it like it’s over and we’ve moved on from that chapter in our lives and everyone got off scot-free. For many, that movement never ended and African Americans around the country continue to face this aggression in a new way. Except now, now no one is racist, at least not directly. The attacks are subtler, less physical--more like micro-aggressions that are so minute and almost unseen (or unnoticed) by so many of us. It’s the reason why a lot of people think racism is over.
Before watching this movie, I had never heard of James Baldwin. Leaving this movie, I learned that James Baldwin is one of the few people whose words have left such a resounding impact on me and it’s barely even been an hour. He shed light on perspectives I had never heard on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, both of whom are such polarizing figures when we talk about the Civil Rights movement in school. Never have I heard a man speak with such eloquence and patience as he explained the plight of being Black in America to a room filled with white men, whom I wonder were capable of understanding the scope of his words. I don’t even comprehend the entire scope of his words and I never will, even if I tried my hardest. Because it isn’t my struggle; it is one I’ve never faced. It pains me to know that I can watch this movie a thousand times and still never "get it" and how people I know and people who I will never meet will walk into a movie theater or they’ll watch from the comfort of their own home and nod their head in agreement with everything that James Baldwin said because that is their life as African Americans in the United States.
Nothing I can say can describe this film with any justice. I beg anyone who has the time and needs to be informed or needs to expand their knowledge on being Black in America, to watch this movie and see for yourself what goes on outside of our rose-tinted glasses. Perhaps we may never "get it" but until we begin to see the world as it is and not as we wish it to be, then we cannot begin to heal the racial divide and create the America so often promised but yet to be achieved.