I Am Not Your Negro

The main message of _I Am Not Your Negro_ is that until we face what we are doing, we will never change it. I didn’t particularly want to see this film. I went because special screenings were arranged by local social justice orgs, and I am trying to spend more of my time supporting this kind of community initiative. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the movie, and I didn’t really know what it was about.

It is about the way our society murders its black citizens, for the most part. I didn’t know that Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. King, didn’t make it to 40. From my present age of 45, that is both heartbreaking and shocking. I should have known that already.

The film intercuts James Baldwin’s words, the stories of three of his friends who were black activists, and who were murdered for it, with film footage from the decades, reflecting social attitudes of the time. A lot of the footage is from Hollywood. Some of it, though, is from Watts, and Ferguson, and other more recent brutalities.

I have mostly not watched the videos. The body-cam videos, the crowd videos. When another incident occurs, and people start posting the videos on Facebook, I have mostly turned away. I’m…not thrilled with myself, for that. I think I told myself that I didn’t need to look at the videos to be outraged. But there is a visceral truth, and a power of fury, that comes with actually seeing what this society is doing to its black members.

It is so, so easy to sink back into complacency, if it is not your body, your children’s bodies, on the line every day. I’m very grateful to whomever brought this film to Oak Park; it deserves far wider screening than it is currently getting. For me, I am newly resolved to try harder, not to look away.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

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