First of all, I’m tired of slave movies.
I’d take my kids to see Django a million times before I ever let them see a movie like Harriet. If I’m going to watch another slave movie that takes creative license to retell history, at least let it be entertaining. At least let people that look like us be the protagonist.
In case you haven’t made it to the movies yet to support the film, let me give you the Twitter version:
Harriet, an American slave, warrior and hero, is played by Cynthia Erivo. Is Cynthia black? Yes. Are all black people the same? Nah.
You mean to tell me with all the black American actresses in Hollywood, not one could have played Harriet? Sanaa Lathan. Gabriel Union. Kerry Washington. Keke Palmer. Halle Berry. None of them? Heck, they could have cast Zendaya as Harriett and it would have made more sense than Cynthia Erivo, who is British- of Nigerian descent. Realistically, Aisha Hinds, who played Harriet in “Underground” should have been an easy casting decision. She executed Harriet in a one-woman episode that should have easily won an Emmy.
No one should be surprised that Black Americans take offense to an actress portraying Harriet who doesn’t represent us, or our history.
Besides her background, sis is problematic. I don’t care how black you are, there is a difference between American blacks and others. When others refer to American blacks as ghetto, that’s equivalent to calling us the “n word”. When those same people get cast in roles about us, that’s tantamount to blackface and a gross misrepresentation of who we are and how our stories are told. Black people aren’t ghetto and clearly Cynthia Erivo is an outsider to a history and culture she knows nothing about. This opportunity for her to portray Harriet becomes even more problematic when she has failed to properly apologize for the language that she used calling Black Americans ghetto. It feels like an additional slap in the face to give such a pivotal role to a woman who doesn’t understand the power of her words or the gravity of our history.
As if the choice in leading lady wasn’t crass enough, the plot should give you pause as well. Spoiler alert: The bad guy is black and the white slave master somehow becomes the protagonist in this comedy of errors.
In what alternate universe is a slave master a hero?
Slave masters were, and always will be “basura”. They owned black people, raped black men and women, hung slaves, tarred and feathered our ancestors, sold their babies, mutilated our people, whipped them within inches of their life, and dehumanized them in every way possible. I don’t want to watch a slave movie where the slave master is a hero, even if it is only for a moment. No matter what, slave masters were monsters. Slave masters should be the villain in every slave movie, from beginning to end. Representation matters and no black child should ever see such a romanticized version of slavery. Every time a slave movie is made, white people should feel uncomfortable. This flowery depiction of black history reminds me of the time my son came home and told me his history teacher taught him slaves traveled to America for work. We spent that entire weekend watching Roots and he was mortified. Woke, but mortified.
It would have been dope if this were a Tyler Perry Production. Shouldn’t black people profit off our stories? This is a Comcast production though. The only thing more ghetto than Comcast’s customer service is their blatant disregard for civil rights which has landed them in the biggest court battle of our time against Byron Allen.
Comcast, who stands to profit from a movie about one of our most notable historical figures, is also the same company futilely fighting to set the Civil Rights Act of 1866 an entire century back by profiteering from our history without giving us a seat at the table.
It’s dangerous that we live in a society where black people are comfortable with having our stories told despite backhanded levels of disrespect in the process. It’s not enough that our stories are told, it also matters who is telling them and how they are represented. And yes, it matters who profits too. We deserve 360 degrees of respect and it’s not enough merely that wypipo are regurgitating our stories in ways that are historically inaccurate for the sake of their comfort and ability to sleep at night.
You know what happens in a society where black people become complacent and our unmelanated brethren are allowed to control our narratives?
Rodney Reed is an innocent man on death row scheduled to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit on November 20, 2019.
Reed has spent more than 21 years on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Police say Reed assaulted, raped and strangled Stites, but he insists he’s innocent. Former inmate Arthur Snow Jr. filed an affidavit in court earlier this week saying Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, confessed to the murder years ago. Fennell also served a lengthy prison sentence for another act of violence against another woman. With all the evidence against Fennell, Texas’ justice system refuses to do their due diligence and release an innocent man from death row.
What does Rodney Reed have to do with movies like Harriet?
This modern-day lynching of a black man for a crime he didn’t commit against a white woman is everything Harriet fought against. I’d imagine Malcolm X wouldn’t have bought a ticket to see this movie. Martin wouldn’t have either. But we have all seen this movie before, right? The Central Park 5. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Emmett Till. Rosewood. Black Wall Street. Even Tupac wasn’t safe in Atlanta.
Why are there so many black people fighting to make sure this movie is number one at the box office? There is no OJ Prize if this movie does well. There is no correlation between this movie’s success and the number of seats we have at the table. This movie muddies the story of one of our biggest legends and too many people are shucking and jiving to the melody of blue-eyed soul leading us into waters we can’t wade out of. We don’t have the luxury of supporting this movie when people who look like us are still subjected to modern-day lynchings in real live minstrel shows where we are always killed first.
Rodney Reed is another victim to the same system Harriet fought against. It’s not enough that our stories are mentioned. Black history needs to be told with precision so surgical that every time a slave movie is made, white people understand the accuracy of our history and the importance of our place in American society.
Until then, people who look like us will fall by the wayside into historical inaccuracies cloaked in political shadows where we are murdered and no one bats an eye because we have become so desensitized by racism in this country that we would rather be faux political and support the movie Harriet instead of marching to Texas and demanding freedom and justice for Rodney Reed.
This is a real-life reality show. Trump supports Comcast who stands to profit off Harriet during the same time Rodney is fighting for his life and people are calling on Kim Kardashian (not Al Sharpton, Obama or the NAACP) as the last hope to save Reed’s life.
Does your head hurt yet? Grab a bottle of Uncle Nearest and try to unpack this mess with the rest of us. History has a way of repeating itself and somehow, black people haven’t been able to escape the oppression olympics.
Want justice? Sign the petition.
Make sure you “@” Kim Kardashian on Twitter and Instagram.
Does all of this sound ridiculous?
Yes. But it’s all we got.