The unintended consequences of US public school integration of ’12 Years a Slave’

A Louisiana plantation (Courtesy of destination360.com)
A Louisiana plantation (Courtesy of destination360.com)

For those worried about the impact television not only has on our children, but on the culture, you are more than likely on to something. And limiting exposure to television and film won’t likely mitigate the effects.

In a Business Wire press release, it was announced that the Fox Searchlight distribution company, The National School Boards Association, New Regency, Penguin Books and filmmakers would disseminate the film and other content forms of the movie to public high schools throughout the United States.

Various forms of this movie will be introduced to the nation’s curriculum beginning with the new school year in September of 2014.

The film “Twelve Years a Slave” is a dramatic and gut-wrenching portrayal of American slavery in the 19-century that doesn’t sugarcoat the topic.

The news of a new curriculum should be one of interest because of its effect on children, young adults and the future psyche of the nation.

Many grade school curriculums leave out the gritty details of slavery (if they even cover it at all) so this could be a tiny step in the right direction to cover history in its entirety. After all, teaching history requires history to be actually taught — without omissions. We can’t pick and choose history because unfortunately, for those who want it whitewashed, history isn’t able to remove itself from its impact on the present.

The Golden Globe Awards-winning “12 Years a Slave” made its splash in Hollywood late 2013 because of its ability to attract enough viewers intrigued with an era in our history that is rarely covered except in Hollywood, which many a time is focused around fantasy, escapism and fiction. It’s the mystery surrounding the pivotal years in American history that helped this film generate nearly $128 million.

But there is still that concern that films like this help to perpetuate a culture of victimization.

I don’t know many blacks that will rush to see this movie. Who in their right mind wants to be reminded of the treatment of his or her ancestrty by the very system they reside in today? Let’s face it, the people inclined to watch this film are a small group mostly comprising Hollywood liberals, New York City and Los Angeles elite and their high-culture European counterparts.

I’m not convinced a majority of Americans were drawn to this movie because of two reasons (among a host of others). One reason is because nobody who is a part of a country’s dark past wants to be reminded of it and the other reason being that some Americans don’t see the taboo in this subject matter because they believe the treatment of blacks was warranted and still is (i.e., the number of Americans of all types that believe unarmed black males are violent by default and those killed in many of the inner cities cannot and should not be helped because of their lives lack of worth to this society).

From where does that lack of worth stem? I think in some regards it comes from our rationalization of the slave culture. It’s much easier for us as a society to justify the acts of evil and tyrannical men and women than to feel remorse or try to rectify the generational harm done to a race of people. The concept is similar to why it’s easier to go to war with different cultures if convinced that they are subhuman or of a lower “genetic favorability (e.g., evolution of the species).” These ideas were used to justify the near extermination of Jews, the enslavement blacks and the drone attacks and illegal imprisonment of those living in the Northern Africa and the Middle East.

It’s also interesting to note this new curriculum was not only lobbied by celebrity figures like Montel Williams, but by Fox Searchlight, the same company that owns Fox News, which airs shows that foment racial anxiety among its viewers, which in turn affects their views of black Americans.

By pressing the issue that blacks were mistreated in this country by the early founders to our students and blacks, are we perpetuating the unintended, psychological glass ceiling of American consciousness by allowing corporate media outlets to profit from the guilt and embarrassment of slavery that is delicately planned and highly-produced, which presents solutions that mostly serve to line the pockets of the (at times) racist structure we hope to shine a light on?

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2 Comments

    1. Thanks for commenting. It’s hard for some to see behind the facade of Hollywood films like this and its role on our community.

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