Early last week, I had the opportunity to watch the amazing documentary, 'I Am Not Your Negro', which focuses on the unfinished novel by James Baldwin, 'Remember This House' and three prominent figures -- Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr -- who were all assassinated at different times during the Civil Rights Movement.
Just before I get into the heart of this newsletter, I'd like to create a bit of context as to why I was interested in seeing this documentary. Some of closest friends are African Americans and to be honest, with the current race issue going on in Middle America, I am concerned for their safety. A part of me believes that they'll be fine and that I'm just being paranoid, but another part of me thinks that they are living in an environment that just doesn't need violence, as does every other environment that is experiencing violence doesn’t need violence. And because of my friends and my concerns, I was invested in seeing this documentary.
Anyway, back to the documentary.
What made the documentary really compelling to me was not just how well it was made (story, cinematography, editing, etc), but what it had to say. Most documentaries of this nature, at least to me, seem to allude to how 'Whites' are selfish, greedy, inhumane pigs, who were wrong in enslaving African Americans. But 'I Am Not Your Negro' didn't say this and instead went on to say how 'White' and 'Negro' are mere concepts that the American people created and that past these concepts, we are all human, which is a refreshing and honest take on the race issue in America.
James Baldwin doesn't want to get into arguments with 'Whites' and blame them for what had happened hundreds of years ago. James Baldwin wants us to realize that we are all human. (P.S. This idea is recognized in the trailer)
And where the documentary leaves us (***Spoiler Warning***) is with James Baldwin asking us the question: Why did the American people feel the need to create the concepts of 'White' and 'Negro?' And I found this to be an interesting question to end the documentary, not only because this question could be applied to every issue that we're currently facing, whether that be immigration, marriage equality, sexism, etc, but also because it seems that many of us haven't yet realized or have forgotten their answer to this question, so we're left to contemplate.
But for this newsletter, I'd like to share my answer to this question. Here it is:
I believe that we create these concepts, 'White', 'Negro' and other concepts because we feel unworthy in some way. That could mean that we feel unappreciated, or that we feel that we don't belong, or feel useless, or helpless in some way. But it's this feeling of unworthiness that encourages us to create these concepts that divide us and allow us to believe that we may be superior to others in some way, even though these concepts that we've created are just concepts. They're just illusions.
And for those who argue against this, I ask:
Would we cause all the suffering that we cause if we felt worthy?
Would we cause all the suffering that we cause if we felt appreciated? If we felt that we belonged? If we felt useful? Helpful?
No. No, we wouldn't because there wouldn't be any incentive to cause suffering. If we felt worthy, why would we make others suffer? If we felt worthy, why would we make others suffer when that'll only distance ourselves from others and make us feel that we don't belong, make us feel unworthy? If we felt worthy and happy, why would we make ourselves feel unworthy and unhappy?
'I Am Not Your Negro' is a really inspiring documentary that I encourage everyone to watch because of the question that the film poses. And maybe, in reviewing this question, we can all look past these concepts that we made up, understand each other and feel worthy.
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