Yesterday, 5 years ago (February 26th) a young black man was killed walking home from the store in a small suburban community in Florida. His death ignited a firestorm that rages to this day. As more deaths of followed and more police and white people in particular were freed of guilt or responsibility this generation raised on Black sports stars, and musicians and more black celebrities than any other history in time, were quickly shook awake to a fact that any black person over the age of 35 already knew. That as black people in this country we have never truly been free. We have been freed from physical chains, but the mental and emotional ones were passed down from generation to generation. But around the time the Cosby show became the number one show in America and remained that way until it’s last few dismal seasons; many Americans began to see less and less of the injustices of the past. Although they did not in fact go anywhere. There was never a time when black men and women hadn’t been killed and be by law enforcement or not the guilty party if white enough didn’t walk. We were reminded of the injustices and supposedly woke from our slumber in 1991 with the Rodney King incident. But 21 years later it seemed we sunk back into a slumber. We had forgotten all about that because we had been brow beaten with the fact that looters marred the message and riots deemed it’s meaning mute.
Now this current generation rocked by the fact that technology now allows us to openly and publicly document the systematic oppression and all out assault on black lives. They boldly proclaim that “Black Lives Matter”, because they realized that it was in fact in question whether they did or did not. It seems that every few years there are glaring reminders that things aren’t (and never have been) equal for everyone in America. This sparks some youth to wake up and some face this realization by becoming more civic minded and active in the world of both politics and society. Others vent there frustration in the streets, then after a time they are lulled back to sleep and pacified into excepting things the way they are. They forget the struggle until another incident makes light and the cycle repeats. But in this day and age of instant everything and rampant technology things didn’t go back to normal. It seemed every few weeks new events new brutal murders, mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement, savage attacks on black people kept making the news and taking over social media. After Trayvon Martin came Ferguson, after that Baltimore, and Milwaukee and countless others in between. Women weren’t even safe as in the case of Sandra Bland. The hits just kept coming, all the while those who benefited most from the system told us that our protest were invalid, our voices were wrong, they demonized the movement until the point were the nation was split right down the middle with those either for or against the systematic racism faced each and everyday by African Americans.
Fueled by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny a new president was elected to lead the charge against those who had been working for so long to have a voice in this country. It was brutal, heartbreaking and demoralizing to watch. Was it really so hard to understand that people just wanted to be treated like people and not animals, or some subhuman species to be controlled or eradicated? Racist, now emboldened by a racist commander in chief are trying (and succeeding) in returning American Society to pre-1960’s levels of oppression. Not just for minorities, but for homosexuals, women, foreigners and anyone else who does not fit the mold of white christian male. It’s hard to believe what were witnessing in 2017. This is where the new movie Get Out comes in. The film opens on a now familial scene. A young black man seemingly lost in a ideal suburban neighborhood. Its dark and he’s alone on the streets. In a scene eerily reminiscent of the one young Trayvon Martin must have face a car begins to follow him. The young man tells himself not to do anything stupid that may get himself killed. He tries to go the other way and avoid the creep following him, but it’s too late. He’s attacked and drug off into the night. From they’re were taken to the stars of the film Chris Washinton (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams); a beautiful, fit, young, interracial couple. They’re packing for a trip upstate to visit her parents. When describing her father we’re treated to the line “he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could, a line that will be repeated later on to chilling effect.
The film presents us with a familiar visage, the Ultra-Liberal who bends over backwards to prove they aren’t racist. They aren’t like the other ones, they can speak a little slang and they support the cause fully. They know history and “appreciate other cultures”, even though it wasn’t always that way in they’re family. The grandfather of the clan Armitage was beaten by Jesse Owens in Olympic trails and missed his chance to attend the games. “He almost got over it” we’re told. The family despite the talk of openness and liberalness and yes the “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could” line is repeated, have two black servants. Whom they refer to as servants! And there is something off about them. As the movie descends into horror film tropes it continues make poignant points about race relations in 2017. Not just between blacks and whites, but between blacks and other blacks. The division, the mistrust that has been sowed within since slavery. At one point before the true horror plot is revealed Chris accuses the female servant of being jealous of the relationship he has with Rose. “It’s a thing is all he says” yet every black man and woman who sees this will know exactly what he means. It is often perceived that black women secretly resent and despise interracial relationships. Which is sometimes the case but not always.
These complex interplay’s not just between the white characters and the black characters are to me an African American male who has been in this similar situation more than once can attest is very real. When you enter a situation where very few of people of color exist, there is a since that you are invading this pristine crop of white people that you weren’t supposed to know about. Often the lone black male will feel threatened as if your presence somehow takes away from the uniqueness and special-ness he has come to enjoy as being the only black or brown face in the room. There is a quite, often unspoken competition for the affections of said white people. It’s tragic and sad but it’s real. The movie plays on that later on when Chris meets another African American at a dinner party. The whole movie does such an excellent job at dealing with these subtle interactions and the intricacies of day to day life living in a world like this. It’s the movies main strength. It does not go out of its way to offer any solutions, or even attempt to transform itself into some kind of morality play. This is after all a horror movie, not “Do the Right Thing” this is simply a well crafted story. The twist were predictable if you’ve read or watched and sci-fi/horror in the last 30 years. That’s kinda beside the point. the point of this wasn’t to showcase Jordan Peele’s horror chops, that could have been done in a far more gruesome way. In fact the horror element wasn’t even the meat of the movie. The film was meant to show that the scariest thing happening right now is the way we treat each other. There was a healthy dose of mistrust on all sides.
The real horror in Get Out was the glaring fact that all of this could be real, and it is. This is how we view each other. As some thing rather as someone. That even the most well meaning and open sounding liberal somehow still hides this underlying tone of condescension, that even a open minded young African American still hides his own preconceived notions and mistrust of both sides, of how blacks have slight misgivings about mingling with people of other skin tones. All of these elements are at play in the movie. To telling effects. It sits’ with you. While there was moments of ruckus laughter in the theater, when everyone filed out there were subtle and not so subtle glances at each other. We knew what we’d seen and we knew that the other person saw it too. One thing the last few years have shown us in terms of race relations is that not only are the old wounds not healed, but there is no more hiding them now. The deepening racial divide happening in America will not be fixed by a movie, they may not be fixed by protest, or marching in the street, but they can begin to be healed when we start coming together and talking about them. Explaining to each other how we view each other and ourselves. There are plenty of wounds to go around, but we can’t fix them if we’re all stuck in the sunken place!