Sorry this is a bit late, I got caught up in Awards Season
I Am Not Your Negro is a painful documentary about Civil Rights Leaders and the ideas that were around back then. But it connects beautifully to today’s struggles. James Baldwin’s words spoken through the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. The words can dig into us at our core. The visuals are wonderfully striking. The emotions run raw. We see Baldwin’s growth throughout the movie as well as the hurt and pain. Despite that, this is not a film about Baldwin.
This film is about race relations in America both in the past as well as the present. Using words written 30 years ago, the audience sees both discourse on the state of race relations in the 60’s as well as today. The words hit hard because they are both emotionally charged and quite blunt. There is no beating around the bush about Baldwin’s feelings about race relations during his time. This makes it easier for the audience to attach themselves to the message. I looked around the packed theater during this film and I could see some of the white people in the audience shift uncomfortably at the language used and others sitting there like me, mouth agape at the beauty of the feelings expressed in this film. It was easy to separate the people who think race relations are broken from those who think it is fine. The great thing about this film is not that it gets the real history out there-that has always been there-but rather that it can get people of all opinions thinking more about the position that society puts black people living in America in.
It’s true that things have gotten better over time, but that is not hard to do when the history of it is riddled with trauma and hatred. It’s also true that we have seen a fast rise in discrimination and hate towards ALL minorities, but primarily towards black people living in America.
“I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive,” Baldwin said. “I’m forced to be an optimist.”