Trailer Alert: I Am Not Your Negro

It is difficult to convey the profound impact James Baldwin has on other writers…and on the discussions and debates we continue to have about race and racism. He died in 1987; yet we’re still grappling with the complex issues he so eloquently expressed in writing and speaking.

I come from comic books; from sci-fi and all too often encounter nerd-centric click-bait posts on diversity. Not only have we grown comfortable championing facile notions of diversity often to the cheers/likes/retweets of our passionate echo chamber (Yes Men for true) we lazily challenge the numbers not the issues.

It’s easy to tweet #OscarsSoWhite, easy to count the directors, the actors…we can instantly recognize the lack of presence, hashtag it and still meet our friends for lunch. It’s easy to write an unqualified post demanding a female Doctor Who or bullying for a black James Bond. Our gross actions as much as our lazily hashtaged words convey our ongoing enthusiasm for all things easy. Apparently change shouldn’t be inconvenient.

The important and overlooked work…the difficult bedrock underlying race…entrenched economics, greedy capitalism…the unbalanced systems in place that many of us do benefit from: those remain unchallenged and most importantly unaffected by our petty hashtags. We don’t need anymore hashtags. We would wisely benefit from championing our intellectuals and our prophets.

I Am Not Your Negro is a start; Baldwin’s timeless voice and infectious intellectualism is a much needed tonic. (The timing of Negro is interesting since at least W Bush’s era we’ve slowly faced a war on intellectualism coupled with the ego soothing nature of social media…it’s not a surprise that complex matters are boiled down to pithy hashtags. Under President Trump we’re questioning once again if everything is about race but this time our shallow answers fail to convey the weight of the question. One of Douglas Coupland’s Slogans for the Twenty-First Century frighteningly rings true for people active on social media: The Majority Cannot Be Trusted).

In I Am Not Your Negro Baldwin’s deft words are matched with images of race relations throughout U.S. history. It opens in Canadian cinemas on February 24 and has been on American cinemas for quite some time.


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Also published on Medium.

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