Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yankee Doodle's Response to C.S.A.

This film was amazing. I had no idea what to expect before I got to class. I thought it was going to be more of a narrative - but the format was actually much more like a History Channel special on American History. The Confederate States of America, that is.

The most offensive, painful (and therefore the most interesting and useful) parts of this film were actually the "commercials." Items like "Nigger Hair Cigarettes" seem horrifying, until you learn at the end of the film that this was an actual product. In the commercials there were suggestions about how to own your slaves - how to keep them from running away by drugging them. There were references to black slaves being treated by vets, as opposed to actual doctors. During these scenes, the entire room either giggled, or got uncomfortable. I think most of us were thinking how outrageous and preposterous this was.

But it isn't so far off. It isn't hard for me to believe that had the Confederacy won the Civil War, we could have very easily stayed a slave nation. Even worse - all of the richest countries in the world have slave trades - still to this day. Sex slaves and indentured servant-domestic workers exist in this country - it's just no longer sanctioned by law.

I thought it was really funny that this was supposedly a British television program (from the BBS, as opposed to the BBC) - because it gave both sides to the story. There was a very eloquent black woman (from Canada) who did some of the narration, and she made no secret of how f*cked up the Confederate system was.

I think this is an important film, and I know I will insist that many of my friends watch it. I think that it is, at times, offensive - but in a way that enables us to laugh, and also really think about race in this country. The pain of slavery is far reaching. Gigi and I discussed that upon leaving the classroom, we felt badly about ourselves. Not that Gigi nor I have ever owned slaves, black or otherwise, there is a terrible guilt that follows many conscientious or sensitive white Americans. I can't ever really understand what it might be like to deal with slavery as a black American, but I have to imagine it's probably more painful from that end. Films like C.S.A. make us all remember that our country was doing overtly racist things until, like, yesterday - and only now is trying bit by bit to make up for it.

Watching this film also makes me re-love Walt Whitman. I think I'll go read some Whitman now, as it is a sunny Spring evening and I've been thinking dark things for far too long.

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