I Am Not Your Negro Movie Review
I Am Not Your Negro Movie Review - James Baldwin's thoughts and insights on slavery and the racial divide that it created within the United States, and the pain it has caused.
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I Am Not Your Negro Movie Review

It’s rare that I am in the minority. I just don’t know what that is like. I have worked conferences with all women… that was weird. But not imposing at all. I’ve been to Asia and Africa. That was interesting, but I was cared for like a king. So, that can’t count. The other day – ok, a couple weeks ago now – my wife and I headed to Haiti to meet a couple boys that we are planning to adopt… and that was a totally different experience. We were left to our own devices, we are outnumbered and definitely in the minority. We stayed in the compound of our hotel, we were told to avoid congregations of people. Told to only ride in tinted window’d vehicles.

That was a little bit more like I was in a minority.

But really? No. Not event close. I still don’t know what being a minority is like. Like, not at all. But now I have a small hint of what a small percentage, of a minority share of a slice of a minority might feel like. Sort of.

And while we were there in country we spent hours in a hotel room (remember, we were stuck in the compound?) watching movies. Probably the most compelling and riveting movie of the bunch definitely was, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’. It’s a movie that is cut from the same cloth as ESPN’s OJ: Made In America. Which, wasn’t really as much about the trial of OJ, as it was about the the cultural and racial realities of America that allowed OJ to happen.

I Am Not Your Negro Overview

I Am Not Your Negro isn’t so much about James Baldwin as it was guided by his brilliant insights of America and the racial divide that has plagued the United States since its founding. I had never read James Baldwin before. And upon meeting this man in this movie I felt an instant loss for having missed out on his writing up until that point. Baldwin, is possibly the creator of cool. Yeah, I think that sounds right. James Baldwin is so cool and so collected and so well spoken that he had to have invented cool. Had to have.

Apparently, Baldwin, throughout the 70’s, had been writing notes, and letters, for a book that he was reluctantly considering about the lives of Medgar Evers, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr.

And the movie, is entirely a reflection on those three men from Baldwin’s perspective, basically making it about four men instead of three. (A trick, which I liken to Shadrach Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace and the fourth man that was seen in the furnace with them.) The narration is provided by Samuel L. Jackson, and it is coupled with the sections of Baldwin’s book, The Devil Find’s Work. The Devil Finds Work is actually a long essay on American film viewed through that of a racial lens. And in viewing Hollywood’s perspective on racial inequality we have a wonderful way to see an unfiltered view on America’s perspective on racial inequality.

So this movie is a completely unfettered view of the divide that continues to split this country even long after Baldwin has passed away. Black Lives Matter. Ferguson anyone? And this movie, and Baldwin’s insights, are so prescient it almost seems like he has actually predicted the pain and the divide that was still to come here in America.

While in Haiti I learned a fairly stupid lesson. I learned about the horror that Columbus unleashed on the island. I realized the evil that was his initial voyages. I had my eyes opened to the pain that our “Western Hero” had unleashed on the people of Africa and the racial pain caused throughout the Americas for well beyond the next 500 years. I mean, I sort of understood it was sorta bad. But I didn’t realize that Columbus himself instituted this idea of slavery of the indigenous people. Writing to the Queen of Spain Columbus couldn’t hold his giddiness back when he told her that the local people could be enlisted to work the sugar cane fields. And then from there his eyes were opened to the power of the slave trade.

Watching this movie, while simultaneously sitting in the cradle of the beginnings of slavery was truly insightful. To watch the movie and then head outside and see the ongoing effects of the beginnings of the America’s racism was a powerful experience. So powerful in fact that I heard an acquaintance bemoaning the tide of Columbus protests and I went fullon ape on that poor unsuspecting individual.

“I Am Not Your Negro” was a masters degree level course on the topic of racial inequality throughout America. And I was all the better for having watched it. Have you seen it? What were your thoughts on the movie?

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2 Responses

  1. Henry

    I watched this a week or so ago. While I understood the Megar-Martin-Malcom association, the film was still most enlightening on the topic of Baldwin as an individual, even without those associations. I also appreciated the clear contemporary parallels illustrated by the review of Baldwin’s writings. These parallels were not remotely forced or even truly subversive. They were just there as a reality.

    Also, congratulations on the additions to your family. I wish you all the best.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Henry,
      That was sort of the quicksilver inherrent in this movie. It was about three greats that struggled against the evil of society,… and yet, I came away amazed at Baldwin. I’ve started reading him actively now and just can’t get enough of his stuff.

      So yeah, you are 100% right. Baldwin is the real magic here. Just so incredibly compelling. And thanks for the best wishes on the new family members. We should have them home by January or so?

      Don’t be a stranger!
      Taylor

      Reply

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