As you might expect of an alternate-history TV series in which the South won the Civil War and slavery has yet to be abolished, “Confederate” hasn’t come as welcome news to many. The upcoming show from “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss has already been protested on social media, with many hoping…
While reading this I couldn’t help but feel many of my thoughts were echoed. While people say this is about censorship and blah blah blah. To me I have these thoughts:
- This show feels like it is capitalizing on black pain and trauma in a period where we black folk are intensely aware of our vulnerability, and don’t need an alternative history to see that. It has been the tradition to say “At least we aren’t that”, but in many places around this country the confederacy is integrated into everyday lives. Monuments, holidays, and even up north and out west the confederacy remains a heroic entity. Hell in Europe some white nationalists, due to banning of nazi flags, have begun using confederate flags. Racism isn’t an alternative history. It is our lived experiences and capitalizing on that due to an up-surge of fear and nationalism from a majority white lead and controlled production feels like the same exploitative tune we’ve heard before.
- I question whether a show lead by people who can’t properly tackle rape and sexual politics on a channel that uses sex and violence as over use titillation can both be trusted with this material. My gut instinct is no. Often, I feel white culture has a very real element of minorities, especially blacks, being told to accept on good faith the work, ideas, and arguments of the “rational” white folk. We are asked to accept on good faith that this will be handled well, and while it’s fair to say “Watch the show then decide” it’s equally fair for people to say “Based on your previous work I don’t fucking trust you and quite frankly I have no interest in what you can do.” We don’t have to explain ourselves. We don’t have to argue with you. We can say our piece and move the fuck on, and don’t you dare demand that we should play a game we’ve played with a dozen other white folks because it’s new to you. We’re tired. We just are, and just let it be what it will be.
- Parading two black people, even if they are willingly participating, around as though that gets the minority stamp of approval on a product is disgusting and repellent. I don’t blame the 2 black writers for Confederate for taking the job or defending it. They’ve gotta hustle and they gotta stand by their work, but 2 black folk doesn’t ever discount other black folk. We’re people not props and regardless of whether you agree with someone there’s something fucking distasteful about
- White fragility is very real in our society, and for you snowflakes, I don’t mean all white people, but I do mean white society. Would Confederate have the balls to actually avoid doing the “good white/bad white” dichotomy and show the full extent of racism’s hold on conscious and unconscious perception. If the answer is no, and I believe it is, I have no interest in seeing it. Why should I when I’ve seen that in nearly every Civil Rights and Slavery era film dealing with race in anyway?
Django is a good film, but if the German doctor wasn’t there most of the Tarantino fans would be calling the film a racist black power fantasy. It is the German doctor’s goodness and the white plantation owners intense cruelty that make Django palatable to them even as Tarantino subversively questions aspects of “Good white men” via the German Doctor. Say what you want about the lead and creator, the story of Nat Turner in Birth of a Nation, does an awesome job of dismissing the myth of the enlightened abolitionist, the good white woman who doesn’t really “see race” like her contemporaries, and doesn’t create progressive whites to make the white audience feel better about American or International history. The good white folk may have more sympathy, but they are no less racist. This white woman teaches Nat Turner, but is careful to keep him from anything except the bible even saying “his kind” can’t understand concepts such as freedom, liberty, etc. Her progressivism, much like some modern progressive views, is just paternalism.
Is that to say there were no progressive thinkers? Not at all, but even among progressive thinkers white folk who would break bread with every day black folk and not condescend or evoke racist ideals in some form were rare. Even among African Americans there was a very strong participation in the belief of Africans as more “primitive” until the rise of Pan-Africanism. Racism is constantly depicted as the great evil of evil people when evil is mundane, cruelty mundane, and while we made say it was evil wealthy white men who were drunks or insane or greedy who were cruel we know for a fact it’d never been just them.
Plenty of folk ,including people of color, didn’t care about black lives in the 1800s and still don’t, and it isn’t a matter of bombing churches or even denying all job applications from blacks. White fragility prefers the existence of monsters in the face of angels who extol the modern ideals of liberty, freedom, and life to all races in defiance of time and place. That’s not realistic and it isn’t honest, and us black folk know it isn’t honest, and have talked about it for years…now ya’ll just know about it.
Yet portraying this makes a lot of people uncomfortable often conveyed in meetings as being too harsh and unfair depictions. There is an innate discomfort when they are faced with being held responsible for the continued damage of their culture and the continuation of racial evils. Always we are asked to go “But not you. You’re good” by virtue of white characters the audience is expected to relate to as representing enlightenment. But in the 1800s and on enlightenment was part of phrenology, the belief in civilization versus everything not European, that Blacks had to go be sent to Africa to protect white folks and white society even if blacks should be free. I continue to affirm and believe most white folk have the moral character to move beyond fragility to something more, but I do not trust television executives to be open to doing so in their professional lives. I do not trust a room full of mostly white writers to do so in their professional lives to a degree that is clear in their story telling. I know most of my readers have, my friends have, and my loved ones. I am very lucky in that, but I have seen even the most liberal of white folk engage in behaviors dripping with fragility when it comes to Confederate and #NoConfederate. And it’s not unexpected. I don’t want this story to contain a major story line of a good white couple(looking at you #Underground) being completely or mostly beyond racism or moving beyond it in the span of just a few weeks or months in the shows timelines. That’s not how that works. Ever.
- Why this show and why not a dozen other media that exists about black freedom? Why not an alternative history where blacks rebelled or where Haiti gained the upper hand alla some of N.K Jemison’s works or Kindred’s exploration of sexual exploitation, interracial relationships, liberal guilt, and race? Why not but the rights to WGN’s series Underground? I ask these questions because there’s something particularly insidious about how the white gaze conceptualizes confederate tortures, excused as southern, yet is unable and unwilling to engage in truly challenging works from black american creators. That is what made Get Out’s success so fucking shocking, and I question if people have already forgotten about it’s success. In my heart of hearts, there is something deeply wrong when I see people defending Confederate, people calling Wakanda unrealistic, and the jump to put on shows about black trauma before putting on shows about black liberation via a fantasy/scientific lenses from non-black creators.
Well those are some of my thoughts, but I’m dying to hear other people’s opinions and views.