The Hate You Give and Blackkklansman have been some of the best reviewed films of 2018. On the surface, films about black suffering being well-received might seem positive, given the current political atmosphere of the country. These films can contribute to the ongoing discussion about racism in America and create a dialogue about black issues. Black suffering is something that needs be discussed. However, it should not be the main depiction of black people in films .
I can name dozens of black movies that have black protagonists as slaves, prisoners, or criminals who are struggling to survive. However, I cannot think of too many black films where the main characters are not dealing some sort of trauma. That’s because the main depiction of Black people, in movies and television, is us going through some racial trauma.
This is a problem for a few reasons. The first is that it defines black people by the racism that we suffer. Though black people have suffered from anti-blackness for centuries, it is not center of our story. In fact, there is so much black history that is not about being oppressed. We have countless folklores and cultures that spans throughout the African diaspora. We have so many stories that are not about our history as slaves. However, if you only know about black history through the media, you would never know about any of it. The focus on black trauma erases the many other aspects of blackness. It defines black people by black struggle, even though there is more to being black.
Another reason is that black audiences do not need to be constantly reminded of our oppression. Most black people are aware of our history being enslaved and second class citizens. Many of us have had to deal with racism throughout our lives on a daily basis. We do not need to see it all the time. While it might teach white people, being repeated shown our suffering does nothing for black audiences but make us relive our traumas. Even if it does help white people to understand black pain, it should not come at the expense of black views. Black audiences deserve to see black characters who are not suffering for the sake of drama.
The black experience does not revolve around suffering. We have history and mythology to celebrates our culture and our blackness. The media needs to remember that.