For packing so much critical detail into just a couple hours of Hollywood cinema, props to the creators of this film. In addition to portraying an important era of US history that many among us would love to see forgotten and never spoken of again, 12 Years A Slave offers considerable food for thought.
Foremost among said food is that systematic kidnap, imprisonment, torture, forced labor and murder was perfectly legal in the 1840s. And it was only by way of threat, intimidation and the use of force that such a system was even possible. A very important lesson in the necessity of both practicing the Non-Aggression Principle and maintaining arms to defend against those who don’t.
The crimes against humanity that were legal in the 1800s have also proven legal in the 21st Century. Though not yet accepted as treatment for the so-called law-abiding American citizen, such terror is a very grim reality for our fellow human beings – from Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay. And given such legal precedent as the NDAA and presidential kill lists, the door to pre-Civil War America has been flung wide open. A broader net with tighter mesh has been thrown, which will inevitably infringe upon the liberties of the once law-abiding American citizen.
Another thought yet comes to mind; this one expressed by Cornel West…
“When you’re niggerized, you’re unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who you are. You become so scared that you defer to the powers that be and you’re willing to consent to your own domination. And that’s the history of Black people in America.”
Solomon Northrup’s story is proof. While it seemed that he submitted to terrorism and servitude in the interest of self-preservation, there were many Black people he encountered that had fully internalized their subjugation. The parallels to those of us currently suffering from Stockholm Syndrome are glaring, to say the least.
Most remarkable, in my opinion, was how human our enslaved forefathers remained throughout such vicious circumstances. Whether they were singing songs, or making crafts, or experiencing other uplifting – albeit fleeting – moments, our ancestors’ humanity outshined their bondage tenfold.
Lastly, just as observing the actions of Louis Gates in “The Butler” stimulated a greater respect for freedom fighters such as The Black Panthers – watching 12 Years A Slave inspired newfound admiration for soldiers like Nathaniel Turner and Denmark Vesey. Violent oppression demands violent resistance. Those inflicting violence upon the innocent must be dealt with accordingly. Or as the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said…
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”