Racism as the Focus of 12 Years a Slave essay

Racism has always been a serious issue in the American community. Since the time of the formation of the United States of America, race was put on the first place and nowadays it still remains a serious problem in the society. Race itself does not cause any problems, but the prejudice formed as the result of racial discrimination has created much trouble to the American community, making it the most biased society, despite its freedom and independence. The USA was formed by the white population and at that moment they decided that they were different in their attitude towards other groups. Those white authorities, who founded the USA, considered themselves as the masters of the land ignoring the fact that they were not the only citizen of the regions. As a result, the main victims of racism became non-white indigenous people (Indians) and slaves (African-Americans). The main issues of the representation of race in the film 12 Years a Slave are covered by the actors and their intentions in the movie. The black person searches for the truth trying to renew his dignity while the white master wants to prove that race was a wrong focus for slavery. Searching for the truth, each of the race representatives still remain on their side, waiting for the changes, which are sure to come.

The problem of race and discrimination in the US community can be explained by many years of slavery, which rooted in the consciousness of many Americans that white population is dominant, since it has never served anyone. The color of skin has been considered as the issue for discrimination in the American society for a long period of time. Despite the fact that Indians and white Americans in some cases also served as slaves for their masters, black population is referred to when racial differences are discussed. The long history of the relations between white and black population is presented in the Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen. Focusing of slavery as a tool of delivering the main idea of the movie, the film creators have tried to carry the idea to the audience that race is an unnatural phenomenon and being black cannot be related to being a slave. Regular beatings, hellish work, meager food, cruel punishment and bullying are the meanings of slavery. The main character of the movie has ideally represented the whole history of American slavery and contemporary vision of race. What is more important, having taken the story of Solomon Northup, the filmmakers have tried to raise the issue of race as the main problem in the society even today. Race as the institution existed for a long time and African-Americans born as slaves accepted their role as something natural, they took it for granted. However, a kidnapped African-American, being born as a free man, could not accept this role. Race in the film 12 Years a Slave is presented as a tool for human manipulation: white people are sure that they have the right to make any black man a slave and the law is nothing for them, while the American community understands that the color of skin means nothing and race cannot be the reason for making a person a good at the market. These relations between black and white populations are embodied by the characters of the movie. 

 

The history of race in the American society starts with the American Revolution, which institutionalized slavery of black population in the society and ends with the American Civil War, when the slavery was completely abolished. During this period all black population was considered as slaves. The fact that black people could be born as free did not prevent others to consider them as the second sort since black population for a long period of time was used for work on farms and plantations in the South. In the North, slavery was much less common and African Americans were mainly used as domestic servants. Slavery was nominally abolished in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, and in fact by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which was adopted in 1865. Even after the abolition of slavery, racism long existed in a form of discrimination, like “for whites only”. This was a huge problem since the development of the American society presupposed the development of human mind and thinking. However, racism remains one of the hottest topics in American public life even today. Therefore, the screening of the 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave is an attempt to show how race should be represented. The film delivers the opinion that racial disparities and prejudiced attitude to race is not a simple personal likes or dislikes; it is a serious problem in the American community, which may lead to unpredictable outcomes. 

The film 12 Years a Slave raised many issues related to race. The film is not about slavery and a struggle of one person for independence. It is about the relation of people to racial disparities. Even in the contemporary society some people are sure that their race is dominant and think that they can manage the lives of others. The film is about human dignity, faith, despair and justice. McDonald has found several examples of how the movie is related to the contemporary society. Even nowadays many people consider race as a serious barrier on the way to communication. Some white Americans still consider the African Americans as the people of lower race, the descendants of slaves, who do not deserve equal treatment. Trying to disclose the problem of race in the past and to make contemporary people understand the problems, the film creators might have become too preoccupied with the idea of race, having forgotten about the historic flow of affairs. Thus, Armond White has written a very negative review having stated. The author is sure that the open scenes of crimes and ignorance, complete disregard to human dignity and respectful attitude to slaves and black race can lead to rejection of the facts, without capturing the main idea. However, such vision of the critic was wrong.

The issue of dignity among African Americans is constantly raised by the main character. Unfortunately, many African Americans survive in the US community nowadays. The reasons are various and they do not always depend on prejudiced attitude of the community. People live in a way they want to. One African American strives for their life and power and finally becomes the President of the USA. Another African American will live in a poor community blaming everything and everyone in his/her problems. Solomon Northup understood that he appeared in a wrong place and in a wrong time and he tried to resolve the problem. At the end of the film he did it having remained the gentlemen, the one he was before he was sold. However, relating the situation to the contemporary America, many African Americans are eager to blame the society or the government in the way of life they lead. The film is aimed at showing the people can remain people in all situation, if they were born such. 

Another side of the race and the attitude to it is presented by the white masters and their vision of African Americans. Most white masters are cruel, despotic people who enjoy the power they have. However, there are also those who understand that race is just in the color of skin and cannot be used as a weapon in decisions and behavior. Samuel Bass is one of the representatives of the white masters, who understood the ill nature of race, who were sure that the color of skin and human race could not be used as the means for manipulating them. Overall, Edwin Epps was right since black people belonged to the master and no one dared to contradict this fact. However, the side of Samuel Bass was to try to express the idea that race was nothing and could be only seen in the color of skin. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who see a great gap between them and people with another color of skin, such as Edwin Epps. At the same time, the positon of Samuel Bass is still supported by the major part of the population. 

Despite the fact that slavery was abolished many years ago, despite the fact that racial discrimination is prohibited by the law, and even despite the fact that the USA is governed by the African American President, the issue of race still bothers American community. The way how racial relationships have been developed has been represented by the director of 12 Years a Slave. People need such films and such heroes as Solomon Northup until they understand that race and color of skin means nothing and only human relations deserve any attention in the contemporary community. The problem of race still remains an issue and it should be discussed until the ways and strategies are found of how to eliminate the problem.

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Racism as the Focus of 12 Years a Slave essay

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