Confederate: Art at What Cost
You may not believe this but I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Yes, I know it’s the greatest show ever made and yes I understand winter is finally here and that dragons, like they have always been, are awesome but even with all that I still don’t watch the show. Well, I don’t watch it anymore. Honestly, I watched the first season but the amount of nudity and sex scenes made my pornography addiction even harder to deal with than it already was so I decided that the show wasn’t worth increasing the difficulty of overcoming my addiction. Don’t worry I’m not one of those Christians that think if you watch Game of Thrones you’re a perv I understand people can separate the substance of the shows story from the nudity and sex I just understand that I am not one of those people. But if I was one of those people and continued watching the show I would have a hard time continuing to do so for a whole other reason.
The creators of Game of Thrones announced a new show they are working on for HBO called “Confederate.” The premise of the show is an alternate America in which the South successfully seceded from the North resulting in slavery continuing and thriving well into the present. Immediately there was major backlash from the black community as well as many outside of it pressuring HBO to stop a show depicting the continuation of slavery seeing the light of day. However, there has been just as much pushback from people defending the show and arguing that cancellation of the show would be setting a dangerous precedent of censoring art. Which raises the following question. Is a show about slavery continuing in America art?
To answer that question we must first define art. Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” So by definition art is something created that is meant to be appreciated for it’s beauty or emotional power. Let’s start with beauty. What is beautiful about slavery? What is beautiful about looking at an entire race of people as less than human? Three fifths human to be exact. What is beautiful about treating that same race of people as if they were property? Something to be used, abused, and discarded of at a person’s whim. Imagine if you said the following to a black person, “You know you should really appreciate the beauty of slavery,” how would you expect them to react? Not positively, correct? So why should you expect a different reaction if you told a black person to appreciate the beauty of show that depicts slavery continuing in America?
Art is also meant to be appreciated for its emotional power. Now there’s no denying a show about slavery never being abolished in America would have emotional power. But is said power worth wielding? To think that the black community isn’t still feeling the affects of slavery is nothing short of ignorant. The damage caused by hundreds of years of suffering of degradation and physical and emotional abuse doesn’t just go away because generations have gone by. Hundreds of years of white people believing black people are three fifths human and hundred of years of black people being told that they are three fifths human plays a huge part in the America we live in today. It’s why it is easier for cops to shoot a black man than it is a white man. It’s why it’s easier to put black people in prison over petty charges than it is white people. Simply put black lives aren’t given the same value as white lives. It’s why the Black Lives Matter movement exists. It doesn’t exist to say other lives don’t matter it exists to make people recognize that although owning black people as slaves has been completely abolished in America the thought that black lives are three fifths of white lives hasn’t been. And although we may not want to admit but many of us blacks are still trying to prove we are more than three fifths human. It’s why we continue to spend money we don’t have on the newest pair of Jordan’s, on expensive gold chains, and on flashy cars. It’s why we as a community or so focused on our appearance because we want to prove that we too have worth and value. And this is why the emotional power of Confederate is more harmful than beneficial because it will only reinforce these misguided ways of thinking.
What is most disturbing about Confederate is that people actually think slavery is so far in America’s past that there’s no problem with imagining what if it continued? But that’s the problem. We as a nation can’t wonder what America would look like if slavery continued because it was never discontinued. Slavery STILL exists in America. Instead of slaves chained in fields of cotton blacks are chained in prisons. Instead of blacks being killed by slave traders and masters they are aborted before they are born by physicians in clinics. Instead of being gunned down disobeying the law by running for their freedom blacks are gunned down complying with standing or sitting with their hands up.
Call it art if you want but also call Confederate for what it is. A blatant slap in the face to the black community. The show says to all black people in America, “Move on and get over it already!” But how can we as blacks move on from something that’s still happening. How can we as blacks get over something that still exists?