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Uncomfortable Historical Truths: On White Privilege and the Movie "12 Years a Slave"

No mainstream American film would dare to show the true range of white on black torture and cruelty that took place during slavery in the West because such depictions would not be believed by the general public.

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The white supremacy of slavery across the Black Atlantic, and then decades of segregation, as well as Jim and Jane Crow, were systems of racial tyranny. Human beings with near absolute power over others, and where that power is legitimated by the state and society through fictions of human racial difference, legitimates and rationalizes cruelty.

As gently depicted by the film 12 Years a Slave, the logical assumption should be that such power naturally encourages abuse and exploitation. Race and arbitrary distinctions of skin color are means of legitimating such a social order.

Race has nothing to do with the cruelties meted out by white society against black human property for at least four centuries across the Black Atlantic; in a paradox, race has everything to do with the cruelties meted out by white society against black human property for at least four centuries across the Black Atlantic

As shown by her thoughts regarding the film 12 Years a Slave, Dana Stevens, and others who are similarly possessed by white privilege, makes an error in assuming that the white on black (and brown) cruelty of slavery (as well as colonialism and imperialism) are outliers or unusual conditions that require extraordinary and extreme proofs of existence. This is an absurd claim, one that stands as an extreme outlier when compared to the overall violent grotesqueness of human history.

Thus, and again, white privilege is shown to be a type of cognitive narcissism, one that hurts white people ethically, morally, and intellectually.

Chauncey DeVega, a pseudonym, is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes. His essays on race, popular culture and politics have been published in various books and Web sites. He can be reached at chaunceydevega@gmail.com.