After the exhausting trial and conviction for the murder of George Floyd, which was only worsened by the multiple instances of police brutality across the country, the Black community became more depressed and hopeless for America’s future.
To unwind from the ugly reality of institutionalized racism in America, some Black individuals might dive into self-care activities like watching television. However, with the rise and fixation of Black trauma, Hollywood platforms and studios have seemed to make a trend of creating stories that highlight the horrific experiences Black people try to escape from.
Black history is known throughout time to detail suffering and traumatic events. By continuing themes of slavery, police brutality and Black struggle in film, producers, some of the most prominent and influential storytellers, reveal a lack of consideration regarding how people perceive the Black community.
Black representation, outside of a traumatic history, is essential in today's film and TV; it impacts past, present and future generations and allows Black individuals to see themselves as more than society’s dehumanizing stereotypes.
Black depiction in films and TV tends to be in the Black trauma films like slavery, police brutality films, or any racial or segregation film.
In a column for The Hollywood Reporter, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, editor and NBA Hall of Famer, addressed the dangers of slavery-focused films such as ”Django Unchained” and ”12 Years a Slave.”
Expressing concern over the effects on both Black and white audiences from these films, Abdul-Jabbar said, “I also worry that so many movies about slavery risk defining African Americans’ participation in American history primarily as victims rather than as victors in a continuous battle for economic and social freedom.”
The country needs movies that teach more about Black history than just suffering; it needs films highlighting what Black excellence and expression really mean.
"Black Panther," directed by Ryan Coogler, is one example of a film that showcased Black experiences apart from racism and violence. The film was not just one of the highest-grossing films of all time, but more importantly, a sense of Black pride and hope for a world that never stripped culture and identity away from them.
“Here you have a film where Black people are kings and queens, innovators and leaders, and this fosters the ideas of respect and admiration," Richard Irvin said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "Rarely do you see black people in positive roles and I feel this will have a positive effect on the community.”
In television, Issa Rae's "Insecure" is another excellent example of highlighting the everyday life of Black Americans navigating through the world while still addressing essential messages of Blackness.
Stories like these are what benefit and uplift the community. Shows and movies that prioritize trauma, on the other hand, don’t help Black individuals escape from the horror of reality or be hopeful for a life that can be different.
We do not need to see more and more productions centered around death by the hand of racism or unjust incarceration of Black brothers and sisters. We need films that show us the truth hidden from the public by the whitewashed history of America — stories separated from hate and segregation.
The history of Black people in America must not always showcase the negative but also reflect the beauty and the innovations from their past.
Let Black creatives show a new era of storytelling that emulates identity, culture, pride, love, heroes, horror and much more. Those stories are the true Renaissance and identity of Black culture in America.