Watching Reenactments of Enslavement is Traumatic

Why I can hardly bear to look

Hello friends,

The other day I was scrolling through a streaming service and saw that Amistad was available for viewing. I thought about it for a second, and decided I didn’t need to see it again. I’ll explain why in a moment.

But first, if you have never seen it, here’s the Wikipedia description.

“Amistad is a 1997 American historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the events in 1839 aboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors' ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.”

I remember seeing it when it came out. I was living in England at the time, and I chose to see it by myself, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the comments or concerns of my white friends. Afterwards, I was glad I had.

Despite the “happy” ending, the scene that stays with me - and the reason I don’t want to watch it again - is at the beginning. It shows the brutality of enslavement, from the ships to the whippings, and more. It was viscerally painful.

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