Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why I watched 12 Years a Slave with my 10 year old.

Photo from Wikipedia
Last weekend I borrowed a few movies from the library.  12 Years a Slave was on the 3 day loan shelf and I wanted to see it.  I watched it Friday night by myself.  Hubs wasn't so digging it.  K had her archery banquet on Saturday morning and as we were enjoying breakfast all together, I was telling Kay and my sister what I watched the evening before.  

"Mom, I'd like to watch that with you.  We're doing a section on slavery in Social Studies."


After we went about our morning business, we landed back home in the early afternoon and set to watching the movie.

"K, I have to fast forward over 3 parts.  There will be nudity, but nothing that is any different than what you've seen in art museums you have visited all of your life.  There will also be language that is most definitely inappropriate for today."

"Okay, Mom."

And so we watched it.  She watched a free man be sold into slavery, smuggled, beaten and whipped.

She saw how the slaves were on display much like items in a store, left unclothed to be fully viewed as people milled around and were offered hors d' oeuvres while they shopped for humans.

She said, "Mom, there is dust coming up off of his clothes."

"Baby, that isn't dust."  Later, they showed how she could see that it wasn't that.

She watched men be hanged.

She asked questions.  She took it all in.  I then emailed her Social Studies teacher so that she knew.
Ms. K-,

Just wanted to give you a heads up that yes, I did watch 12 Years A Slave with K this weekend.

We were at K's archery banquet and I mentioned to my sister and Kay that I had watched it the night before.  K said, "You know Mom, we're talking about slavery in school.  I'd like to watch that with you."  Since I watched it the night before, I knew that there were 3 scenes that I wanted to skip past (the sexual scenes), but the rest would be okay for her to watch.  I explained that there would be nudity, but that it was no different than anything that she's seen at the art museums that she has been in and out of all of her life.  I explained that there would be language that she wouldn't be used to, but that was definitely improper to use today.

You see, we don't shelter K from social tragedies such as the history of slavery, the battle for gay rights and so forth.  We waited until she was old enough and took her to Gettysburg about a year and a half ago.  She read the signs on the wall and was in tears that people were bought and sold.  I bought her the American Girl "Addy" book and she read it on the way home.  "MOM!  ADDY'S DAD AND BROTHER ARE GONE AND SHE MIGHT NOT SEE THEM AGAIN!"  Truly, an important thing for her to know.  For her presidential report, I explained about "Don't ask, don't tell."  She was so beside herself with DADT that she wanted it to be a part of her oral report, but not wanting to offend people, I told her that we'd just discuss it at home for now.  (She was incredibly passionate about it.  The gentlemen across the street are gay and love on K as only they can.  She has discussed their life arrangement with me and was mortified to hear that even though they love each other very much, they are denied the right to marry.  I was afraid if I let her go in about DADT that Mr. B and Mrs. S would get more calls that they bargained for!)

She talked with me as we watched the movie.  It flashes a little back and forth, so I explained that.  As they whipped them, I told her that wasn't dust flying in the air.  She watched scenes of people being hanged.  She saw the injustice.

We want her to learn from history.  We don't want to shelter her from it.  After all, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -- yes?

Her thoughts?  She thought that it was awesome that I did watch it with her.  History isn't there to be ignored.  It's just not.  It may need some explanation and sometimes, there isn't a explanation for it.  Still, we need to continue to learn from mistakes of the past.   We're all humans and deserve to be treated as such.


Rach said...


Heidi Castro said...

and I wish, as a teacher and parent, that more parents would do this, instead of teaching the same hatred and bigotry over and over again.