When one takes to heart the Dick Gregory adage-- that
Hollywood has never spent a penny to entertain us-- one can more accurately view
Steven Spielberg's Amistad. Bro. Gregory, of course, meant that every
flickering image has a purpose and function to maintain the balance of power for
White people. The Amistad is a textbook example of this well-established
principle. The following is a guide for the conscious viewing of this pernicious
production. Motown's Norman Whitfield provides the rule of thumb: "People,
believe half of what you see, Oh, and none of what you hear."
The Amistad: The Black
Viewer's Movie Guide
The Amistad was a Spanish slaver which was forcibly taken over by its former cargo, 53 African Black people. The Connecticut coast guard apprehended the "mutineers" and imprisoned them on the charge of murder. The movie purports to describe the legal battle that ensued all the way to the Supreme Court -- spreading lies with every scene.
1) The purpose of Amistad is made clear even before the movie begins. Indeed, in the promotional movie poster, Spielberg exonerates the White man in the crime of Black slavery. Above the title is the movie's ambiguous operating premise: "Freedom cannot be given. It is our right at birth. But there are moments in time when it must be taken." If freedom MUST be taken, Spielberg reasons, then, of course, the takers are within their rights and even have a responsibility to participate in the slave trade.
2) When the Amistad crew is subdued and the ship taken over by the Africans, the first filmed act is a primitive battle between two African rivals who yell at one another while angrily vying for power. They do not appear to have the ability to strategize and communicate among themselves about their opportunity to refocus on the common need to escape. This theme of tribalism and savagery is one that is constantly reinforced throughout the film. In a scene where the White attorney first visits the captives in their dungeon, the Africans have staked-out "territory," presumably along tribal lines. The subtle message is that these Africans deserve to be slaves. This concept is central to the movie's true purpose. The "Americanized" Blacks (who are never explicitly identified as slaves) are starkly different in carriage and comportment than the "savage" Africans. The "Americans" are refined and even genteel, festooned in the British style with powdered wigs and ruffles. Though of the servant class, they are well-treated and content and pointedly "civilized." They are in training, one is led to assume, to be like Morgan Freeman--a "free" negro of means. This image-juxtapositioning by Spielberg is central to a pro-slavery argument advanced by Whites in the mid-1800's. Are not Africans better off in slavery in America than as spear-chuckers in the jungle? Spielberg's answer is: "Clearly, Yes."
3) The Amistad Africans themselves are almost immediately turned into props by Spielberg's script. Once these Africans are deposited into the dungeon, the rest of the Black Holocaust is played out in courtrooms and parlors among White people. They alone have the power to determine the fate of the Africans regardless of the desires of the Africans themselves. This makes White viewers comfortable. Firmly in chains, the life and death matters of these simple Africans can now be litigated by White people. Ultimately, Spielberg's goal is to fortify and exonerate a system and a people that profitted from the despicable trade in Black humanity even at the expense of its Black victims. The point here is never to compromise, or even question, America's heritage and worldwide image as having been "founded on freedom, justice and equality." Slavery, in Spielberg's vision, is merely a bump in the road.
4) True to the "good Nazi" theme of Spielberg's Jewish Holocaust movie Schindler's List, the Amistad is offered up with a group of historically bizarre creations of the Hollywood propagandists-a good White man and a 19th century "free" Black aristocrat. Contrary to Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of the cantankerous former president John Quincy Adams, who represented the Amistad rebels in the Supreme Court, he was no lover of the Black man. His home state of Massachusetts was making so much money on slavery that Adams absolutely favored it. The cotton mills of Lawrence and Lowell and the banks of downtown Boston all would have collapsed without slavery and the money it generated. He has other racist credentials:
·When Adams was a diplomat after the Revolutionary and the 1812 Wars, he went to the British on behalf of slaveholders to attempt to get their slaves back.
·He believed that Congress had no right to abolish slavery where it existed.
·He believed that the ultimate solution for the Black Man would be widespread interbreeding, which he said "would be the extirpation (extermination) of the African race upon the continent, by the gradual bleaching process of intermixture, where the white portion is already so predominant..."
·He believed that another possible solution would be a race war.
·Adams also believed that the American Indian was "an inferior race...and perhaps not worth preserving."
The fact is that there is no evidence that he ever even met the Amistad rebels though the film portrays them as becoming friends. But Spielberg is probably unaware that his White hero was a Jew-hater as well. According to Jewish author Nathaniel Weil, Adams "often spoke of Jews in such a way as to suggest a strong anti-Semitic prejudice."
5) Spielberg uses Morgan Freeman to perpetuate another destructive myth. The "fictional composite" Freeman plays is a free Black aristocrat in New England and is the character under dispute in the plagiarism lawsuit against Spielberg. The idea that the North was "free" and that the Northern Black population enjoyed equal relations is a bombastic falsehood. "Free" Blacks did not exist in the North or South in the 19th century. This unfortunate segment of Black society was often in worse condition than slaves whose White masters had an economic interest in their survival. There was a good reason why Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad stayed underground in New York and New England, moving instead to British Canada. Abolitionists were viciously denounced, tarred and feathered, and generally terrorized for their opposition to slavery. They were, in fact, an insignificant minority among Whites until guilt-ridden historians gave them a prominence they could never have dreamed of in their lifetimes. One might read Lorman Ratner's Powder Keg, for an enlightening account of the Northern attitude against Blacks at the time of the Amistad affair. The Spielberg movie shows Freeman in a top hat, riding around in a carriage casually dining with his White friends. In fact, all of the "American" Black people/props calmly intermingle with White people. Spielberg covers up the fact that there was extraordinary White violence directed against Black people for simply being Black. The U.S. Congress actually had a "gag rule" against any debate against slavery at this time.
6) Amistad Film Note: Spielberg boldly filmed much of the movie in Newport, Rhode Island, the very center of the Jewish-run slave trade. Rum, of course, was central to the wicked trade in Black flesh and Newport was its center of production. At one point, all 22 stills were owned by the Newport Jews. Aaron Lopez and Jacob Rivera were among the Jewish leaders of the trade and dominated Newport's business community. One Jewish historian wrote of the Newport Jews: "[They] traded extensively in Negroes." The pious Newport Jews prayed at a synagogue that was built by Black slaves "of some skill," and all the Newport Jews owned domestic slaves-Lopez, who the Jewish organization Anti-Defamation League calls "beloved and respected," had 27.
7) A British Navy officer who wants to see an end to the trans-Atlantic slave trade testifies on behalf of the Africans. In the end of the movie, he is seen bombing the slave fortress in Africa-- presumably ending the African slave trade. There are two falsehoods being proffered here:
a) The British wanted to end the slave trade, but not for the noble purpose implied by Spielberg. They wanted to stop the export of slave labor, because Black bodies were required in Africa to colonize and exploit Africa for the British! They also wanted to cripple their business competitors all of whom were dependent on slave labor. Twenty years later Britain was the biggest foreign supporter of the Southern Confederacy.
b) Long after the Amistad Africans were returned to Africa the slave trade continued in America. The profits of slave dealing were shocking. The slave ship Espoir made a profit of $436,200 on one trip. Kidnapper C.A.L.Lamar wrote in 1860 (twenty years after the Amistad affair), "The trade cannot be checked while such great percentages are made in the business. The outlay of $35,000 often brings $500,000....No wonder Boston, New York and Philadelphia have so much interest in the business." Steel-hulled steamers were introduced into the trade, inflating profits even more, for these vessels were able to carry many more slaves than the sailing ships.
8) Spielberg doesn't tell us that one of the Amistad Africans was deemed the property of one of the Spaniards and NOT FREED, or that the U.S. Congress attempted to give the Spanish slave dealers $70,000 to pay for their losses while the Africans were forced to sing and dance for years to raise money to pay for their trip back to Africa. Such details are inconsistent with Spielberg's Happy Slave Holocaust fantasy.
9) The John Williams score is designed to usher a viewer through the range of emotions that Spielberg cannot elicit with his visual images. It is especially overbearing during a pitifully trite Christian conversion scene where a once proud African is willing to accept a White Jesus and a new religion from a series of drawings in a Bible! Here, Spielberg again intends to show how simple-minded the Africans are. It is patently offensive and plainly malicious. As for the musical score, Williams is simply unqualified.
Steven Spielberg, who once said that he "could never forgive" entertainer Michael Jackson for introducing his Jewish children to anti-Semitic epithets, has no such reservations about introducing our Black children to all manner of falsehoods about their own history. Spielberg's open assault on Black history is inexcusable. He's wagered heavily that Black people are as ignorant as his Black characters.
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