Lincoln Is Too White

15 Mar

Round 2I have two criticisms about Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s costume drama about the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865. I sat through a very uncrowded theater in Busan wondering if I was the only customer not sleeping.

It’s mighty white.

Where was Frederick Douglass? William Lloyd Garrison? Harriet Tubman? Harriet Beecher Stowe? Wendell Phillips? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? I liked Thaddeus Stevens, bad wig at all, and the movie did have some zip for a narrative without music or car crashes. Still, can I get a radical? Do we need to see so many servants? We know white men had sex with African slave women, but is that a sign of bondage or progress? It’s not enough to shove white men in our faces, when many of these men and women were better than us today, and their reactionary foes lacking in any quality.

And, Abraham Lincoln might have been ungainly tall, some called him a “baboon”, and very handy with a story, but he was a very physical man with more experience of laborers and work than the rivals with which he had to contend. He was definitely earthier than Jeff Davis, his upper-middle class-aristocrat-wannabe equal in Richmond’s White House. Americans try so hard to make Lincoln smart, that we forget the whole range of experiences that made him that way.

I liked this movie. I could have liked it much more if its center had strayed outside the sleeze pit of the House of Representatives to the bright spots and cesspools in American society.

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