Moonlight and Racism
So, I decided to read some comments on different articles for Moonlight, which I instantly regretted because people are shitty.
But there were comments that caught my attention. There were lot of people (who identified as gay, or black or POC, or whatever) who simply couldn’t understand, or relate to the story at all, and believed that it detracted from the overall film.
But, that’s kind of the point of Moonlight.
One of the things I loved about Moonlight was how it handled race as well as sexuality. If you’ve seen it, you know it has an all black cast. So, there isn’t a white (or nonblack) character around for audiences to project onto. And because all of these people are of the same race and live in the same conditions, they don’t need to translate any part of their experience for one another. The characters are black people living in an impoverished neighborhood in the American south (Miami Florida). Drugs are a natural part of the environment, and for many people it’s the only way they can make a living, because business in America don’t want to invest or place high end jobs in black neighborhoods. The people use AAVE without stopping to translate it for anyone. There are after school activities for kids to go to so they don’t get into trouble. Many kids spend time at home while their parents are away working. Hell, I remember taking a bubble bath with dish detergent. There is the rough language that black boys constantly use (even when they’re with their friends) to make themselves to seem bigger, tougher and stronger. There is a run down feel to everyone in this movie (from Juan to Chiron to Teresa) and this comes from over work, constantly worrying about dangers in your neighborhood, and looking over your shoulder for cops or gangsters. The same run down feeling is shown in the setting as well. It’s obvious this town is in a constant state of construction (take the old house Lil’ hid in at the beginning of the film).
And then add this with the main character’s sexuality, and how he (and the movie) navigate that. Despite Chiron’s sexuality, his experiences are strictly structured through an African-American lens. He doesn’t stop being black just because he’s learning about his sexuality. He doesn’t stop using AAVE just because he’s attracted to a man. He doesn’t stop going through the world as a black man, conditioned to be hyper masculine in a poor town just because he falls in love with Kevin. This film makes no apologies for its blackness. And the racism it deals with? It’s subtle and systematic..
When people think of racism in the movie, they think of something that’s easily recognizable (think slave movies, white people with whips, or segregation signs). But what’s interesting about Moonlight is that the racism these people deal with (the town that’s in constant construction, the drugs on the streets,) are all real aspects of systematic racism that black people have to live under. It’s not an easily identifiable constant that can be punched out, or reasoned with. It’s in the fabric of Black American life, and most people miss it unless you’ve lived under it. And let’s be real, many white people (white gays included) wouldn’t pick up on it.
And it’s so funny that people in the black community believe that once you come out as gay, suddenly you’re no longer black. It’s like…no. Our skin color’s still the same. We still lived under the same racial conditions that ya’ll lived under. We still dealt with the same white washed history, and have the same distrust of the American legal system. And with white gays, a lot of them expect us to stop being Black when we come out. We’re supposed to somehow shun our Black heritage (or at least downplay it) when we enter LGBT spaces. We’re not supposed to talk about race in the LGBT community because “We’re all gay!!!! Race doesn’t matter!!!!!!” Or we’re not supposed to question why so many white gays have no problem saying “I’m not into black guys.” And when we do interrogate them further on it, all they can say is “It’s just a preference” and expect that to be the end of it.
So yeah. This movie is beautifully authentic, and I love it for that reason.