Spike v. Sethe



M’Kay, so we all heard Spike Lee at the BET Honors say that parents can be the biggest dream killers.

You didn’t hear him?  Click here: http://www.353urbanvoice.com/video-bet-honors-2012-spike-lee-tribute-and-acceptance-speech/

But dang, Mr. Lee, can you imagine why? Down through history, black moms (and I understand that this is not just a problem in our community, but our experience is unique in this country; it should be explored) have had to protect their little brown babies from the realities of our world. Ya’ll know the stats:


Our mothers live in fear! This made me think of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” where this issue was on and poppin’ all up and throughout the book. Here are a few lines where Sethe is talking to Paul D about her children:

“Yeah. It didn’t work, did it? Did it work?” he asked.

“It worked,” she said.

“How? Your boys gone you don’t know where. One girl dead, the other won’t leave the yard. How did it work?”

“They ain’t at Sweet Home. Schoolteacher ain’t got em.”

“Maybe there’s worse.”

“It ain’t my job to know what’s worse. It’s my job to know what is and to keep them away from what I know is terrible. I did that.”

“What you did was wrong, Sethe.”

“I should have gone on back there? Taken my babies back there?”

“There could have been a way. Some other way.”

“What way?”

“You got two feet, Sethe, not four,” he said, and right then a forest sprang up between them; trackless and quiet.

Ok can we talk about Ms. Morrison real quick though? Where did she get the talent? Was God like, “here ya go, Toni (and the few other super crazily gifted people in the world), you get more than the rest of these chumps I’m over here making.” I mean, clearly, that must have been what He did. There’s actually a parable in the bible about “talents” and making the most of what you have. Matthew 25: 14-30

But I digress! I just think this scene from the book is such a major part of the African American woman’s experience, and it’s still super relevant today. All Sethe (doesn’t Danny Glover put that extra “ha” on the end of her name in the movie? It’s like you need to take an extra breath when you finish saying it) wanted to do was live her life with her family as a free woman. She would do anything to keep her family from going back to Sweet Home – the plantation.  We all know she killed one of her daughters, a result she thought would be better than slavery. And here was Paul D judging her. Fast forward to Spike Lee calling mothers dream killers the other night and judging our mothers (that might be a slight exaggeration).

African American mothers have to make these impossible decisions. They have to raise their children in fear of what could be. Black mothers are so scared that they can’t just let their children go and do any ole’ thing. It’s like Sethe said, “It ain’t my job to know what’s worse. It’s my job to know what is and to keep them away from what I know is terrible.”

On the other hand, Mr. Lee had a point didn’t he? We’d rather see our children take the safest, most boring road possible instead of allowing them to live freely and explore their interests – even if that means taking huge risks. Can you hear your mother telling you that she’ll support your new business idea but “if you get ya azz pregnant, don’t ask me for a dime.” Well, as long as we find some middle ground. . .

– Southern

I'm Mariah. Jesus is my homie. I live in (and was raised in) the south. I am, as often as possible, actively grateful for my family because I understand their life giving power. Really dislike melodramatics. Really love reading and writing so much so that I aspire to be an author. What else?

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