I recently created this post for my personal Facebook page, but I want to share these thoughts here as well.
I'm almost afraid to post about how horrifying, how devastating, how thoroughly infuriating “When They See Us”, director Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix mini-series, truly is. I'm afraid because I fear some of my white friends and family will read my comments and decide to put off watching it, or maybe not really ever get around to watching it, because a) we already know the story and don't feel the need to see it dramatized, b) it's a difficult time in our life right now and we can't consume traumatic stuff, c) we’re waiting for some free time maybe later on when we can just watch it all at once, d) witnessing this kind of injustice makes us too mad/distraught/miserable to function, e) any number of other reasons.
But this is the thing: That is saying that white discomfort and inconvenience is more intolerable to us than facing the continued hideous effects of racism and white supremacy on black and brown human beings. If we white people can’t even manage to bear witness, to watch and read and listen to the personal and detailed stories of how black and brown people are abused and terrorized by their own country, the country we share with them, if we can’t stand the burn of really understanding the unconscionably evil truths about our racist systems and lack of justice or accountability, then we will never be motivated to truly fight against it. And then it will never change. And we nice white people will have been utterly complicit, as many before us have been. Because it wasn’t happening to us, so we never got around to letting it change us into people who are mad enough to make it stop. I know we are better than that, at least I pray that we are. I still hold hope.
Some black people cannot bear to watch this film, but their reasons are different that white people choosing not to watch it. The realities of the injustices against their own black lives are reflected in these heartbreaking stories. Will we listen? Will we watch? Will we act?
Please, white friends, watch “When They See Us”. And then let’s talk about it and what we’re going to do about it.
Gabrielle Corsaro Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director, The Bridge PHL Theatre Festival
A native of Philadelphia, Gabrielle spent several years studying and working as an actor in New York. It was both wonderful and frustrating on a daily basis. Parenthood brought her back home, and gradually Gabrielle began writing and directing. She founded AngelPirate Productions in 2005 which evolved from a desire to serve the Philadelphia community by developing and producing original performance pieces by local artists which amplify voices historically underheard. In 2015 Gabrielle co-founded The Bridge PHL Theatre Festival with Hannah MacLeod, Meryl Lynn Brown, and Kathy Harmer to foster healing connections between our diverse communities through powerful acts of theatre.