I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck (USA, 2016)

The story of Black men and women in America is not a pretty one. This is an understatement. From slavery and segregation to the present day struggle to convince diehard bigots that their lives matter, the story is dominated by violence and oppression.

This sobering documentary may focus mainly on events from the past but it is no abstract history lesson.

The film is based on James Baldwin’s ‘Remember This House’, his uncompleted memoirs about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers; three prominent civil rights activists who were all assassinated in the 1960s before they reached 40.

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and using powerful newsreel footage, poignant still photographs, well-chosen movie clips and film interviews with Baldwin, a shameful picture emerges of Americans systematically building a nation based on white power encouraged by state indifference and backed by institutional racism.

Baldwin was an articulate and passionate critic of the indoctrination that fuels the myth of white superiority that persists to this day.

The title of the movie derives from his declaration “I am not a nigger, I am a man” and the rage and sadness comes from the recognition that the color blindness and racial inequality that fired him is just as destructive as it was half a century ago.

I’m grateful to the local authority of Cesena, Italy for showing this movie for free in the town square. To my mind, it should be required viewing in high schools everywhere followed by full discussion of the issues it raises and the blinkered thinking it exposes.