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How “Get Out” is a reality for students of color at Tulane

"Get Out" directed by Jordan Peele has become a box office hit.

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Have you been in the sunken place?

“Get Out” wasn’t just a miraculous box office success, Jordan Peele’s artistic and creative portrayal of racism in the modern era made it one. Not showing the horrifically violent Klansmen or even the generational racism with old and ignorant parents that “can’t help it,” Peele instead chose to use a liberal family who hypnotize, use and sell the bodies of black folks they encounter with the help of their son and daughter.

Chris, the protagonist and black male lead, falls in love with a white woman named Rose. He goes to meet her family in the rural city where they live. After hitting a deer while driving, Chris is unnecessarily questioned for information by a police officer, despite the fact that he was not the one driving. Seeing this, Rose argues with the cop about how his treatment is unfair and racist, much to Chris’ dismay.

Rose’s apparent morality didn’t provide the surge of relief I expected to feel seeing a white “ally” and girlfriend stand up for her boyfriend. Meeting her progressive family had the same effect. The script is filled with carefully layered elements of modern racism seen through the microaggressions Chris faces while interacting with white family members and friends.

One of the most horrific elements of this film, however, is not the element of racism itself, but how its insidious and hateful nature is ultimately rooted in an exploitative power dynamic. Rose’s mother uses hypnosis to gain control over her family’s black victims and her family using and selling black bodies to the highest bidder for their capabilities.

Have I been in the sunken place?

Existing as a student of color on a predominantly white campus and in organizations sometimes feels like it. This state of being that Peele used to demonstrate the feeling of experiencing modern-day racism, a feeling of confusion, frustration and a heartbreaking lack of control, I find accurate in my experiences. The film’s message conveyed the idea that even though recent popular culture has shown that “diversity and inclusivity” is important, changing the power dynamics that prevent them from occurring are not.

“Get Out” wasn’t an amazing film for making racism scary. Rather, it was because it incorporated elements that made racism in the film accurate in the modern context to the lived experiences of many people.

Rose’s mother’s hypnosis is a metaphor for racial respectability politics and ideals, and watching “the help” cry and look so lost in their eyes was beyond disturbing for this reason. During the entire film, I couldn’t look away from their faces on screen. I felt myself understanding and relating to the experience of feeling you can’t truly control your own fate and decisions because of structures that are much larger and more powerful than an individual. 

As someone who considers herself to be a student leader, I find that being a black woman while occupying spaces that have been historically dominated by white male students makes me constantly question whether my path is determined by my own individual agency or by respectability politics.

I want to work with fellow student leaders to create positive change in the institutional structures of Tulane. I want to empower fellow students of color to engage in student government and organizations beyond roles that may unintentionally lead to the tokenization of people of color.

“Get Out” reminded me that Tulane University may be “the sunken place” for a lot of people, and I want to be a part of changing that.

1 Comment

One Response to “How “Get Out” is a reality for students of color at Tulane”

  1. Chiniquy on March 25th, 2017 4:25 pm

    Good article.

    Get Out is a very interesting movie.

    I have found that people of African descent are too trusting of Caucasians and very distrustful of members of their own race.

    Remember what happened in South Carolina a few years ago:

    https://chiniquy.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/a-massacre-in-the-church/

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
How “Get Out” is a reality for students of color at Tulane