Ask a slave. Go on.
September 4, 2013 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Ask a Slave, part 2. Part 1 is here. According to the YouTube description: "Ask A Slave is a comedy web series directed by Jordan Black based on the actress' time working as a living history character at the popular historic site, George Washington's Mount Vernon. All questions and interactions are based on true events."
posted by From Bklyn (25 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
We need to mix this with a slave from 2013 to see how we have improved as a species.
posted by Mezentian at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I won't spoil either one, but the end jokes of each video are just perfect.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Very well-done. I'm looking forward to more episodes.
posted by xingcat at 8:59 AM on September 4, 2013


This is fantastic, reminds me of the Washington Post feature about the actors hired to play slaves at Colonial Williamsburg, covered here previously
posted by sherief at 9:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is indeed a tiny, tiny bit of sympathy I'd have for some of those questions, as people don't always think through all the ramifications of an atrocity like this from the get-go. I once did some research for a childrens' theater company that staged a production of a play about the Holocaust, and the director told me once that the kids - who were all late-grade-school and junior-high age - had all heard about the Holocaust, but about midway through the rehearsals they actually had to have it explained to them that the prisoners in concentration camps weren't allowed to bring food into the camp with them when they were shipped in (I think one child innocently asked why people were going hungry, and the director sorted them out).

But - I'd understand that kind of unawareness from kids. From adults, now, I indeed have no idea how people could indeed be so clueless. (I do not doubt in the slightest, however, that they were.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember when I first started watching Hell on Wheels, they had a big crowd scene where a lot of the railroad workers had their shirts off, and a lot of the Black workers, former slaves, had whip scars on their backs. I’d seen them before, of course, in movies and on TV, but for the first time in my lily-white life I wondered how it would feel, as a Black actor, having that makeup applied. The only actors of color I’ve worked with closely enough to feel comfortable asking such a personal question have been young and just starting out, without having that experience yet.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I lived in Kenya until about two weeks ago. I think one of my favorite comments was, 'If I go to Norway, will people yell "Hey, black man!" when I walk down the road?' The reverse of which happens in Kenya All. The. Time. Also a decent amount of 'can I touch your hair?' comments, but mostly from kids directed at my girlfriend. My beard is apparently a bit less attractive!
posted by kaibutsu at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2013


kaibutso, that's an interesting story. I hope you're not spinning the "it can be just the same in reverse" line though cos ... it ain't. What's galling about the appalling ignorance of white american adults in asking questions about slavery is, us white people are still living off the benefits of all that enormous amount of hard work and ill-treatment, and black people are still in general poorer, less likely to own businesses, more likely to die young or go to prison, and as the Trayvon martin case showed recently, are still pretty much murderable under many circumstances. Thus it's somewhat less cute than Kenyans saying "hey white man!" or wanting to touch your hair. I apologise for being patronising if you already get this.
posted by iotic at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


i loved every second of both of these. thanks for posting.
posted by nadawi at 10:21 AM on September 4, 2013


"So many Negroes!"

This series is hilarious and well-done. But for the love of all things holy, please don't let some hack TV sitcom writer get their grubby hands on it.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


i totally agree about hack sitcom writers - but man alive am i ready for some of the awesome, hilarious women of color with youtube channels to find some greater success, even if that means transferring their talents to a mediocre sitcom.
posted by nadawi at 10:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, iotic; slavery and the continuing inequalities around race are absolutely not the same as what I experienced in Kenya. But there are certain unsophisticated ways that people interface with otherness that seem to branch across racial lines.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:17 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


She is fantastic. Delivery is spot on. I wonder if all these questions were meant to be directed to the character as opposed to the actress? The "Where do your kids go to school?" seems so oblivious that it must have been for the actress, right? Right?
posted by chatongriffes at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "Where do your kids go to school?" seems so oblivious that it must have been for the actress, right? Right?

I have learned never to underestimate the capacity for people to Not Get It. There is a passage from the production diary Emma Thompson wrote for when she was filming Sense and Sensibility, about a moment she and a couple others had with her producers about an early version of the script.

And about midway through the meeting, one of the producers' guys said, "so, I don't get it - these sisters, Marianne and Eleanor, why is their mother so worried about them getting married? Why don't they get jobs?" And it had to be explained to him that that simply wasn't an option for women in Regency England.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:56 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


But for the love of all things holy, please don't let some hack TV sitcom writer get their grubby hands on it.

Brace yourself.

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer

There are storylines where Abe Lincoln is addicted to Telegraph Sex, and no it's not funny as its sounds.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, dumbass white people.

I do seriously wonder how anyone of color can take a job as a re-enactor. Or at least, I wonder how they can stand it. I doubt it pays well enough (or possibly at all) to stomach the stupid, right?
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:48 PM on September 4, 2013


*cough* New Hampshire hasn't changed much *cough*
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:05 PM on September 4, 2013


I really enjoy her voice and presentation, she'd be fantastic at narrating audiobooks. This reminded me of this This American Life segment (Act One). Which, in googling, led me to a post that appeared on the blue (previously).
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:13 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do seriously wonder how anyone of color can take a job as a re-enactor. Or at least, I wonder how they can stand it. I doubt it pays well enough (or possibly at all) to stomach the stupid, right?

There's a 2012 mystery novel called The Cutting Season which addresses this issue. It was written by a Black woman and takes place on a fictional Louisiana plantation.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew little of Tobias Lear^, and Wikipedia does not say he was an abolitionist, but he may easily have had such sentiments coming from New Hampshire; but then he assisted the Attorney General in reminding Washington that he should send his slaves home to Mount Vernon from Pennsylvania before that state's residency law would legally free them -- as had happened to the Attorney General. Oopsie!
posted by dhartung at 4:45 AM on September 5, 2013


The "Where do your kids go to school?" seems so oblivious that it must have been for the actress, right? Right?

That looked like actress Sara Rue to me. I vote scripted.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:34 AM on September 5, 2013


uh - none of the questions are being asked in the video by the people who actually asked them.
posted by nadawi at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


The "Where do your kids go to school?" seems so oblivious that it must have been for the actress, right? Right?

I've spent my career in and around living history settings, and I didn't hear a single question that couldn't have been/hasn't been asked by people. A lot of people are really just not getting it - really have very very little information about the past. Many people would think this was a reasonable question, a good way to make conversation. It is the kind of question that reveals an underlying assumption: "all kids go to school" = question to reenactor: where do your kids go to school? - just like the assumption "all people have favorite foods" translates to the question: what is your favorite food (as if you have a choice of what you get to eat?)

I thought she did a particularly good job of selecting people to play the very recognizable personality types you tend to encounter when in character. Especially the "outsmart 'em!" types that think there must be a way out for you if only you would get over your learned helplessness about being a woman/Indian/black - "just go to school!" "just take the Underground Railroad!" "just run away etc. Then there are the "but all people are good, really, aren't they" folks who want to ask about the positive aspects of life so they can walk away with their understandings of history preserved.
posted by Miko at 5:34 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, part 3...

Includes a number of questions where someone is clearly trying to apply their modern paradigms to a time in history where it just won't fit.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:45 PM on September 9, 2013


I remember going to Plimoth Plantation on a school trip in the eighth grade, and wiseacre kids would periodically troll the re-enactors with questions about modern things just to see what would happen. "I know nothing of this Burger King; I only know of his Majesty, King Charles."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:09 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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