While Wearing Their Pretty Dresses, They Ruined Lives: 12 Years A Slave & the Role of White Women in Slavery


I saw 12 Years A Slave this weekend. Aside from crying uncontrollably for about 80% of the film—not an exaggeration: please take a box of tissue to the theater if you see it—I was struck by many things the film did in its portrayal of the institution of slavery and the people that upheld it. For starters, I think a spectacularly effective job was done in imparting the terrifying helplessness and profound unfairness of the system: long moments of silence juxtaposed with instances of extreme violence emphasized the normalcy of brutality; the environment that black children were raised in and alongside, an environment in which their parents and elders were subject to torture, degradation, and murder. That was life, 12 Years informs us. A life in which a child can play tag alongside a man hanging from his neck by a tree…because there was nothing that could be done. There is much more, but what I want to talk about is something that 12 Years A Slave illustrates that is often glossed over in other depictions of American slavery: the complicity and cruelty of white women in upholding the institution.

Mistress Ford is the first white woman we encounter, the wife of the first slave master Solomon comes into contact with. When Solomon and Eliza, a black woman who, like Solomon, was kidnapped and brought to the South, are brought to the Ford plantation, Eliza is weeping in the back of a wagon. Mistress Ford appears and asks why and is told that Eliza has been separated from her two young children. Mistress Ford looks something like sympathetic, and for a moment I thought we were going to see the traditional representation of white women: the sensitive counter to her emotionless husband, the empathetic Eve in the midst of a savage system in which she lacks control and finds herself as much a prisoner as the black humans being treated as chattel. But 12 Years had other plans, something more along the lines of reality. Mistress Ford’s regard for the humanity of black people is made explicit in her next line: “Some food and some rest,” she says. “Your children will soon be forgotten.” The idea of a black woman as a mother—a human mother and not merely a baby machine whose uterus is a factory more slave labor—is completely foreign to Mistress Ford. Her countenance is emotionless as Eliza is led away sobbing. She eventually has Eliza sold because she “cannot tolerate that sort of depression.”

Later, when he ends up on the wrong side of the insidious overseer Tibeats, Solomon is nearly lynched, saved only by another white man under the employ of Mr. Ford who was concerned about the debt that Solomon’s death would incur. Solomon is left hanging by his neck, his toes barely touching the ground to keep him alive, for an entire day. For a short time, Mistress Ford watches from the porch, doing nothing. Her coldness is tangible. All the supposedly feminine qualities of tenderness and regard for other people is absent.

The coldness of Mistress Ford is minor, however, when we meet Mistress Epps, the wife of Solomon’s next slave owner.

Mr. Epps, her husband, is a brutal—and insane—man known to be a “slave breaker.” He is notorious for his cruelty, which Solomon and the other slaves on the Epps plantation witness firsthand, and often. He is also obsessed with one of the slaves, a woman named Patsy. Mistress Epps is aware of this, and her cruelty toward Patsy knows no bounds. She strikes her in the face with a heavy bottle, scars Patsy’s cheek with her fingernails, denies her soap, and more. She delivers one or two monologues about the animal nature of black people, how they are prone to violence and should be beaten and ground down. She demands that Mr. Epps sell Patsy, but he refuses, partially because Patsy picks more cotton than any other slave on the plantation and partially to let his wife know that he is in control. Patsy endures rape and harassment at the hands of Mr. Epps, and brutality and cruelty at the hands of Mistress Epps. Her life is so tortured, she begs Solomon to kill her as an act of mercy, an act he cannot commit. There is a brutal scene in which Patsy is whipped, and Mistress Epps is there in the midst of it, demanding that Patsy be whipped harder. Mistress Epps cries that she wants to see blood.

By documenting the extreme suffering of black women during slavery—the explicitness and unapologeticness of which I have only previously seen from Toni Morrison—12 Years A Slave shines a light on the experience of millions during American slavery: the lives of black women, the double-edged sword of black femaleness; victim to violence from all sides. And by shining this light on black femaleness, 12 Years also shines a light on white femaleness, which, in my opinion, has previously gone without serious examination in mainstream film, and even in the way that we talk about slavery. I have distinct memories from middle school and high school history classes in which we discussed the role white women played in slavery…lessons in which that role was described as a non-role. White women’s economic inequality translated in my education as a complete lack of power (and responsibility) not only in the plantation household, but in slavery as a whole. When I heard about white women in the teaching of American slavery, it was as abolitionists, friends on the Underground Railroad, spotless conveyors of goodwill and empathy. 12 Years A Slave calls this representation of white women a lie, and I applaud it.

Although lacking in significant legal and economic power, white women generally controlled the household, existing in the domestic sphere as society dictated. The way we talk about white women in this context paints them—indeed, us—as the gentle, docile, humane creatures that a woman is “supposed to be.” White women upheld notions of feminine morality, history tells us; they didn’t uphold the institution of slavery. The Mrs. Epps and the Mrs. Fords are absent in this characterization. The Delphine LaLauries are absent. The cruel, racist women who called for the blood of women like Patsy—out of hatred for their black bodies and also out of jealousy as white husbands raped the black women they owned—aren’t mentioned when we talk about the people who upheld slavery. We talk about men, both rich and poor, but rarely of their wives; women who were as participative in the perpetuation of white supremacy and human bondage as their male counterparts, as eager to dehumanize, debase and brutalize black bodies as their men.

It’s true, white women lacked the agency of their husbands, fathers and brothers, so their hand in slavery did not extend to the buying and selling of human chattel, the laws being made that called black people only a fraction of a human being. But white women whipped black bodies. They burned them. They posed next to the murdered bodies of black people who were lynched. They called people n*ggers. They scratched faces. They separated families. While wearing their pretty dresses, they ruined lives. If we’re going to talk about slavery and the people that upheld it, we should talk about everyone, as 12 Years A Slave does. If we are going to continue to heal this nation that remains torn and disfigured by its brutal past, then we must take accountability and not hide behind the gentle stereotypes that present day feminists struggle against: women are fully capable of committing acts of savagery, fully able to dehumanize other human beings, truths exhibited by the many Mrs. Epps and Mrs. Fords we know existed in the history of this country. The privileges white supremacy afforded were not handed only to men: women accepted (and accept) those benefits that provide them status and wealth. If we’re going to talk about white supremacy and its role in the foundations of American slavery, no one is exempt. No one. Not even me.

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66 thoughts on “While Wearing Their Pretty Dresses, They Ruined Lives: 12 Years A Slave & the Role of White Women in Slavery

  1. Great article that really speaks to the supremacy and bold nature of the inhumane ownership of enslaved africans and the roles that white women played in this. Great Great Article.

  2. Alison Loris says:

    As a white woman, let me be the first to say you are right: white women did uphold and benefit from the enslavement of black people. Some white women tried to make life easier for their slaves, or even to help them to freedom, just as some white men did those things, but the majority went along with the status quo even if they personally did not participate in active maltreatment. Slavery is one of America’s great shames as a nation, and white women are not exempt.

  3. Hello, Olivia, and thanks for another great, incisive post. Sadly, I’ve not seen this movie yet, but I wanted to make a simple observation on the human condition, from a historical perspective.
    In America in our early years, African people were the slaves, and whites the masters. Of course, this is a fact. My comment, though, is how this pattern of behavior shows up again and again in history. It has happened thousands of times before, and it’s happening right now.
    I’m thinking specifically of two periods of time. The Roman Empire and Nazi Germany. Both time periods are excellent examples of how one body of people (Roman elite or “Aryan” German) can come to believe they are somehow superior to others, and that it is their right to dominate.
    The Romans “knew” that their civilization was the best/most advanced. They kept slaves as well, but not chattel slaves. They weren’t as brutal as America was with it’s slaves, but the concept of superiority over others, of inherent “betterness” was still there. They ruled a vast empire because they were the ones best suited to rule a vast empire.
    Nazi Germany, of course, hardly needs any comment. They were more brutal than America, and yet most German citizens in the day accepted that fact that, if they themselves weren’t superior, then at least the German people as a whole were. If the average German during Nazi rule thought about the Jews and homosexuals and Romani people at all, it was either to ignore what was happening (because it benefited them to do so), or to be glad they were gone (because they blamed them or hated them for causing Germany’s troubles).
    It’s this culture of complicity that you are discussing above. The white women in the Slave South were at minimum willing to turn a blind eye to the horrors unfolding around them, and many of them became caught up in the actual act of being a slave owner – and the brutality and inhumane behavior that follows from that position.
    The question left, as always, after a discussion like this is: What can we do about it?
    The first step, I think, is to acknowledge that our choices have an impact. The last line of your post, “No one is exempt. No one. Not even me” is where we must begin.
    Thank you again!

    • oliviaacole says:

      As always, I appreciate your insights. Thanks so much for reading!

    • sphilli2 says:

      Everyone always fall back on the argument that such horrible incidents happen throughout time. Yes this is true. But……

      1. Transatlantic slave trade created the black and white dynamic as what we know it as today aka all the lovely stereotypes blacks deal.
      2. In the transatlantic slave trade, Africans were not able to move up in society as easily as in other periods of slavery.
      3. Family structures were destroyed. Therefore many blacks do not know their real last name and can’t trace heritage. However during other periods of slavery before the transatlantic trade, other slaves knew their real last name and ethnicity.

      So stop bringing up incidents this is about white privilege and racism not other historic prejudices. Racism is different from prejudice.

      Whites still benefit immensely from the white/black dynamic (number 1 listed above). That means white people benefit from white privilege and racism whether you choose to actively do it or not.

      The first real step is people acknowledging their privilege especially straight white males aka white heterosexual male privilege. They benefit the most globally with economical and social power. Corporations and governments are controlled by white males. Predominantly countries of color are still poor and exploited by predominantly white countries.

  4. thecoldshouldercat says:

    Hi, I recently started following your blog and this post just reaffirmed that decision. I wanted to share an article from The Atlantic about how most films about the triumphs over slavery are framed as an appropriation of masculinity. It’s tangentially related to your post or maybe I think that because I read it right before I happened upon yours? Either way, I thought you’d enjoy it: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/10/-i-12-years-a-slave-i-s-reminder-slaves-didnt-win-freedom-by-being-manly/280718/

  5. Hi Olivia – just stumbled upon your blog from the Facebook page of 12 Years a Slave – what an honest and insightful piece. As a woman of color and a feminist, I appreciate hearing a meaningful discussion of the institution of slavery and the roles played by women. I strongly feel that the greatest problem we face is a lack of open, honest and meaningful conversation about slavery and the vestiges of it that remain with us today. Only by confronting and thereby examining our past can we move forward in a fashion that allows us to genuinely tackle the issues surrounding race, ethnicity, class and gender bias (among others!) that continue to plague contemporary society. Brava to you for having such a strong voice of authenticity!

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your insights, Camilla. I appreciate (and agree) with them. “Only by confronting and thereby examining our past can we move forward in a fashion that allows us to genuinely tackle the issues surrounding race, ethnicity, class and gender bias.” Absolutely.

  6. Just came across this through Twitter as I’m sort of tracking reactions to 12 Years A Slave. I saw it four days ago and have not been the same since. As an AA female, this movie rocked me to my core. I am hopeful that through this brilliance piece of cinema, and the braveness of these Black Brits, this nation can engage in deeper, more honest conversation on race history. This incredibly courageous and honest piece gives me great hope for that discussion. It is a gift. Thank you.

    • oliviaacole says:

      I appreciate that a lot. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I know exactly what you mean by not having been the same since the film. It haunts you. I am honored that you consider this blog a step forward. Thank you for stopping by.

  7. I know it’s almost…empowering isn’t it. Most people have this idea that white women of the Old South were these docile, innocent Southern Belles when in fact many were just as dominating and ruthless as the men. I’m head over hills for this movie.

    I’m still gushing over Sarah Paulson’s performance as the stoic but scary mistress of the plantation. I love how there’s no contrast between her femininity and her sadistic behavior. She’s the epitome of a powerful yet dangerous woman, being evil without being masculine.

    Finally Hollywood has given us a strong female villain that’s also, impressive enough, rooted in fact. It’s refreshing to see them no longer trying to sweep the significant and remarkable role white women played in the darker parts of American history.

    • oliviaacole says:

      “Empowering” is not the word I would use. “A strong female villain” is one thing when we’re talking about fiction, Hollywood. We’re not. We’re talking about real women in history that brutalized other human beings. You talk as if you admire these women. “Gushing over Sarah Paulson’s performance”? You should have been retching. Tread softly.

      • I think it is always tempting to find the evil women and highlight their `vicious femininity’ to equalize their behavior with that of the men in power. Truth is men were in power in all ways – making laws and policies, dominating all around them, creating and defining a culture of control. Women were surviving in their own subjugation. Are we really comfortable calling women equally culpable in this system? Is it accurate? Is it where we want the focus? Does it distract from identification and accountability for the driving force of what happened?

      • Here here. 12 Years A Slave is a true story based on the autobiography of Solomon Northrup. Patsy was a real human being as were the white women in this film who silently stood by and actively participated in this system.

        Thanks for your article and your deft response to this comment.

  8. Not sure if I’ll actually be dropping some knowledge, but thank you for your extremely Intuitive blogs, Ms. Cole. I’ve enjoyed reading two of your posts thus far and intend to read your blog regularly now.

    I saw 12 years this past weekend although I’ve owned the book for some years. African women were often viewed as the manipulating seductresses. Likewise, mistreated by the white women of the houses also. I am African American of Jamaican ancestry. I was so moved by this film – I just wanted to thank you for opening up this discussion and giving your perspective.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Verona. I’m glad you saw the film and am especially grateful that you found my perspective to be a positive supplement. I look forward to your future insights here.

  9. Just found you, will be adding you to my bloglovin roll because you get it and you rock.

  10. Kelli Shaw says:

    I just want to say that I was just introduced to your writing. Someone posted your “Why I’m not here for #WhiteGirlsRock” article on Facebook. I was instantly drawn to your honesty and eloquence. You are sassy and comical where appropriate. I am an African American woman, and I sometimes get so upset at the ignorance I see posted all over the internet by people of all races. It’s refreshing to find a blog written by someone who cuts through the bull. Anyway, I’m rambling. Thank you.

  11. Elle Bell says:

    You are amazing, and I thank you. I thank you for what you say. I thank you for the observations you make. I thank you for having the courage to say the things that you say although they may be unpopular. I admire you and your work. I will always be thankful for having the pleasure to read what you have written. Your outlook has restored my views on the ways this nation can change. I thank you.

  12. Mimi says:

    Reblogged this on Memoirs of a Kenyan and commented:
    This is definitely one of the most important perspective on slavery I’ve encountered in long time. A must read!

  13. This was an interesting and insightful piece, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I had the same discussion with my husband after watching 12 Years A Slave – I asked why didn’t the wives of these slave-owners find ways to bond with the women and try to shift some of the plantation power? His answer was, because they benefited from the privilege and status too much to go up against their husbands and the whole slavery institution.
    Another aspect of the movie which I thought was incredibly subtle (and not at all directly mentioned) in its presentation is the treatment of Native Americans.While Africans were enslaved and tortured, virtually a whole race of people was annihilated and removed to make way for industry and mass wealth. These two parts of American history, each examined alone is devastating. Both investigated together is downright unbearable.

  14. Olivia, I have not seen 12 years a Slave but thank you. there is a courage and authenticity in you reflected in your words that is absolutely beautiful and contagious. it makes me…in all my struggle to articulate the things that make us degrade humanity in this heartbreaking way…feel supported. for those of us who take our role in making this life better seriously, this honesty, without biting & screaming is where the conversation should begin. & stay.

  15. I have no words. Just tears. You are so brutally honest. So TRUE. God bless you for your truth…

  16. younggyrl says:

    Although I had the misfortune of being in a theatre where I was one of only two black people (my adult son was the other), I did cry during most of the movie and found it hard to watch the whipping scenes even though my son kept reminding me that they were fake. Much like you, I walked away really appreciating the exposure of white women and their role in slavery because I think we’ve only been given one story about white women during this time period. But what saddened me most was the lack of real emotion expressed by all the white people in the theatre, maybe deep down inside they were moved by the film but what really annoyed me were those who felt the need to approach me after the film and tell me how wonderful the film was as if they had to check in with a black person about the film, it was kind of weird and off putting. It just reminds me of the fact that we still have a long ways to go when it comes to race relations and healing the scars of slavery. Thank you for your thought provoking article and commitment to speaking your truth.

    • oliviaacole says:

      I know exactly how you feel. The white audience I sat through Django Unchained with made me want to ship myself into outer space.

      The “checking in” with a black person phenomenon is something I’ve observed before and have always been deeply annoyed by. In college after reading Beloved, for example. So tiresome.

      Thank you for stopping by, younggyrl, and thank you for your thoughts.

  17. Hi there, try reading Valerie Martin’s book Property. It is fiction, but is from the point of view of a female slave owner. No pretty petticoats or meek and mild women there. It was sad, sickening and a very good read.

  18. Shane Thomas says:

    We’ve only just got the film in Britain, and I totally agree with your piece. I think arguably the best thing the film did was to point a spotlight at how black women suffered uniquely during slavery.

  19. Kai Zen says:

    “It’s true, white women lacked the agency of their husbands, fathers and brothers, so their hand in slavery did not extend to the buying and selling of human chattel…”

    White women owned, bought, inherited, managed and traded slaves. It was not as common as men simply do to economic/social standards on property ownership and control, but it was not uncommon so as to say their hands in these aspects of slavery were ‘clean.’ History is replete with examples.

  20. This is a fantastic article. I was one of the few voices that didn’t find the film as powerful as the masses, possibly having read so much about slavery I felt it didn’t add or teach anything new. I understood the plight of black women, though I am perhaps desensitised to it having sobbed through “Beloved” by Toni Morrison; I still haven’t read or seen anything that comes close to the pain of the black female explored there.
    Where this film shines however, is it’s honest depiction of white women as you have so articulately discussed in your article.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Completely agree on Beloved being #1 at exposing the pain of black female slaves. I hold all literature about slavery to this standard and have been disappointed time and time again by more recent books.

  21. Kai Zen says:

    As an aside – for any who watch American Horror Story: Coven – the character of Madame Delphine LaLaurie is based on the very real woman who owned – and as described on the show tortured her – slaves. http://murderpedia.org/female.L/l/lalaurie-delphine.htm

    There is no truthful and thorough reading of history that does not include white women in the mistreatment – and ownership – of African slaves in the United States (not exempting other parts of the Americans either). There is no reality to the concept that white women were less racist than white men and – had they not been so oppressed by men – would have been a ‘different voice’ on the racial oppression, slavery as an institution or its level of brutality.

    If one reads slave narratives, they are full of direct descriptions of white women being full partners in this oppression with white men, even in situations where white men ruled the slaves in the field, white women ruled slaves similarly in the houses, overseeing tasks and punishments, – yet again I note white women were not absent or benevolent forces towards slaves working in fields either.

    A white feminist perspective on the relative lack of power of white women easily neglects consideration of actual history and experience of black people in America.

  22. Ardo Omer says:

    It’s interesting because you have women at the time who were for women’s right but were against black rights and were incredibly racist people. Great article.

  23. And to Ardo Omer –Interesting too that you have black men, then and now, who work for `equality ‘ between the races but are misogynist.

  24. […] There is a great analysis of the historical representation of these supposed powerless women here. They want us to be their sisters, while they refuse to accept we are equal, Mistress Epps blames […]

  25. Carole Terry says:

    Enjoyed your article and the subsequent comments it has generated. I would add that white women did inherit plantations and run them upon the death of their fathers and husbands. They also manged these plantations with the help of an overseer.

    I do believe Delphine LaLaurie is an outlier. Her deeds stand alone in their insanity as far as I know. The accounts below cast are in line with mistresses in their pretty little dresses. In all fairness, there were also those who owned enslaved Africans who were not as brutal.

    “In the past it was assumed that female slave owners were not as brutal as their male counterparts. However, this wasn’t a sex divide. There were good and bad male and female slave owners. Some of the harshest treatments could be vetted out by a slave owner’s wife against a female slave who her husband had been intimate with or an enslaved child that was the result of a sexual encounter between her husband and a slave. Some European
    women took out revenge on the enslaved for their punishment by cruel fathers or husbands. European women’s cruelty shocked many observers in the Caribbean. Mary Prince stated that her mistress caused me to know the exact difference between the smart of the rope, the cart-whip, and the cow-skin, when applied to my naked body by her own cruel hand. And there was scarcely any punishment more dreadful than the blows I received on my face and head from her hard, heavy fist. She was a fearful woman, and a savage mistress to her slaves.

    Harriet Jacobs in Incidents of a Slave Girl (1861) was scathing about the treatment meted out by the slave owner’s wives explaining it as retaliation for their husband’s sexual interaction with enslaved women. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage.

    She recorded that Mrs Flint’s nerves were so strong, that she could sit in her easy chair and see a woman whipped, till the blood trickled from every stroke of the lash.. . If dinner was not served at the exact time on that particular Sunday, she would station herself in the kitchen, and wait till it was dished, and then spit in all the kettles and pans that had been used for cooking. She did this to prevent the cook and her children from eking out their meager fare with the remains of the gravy and other scrapings.”

    Excerpt from article: Women and their forgotten role in Slavery
    Nigel Sadler
    Sands of Time Consultancy

  26. […] While Wearing Their Pretty Dresses, They Ruined Lives: 12 Years a Slave & the Role of White Wome… […]

  27. […] part of this resistance is a reluctance to come to terms with the way that, as Olivia Cole writes, white women ruined lives while wearing their pretty dresses.  While scholarly works like those by Fox-Genovese or Wilder may not reach a wide public audience, […]

  28. […] part of this resistance is a reluctance to come to terms with the way that, as Olivia Cole writes, white women ruined lives while wearing their pretty dresses.  While scholarly works like those by Fox-Genovese or Wilder may not reach a wide public audience, […]

  29. LonesomeYak says:

    Sarah Paulson and Michael Fassbender were a combination of complete evil!

  30. […] While Wear­ing Their Pretty Dresses, They Ruined Lives: “12 Years a Slave” & The Role of Wh… — Olivia A. Cole […]

  31. […] this keen and necessary post, Olivia Cole discusses 12 Years a Slave and its resistance to myths about white women’s […]

  32. epbeaumont says:

    Brilliant discussion of uncomfortable historical truth. I think of the ladies of the plantation as ‘middle management’ with powers above (husbands, legal apparatus) and powerless below (slaves with no human rights). There is still a lot of dishonesty about actual power relations in white feminist circles, and far too much attachment to Victorian ideals of the pure angel-in-the-house who is nurturing and compassionate. Give anyone absolute power, and it’s nearly guaranteed they will abuse it.

  33. A Connecticut woman to whom I’m related, Thankful Denison Stanton, is infamous for her sadistic abuse of Venture Smith and his wife – a New England example that viciousness toward those stripped of their rights and unable to fight back happened north of the Mason-Dixon line, and much earlier than in Solomon Northup’s Louisiana. The fugitive slave narratives collected by Bostonian Benjamin Drew and published in the 1850s are a catalog of clearly mentally ill plantation mistresses throughout the south who were criminally insane compared to Ms Ford or even Mrs Epps. All of this is proof that the institution of slavery was as degrading for the enslavers as it was for the enslaved, something I’m writing about in my new book project about my family’s three century legacy of slavery. Thank you for this important look at an often overlooked but pervasive segment of American slavery history.

  34. ajwed shakil says:

    white people suck they dont care about blacks nor will they

  35. I liked your article for the most part, especially what you picked about the white women being just as racist as their husbands. What struck me about this is that this way of portraying women (especially white women) is extremely recent in the USA.
    The aspect of seeing white women as being morally and spiritually superior to white men (and all men for that matter) goes back centuries. It was the basis as to why it was seen as OK for a slave master to sleep with a slave woman but not for a white woman to do the same thing with a black man. There are several writings about this and I can show the links if requested.
    What I find so backward about the USA is that this overly antiquated way of portraying women (especially white women) continues to persist very strongly now, almost as strongly as before. And it is just very recent that we see small signs of this disappearing, like your article and the movie.
    So congratulations on your article.

  36. […] women are not invisible bodies when it comes to black oppression, they partake in it and have been doing so for centuries. Still, it does not stop certain pockets of white Americans or white feminists from trying to […]

  37. […] Coppola’s reasoning is cute in that “you tried it, Susan” kind of way, but it ultimately, it rings false and remains an excuse that is often overused … especially when it comes to rendering women of color (black women in this case) invisible onscreen. Just like Marvel’s whitewashing of the Ancient One—by way of Tilda Swinton—insured that they could conveniently opt out of discussing Marvel’s racist Asian caricatures and their history of employing Yellow Peril narratives, Coppola does a similar thing here. Because by erasing Edwina (a mixed-race, whitepassing teacher) and Mattie (a house slave), Coppola opts to—intended or not—evade the responsibility of showing how white women were just as culpable in slavery as their male counterparts.  […]


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