There’s a particularly unsettling scene in the brilliant Steve McQueen-directed film, 12 Years A Slave, which depicts a shamelessly insensitive slave trader showing off his assortment of product to an invited group of affluent white plantation owners. From children to elders, black men and women are placed into separate rooms of an elegantly decorated home, where they were then lined up, stripped naked, and made to demonstrate their particular strengths as directed by the trader. The slaves are then groped, slapped, cursed and exploited – ultimately being emasculated, dehumanized and embarrassed at the expense of a thriving system fueled by the infant stages of institutionalized racism.
The standout slave, Solomon Northup, whose name was changed and identity was wiped away after being wrongfully sold into slavery as a free man, is forced to showcase his exceptional skill as a violinist for the purpose of raising his stock. And, as the story would expectedly go, the host of plantation owners place their bids on which pieces of property they wished to own, displace them from their families, then took their newly owned slaves back to their respective states to serve on their plantations.