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Racism in “Long Night’s Journey Into Day”

Throughout the graphic historical documentary “Long Night’s Journey Into Day,” there are many unimaginable moments where audiences find themselves feeling helpless. One scene in the beginning of the documentary where this is particularly prevalent is when the murder of Amy Biehl, a foreigner to South Africa, was being discussed. While she was innocently murdered, some of the South Africans felt as though white people were finally witnessing a fraction of what was happening to South Africans in their own country. One woman in particular said, “To be honest, I didn’t care much, because she’s a white lady. She’s white, she’s white. How many blacks have been died?” (0:05:53-0:05:59). This line portrays that with all of the racism, death, and hardships that some of the Africans have been through and dealt with, why should they care if one white woman died? This woman is stating that white people did not care when a plethora of Africans were murdered. However, when one white woman dies, there should be outrage. This is an example of racism, nationalism, and an extreme double standard. This woman is illuminating that in the eyes of the white community, white lives are shown to be more valuable than those of black lives, that because Amy Biehl was visiting from the Unites States, her death was of more importance than those that were native to South Africa, and that white and black people are not held to the same standards. When watching the documentary, the pain in the woman’s eyes was obvious and heartbreaking and the way she spoke showed that her patience had completely run out. Why should a white person be able to turn their backs on the deaths of many Africans; however, when one white person dies the black community is expected to mourn her death?

One thought on “Racism in “Long Night’s Journey Into Day””

  1. I like how your post begins with this mother’s words – “She’s white, she’s white” – and then complicates and nuances your reading by attending to facial expression, other aspects of how those words are performed and what consequences those things have for how the words mean. There’s much to say about what the people featured in this documentary are *working through* in “real time,” and I think you get to some of that here.


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