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Orange is the New Reality: A Look Back at Black Representation, and White Guilt

Originally published on It's Tillie! Written by Tillie Eze

Don’t worry OITNB fans, the news reports were fake; the show is not being cancelled after all. With that out of the way, let’s go back to a time when we hadn’t seen any of the gripping show, as problematic as it could get at times. It’s Tillie were kind enough to swap a great blog post with us, about how it feels to watch OITNB for the first time, but be warned, if you haven’t seen the show yet yourself, there wil be spoilers!

Please also check out Fembot contributior Elana Zambori’s piece on Tillie’s site right here!

***

On Tuesday I gave in and started watching Orange is the New Black. Originally I wanted to write a story of what led to this decision, but as I ended season 3 and started season 4, there was no humor, excitement, or content left in me.

Last night [I’m writing this on Sunday], I left off at S4E9 where Maritza was heartlessly forced to stand for several hours on top of the cafeteria tables. As of this morning, I’m halfway through S4E11 when I decided to give it a break for a few days. This season has been the most gut wrenching so far, and based off of what I’ve read, it’s going to hit even harder at season’s end.


Now, what I am about to say is comparable to “white shame” or “white guilt” [FYI, I’m black. In case you were wondering why it’s in quotes] as I am an outsider looking in to a morsel of how corrupt, inefficient, dysfunctional and abusive the justice system is. Yes, these inmates are criminals convicted of a crime they committed. Yes, this is an opportunity to serve the time and rehabilitate themselves to rejoin society. But what happens when the given time doesn’t fit the crime? Or when they are physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually abused to a point where their self-worth drops making them too feeble to rejoin society – forcing them return to a world they’ve grown to know? Or when the people in charge are so power hungry or so downtrodden, the only thing that brings them joy is taking advantage of these people?

Which leads me to this… how have we, as a society, become so complacent with the evil around us that we 1) Convince ourselves with the, “They deserve to be there,” and, “That will never be me,” complex? 2) We care more about championing for a dead 90s sitcom to be revitalized like a sad version of “Where are They Now” or trolling social media pages to provide unwarranted death threats or judgment, rather than championing for those who are imprisoned for offenses that some of us commit on a daily basis. It just so happens THEY were the ones caught. 3). Have lost all sense of humanity for others except ourselves?

Before watching OITNB, I always cared for justice reform, but mainly for male correctional facilities. I won’t go into detail as to why, but I felt that that was a bigger concern when battling the two systems. But after seeing the show, it wasn’t that I felt male prison systems needed more attention, it was that OITNB plays like a warning to every woman out there. All those emotions, lack of voice, fear, abuse, all of it, could happen to us. It could be me. It could be your mum, daughter, sister, bestie. It could be you. And those tears and outrage we share episode to episode, when we’ve only experienced it through Netflix, protects us from a world we don’t WANT to know, or acknowledge. It’s like the homeless person begging for money on your subway commute. You give them money to help in their struggle, but it actually eases your guilt.

Piper reminds me so much of this woman from college I once knew. Piper is the epitome of white privilege always thinking she’s exempt from the rule of responsibility. Yet even she, if ever in this situation, would shed those victim tears just as fast, we can’t ignore the community these women created before the overcrowding and mass exodus of the former guards. A group of women who subconsciously looked out for one another by maintaining solace in how they would change their lives once out; until now.

This is all I can do right now. Maybe I will be able to say more once I’ve finished the show.

With love to those who need a reminder of self-loving today and every day,

xTillie

P.S. So we’re not going to talk about the subject of Lorna and that “fiancé” she had for so long? You know… Christopher? No? Oh, ok…

 

[Images via Netflix]

Have a thought about this piece? We encourage your civil communication with our writers. Tweet us at @fembotmag@TillieEze, or reach out to us on our Facebook page, and Tillie’s page.

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