Slaves had no value as human beings. So one would expect an African-British child born of a white Royal Navy captain who falls in love with a slave, to live among noble society as a second-class citizen.

Belle has a clear purpose beyond movies like 12 Years a Slave. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) tells the story of the dynamics and the dialogue that transpire between Belle and her suitors. The insults she endures from aristocratic, privileged whites shows that blacks are not accepted, even when covered by the veneer of affluence.

It gives a chance to focus on our own humanity and the truth in our relationships with those within the white community as to the distance that they can only have relationships with those who they can benefit from. Their privilege, their association with status and the time-honored control and captive-master relationship reigns true through the racism that permeated the very essence of the inhumane treatment of Africans.

The consternation shown at the closing of the film about the progress of African Americans is a conflict even today. How can the debt be paid when there is so little respect? Even as we rise to higher heights, why are we still persecuted? Like Belle, many African Americans today have achieved so much and yet can be vilified and insulted matter-of-factly. Belle will allow you to have conversations with friends — even white friends — about honoring our mutual humanity.

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