The Sunken Place

The Sunken Place Artwork By Taj Tenfold, Courtesy of Son of Baldwin

The Sunken Place Artwork By Taj Tenfold, Courtesy of Son of Baldwin

Get Out!

If you haven't watched Get Out already, I don't know why you're still putting it off. Maybe you're waiting to catch it on bootleg, or you want the 'hype' to die down before wishing you had watched it sooner. Whatever the case may be, get out and watch it! This movie isn't getting rave reviews for nothing. There's deep conversations happening after every viewing of this movie, and we all want to 'be woke' right? 

Entering The Sunken Place

A recurring motif in the film is The Sunken Place. In the movie, the main character Chris, enters this space when his girlfriend Rose's mother hypnotizes him and puts his mind into a dark space where he is no longer in control of his own body. In The Sunken Place, in essence, he is reduced to a sliver of consciousness, with complete control of his body and ability to think on his own, relinquished to Rose's mother. This Sunken Place, or course, runs deeper than being temporarily hypnotized. In the film, the other black characters that are present in Rose's hometown are also in The Sunken Place. Not only are they subservient to their 'employers', they present no characteristic of their former selves to the external world.  When Chris accidentally flashes one of the black men at an annual party, he is momentarily taken out of The Sunken Place, and proceeds to aggressively warn Chris to Get Out.  

Fear of Being Vulnerable

When I thought about how Chris entered The Sunken Place, even when he fought hard not to be hypnotized, I began to realize that Rose's mother got him there through his own fears and weaknesses. Chris held deeply to the pain of feeling guilty for his mother's death. What is interesting is that he attempted to compress those feelings, trying to psych himself from self inflicted blame, but he subconsciously did it anyways. As Rose's mother, who I will go ahead and proclaim as the HBIC, knew how to make him vulnerable without him realizing it. He tried to focus his energy so much on the 'weird' behavior of the other black people in the community that it was easy, when the focus was on him, to have him feed into his own pain. Once he opened up about his lack of a reaction the night his mother died, that was all Rose's mother needed to sink his mental ship. 

Mental Ships Sinking?

I began thinking about how often mental ships have sank in black bodies. We all can name at least two people we know, or know of, that have gone off the deep end, and at times, we might find ourselves there as well, even for just a moment. Immediately I think about a man that I went out of my way in high school to showcase as an unsung hero in black history. Ben Carson. Recently, he came to the conclusion that slaves willingly came to America on the bottom of overcrowded ships as immigrant. Really bruh? Somebody hand me a neuralyzer so I can wake the brotha up! But seriously, Ben, who I will refer to as BC for the sake of not calling him a house n..., what would make you think that slaves were immigrants? Let me exercise my English degree right quick. Immigration is the international movement of people into a country in order to settle or reside there, or find employment. Slavery is the application of property law on people, allowing people to own, buy and sell other individuals. Slaves were trafficked out of Africa, stuffed into the bottom of ships, and conditioned into thinking they weren't human in order to realize the American dream. Boat loads of cash money! It breaks my heart to accept that BC is in The Sunken Place. I'm not sure what fears and insecurities he holds onto, but The Sunken Place can make a brotha start spittin alternative facts.  

Imposter Syndrome

When it comes to getting ourselves in The Sunken Place momentarily, I start to think about the imposter syndrome. This is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments, and a persistent fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.' In the movie Get Out, we that in Chris' character when he is pushed into The Sunken Place because of his fear of being held responsible for his mother's death. Even as he functions as an adult, he is still deeply afraid of being directly blamed for his mother's death, so much so that it is Rose's mother who becomes the first person to find out where he was when his mother died. I did this a lot during my undergraduate career at FSU, especially when I was one of a few African Americans in my classes. In the back of my mind, I would feel like someone would call me out, and tell me I don't belong at FSU because of who I was, a second generation immigrant without the pleasure of being a part of any high social class. Often times I would just go with the motions, writing what I thought my teachers wanted to hear, but after a while, I said 'fuck all that!' I snapped out of the idea that I wasn't good enough, or that my black ass experiences where invalid. Blackness exists as an opposition to whiteness. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that whiteness was the light, the alpha and omega to human existence. But blackness is, and always has been authentic, deeply rooted in the makeup of who we are, and the essence of what makes us us.

So What's The Sunken Place?

The Sunken Place is our inability to unpack our insecurities, our fears, our pain, our acceptance of who are as human beings. If we want to be conscious of our blackness, we need to get out of our own heads and accept what is right in front of our eyes.