On Saturday, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was murdered while protesting a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a man plowed his car through a crowd. Heyer was white, and in her death she was predictably and quickly turned into a paragon of “allies” “doing the work.”
I went to film school chasing a dream of telling my story to a world that always seemed not to know what to do with queer Black bois like me. A dream of forcing the world to know.
But it was just a dream. At film school, I quickly learned that while you may be able to make a person see you, you cannot make a person know you. You cannot make them interpret your body the way you want them to when their own sense of sanity demands another interpretation of humanity. And you cannot ignore forever how the over-simplicity of the term “representation matters” often renders it useless, just like it rendered so much of my work as a young liberal artist useless, or at least un-impactful, before I knew these limitations.
*This post contains spoilers of “The Girl With All The Gifts”, “The Birth of a Nation”, and “Get Out”*
As someone who has studied and worked in film and television for most of my professional life, I have resigned myself to a set of facts: no film made for mass audiences is truly (or at least fully) an endorsement of Black liberation, and the ending to any film that claims to be such an endorsement will best reveal this truth.
“Nothing exists in a vacuum” is a trite old aphorism used to explain how all actions have consequences. It is founded on a basic principle in physics that states that space without matter, by definition, contains nothing. The saying highlights the reality that any actions occurring outside of vacuums create ripple effects because matter connects everything together.
This reality is sometimes used to explain the concept of collateral damage, and how the imprecise targeting of an individual is bound to impact more than just that one person.
By Preston Mitchum
This past Pride month marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. At approximately 2:00 AM, 29-year-old Omar Mateen – who allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on a 911 phone call during the hate crime and terrorist attack – walked into Pulse on June 12, 2016, killed 49 people, and injured 53 others on the club’s weekly “Latin Night.”
As a Black queer man, it’s hard not to see myself in the victims and survivors. Despite much of the media’s attempt to whitewash this tragedy, the fact that the victims were largely Latinx and Black queer and trans people matters because our communities are often told that safe spaces are not a reality, and only part of our fictitious imaginations. But if Pulse made anything apparent, it is that spaces for Black and Latinx queer people are now, and always have been, necessary.
Consider how much death and destruction has been permitted that there is even a such thing as “the shooter,” in quotations. Terror has become such a commonly wielded weapon that “the shooter,” the terrorist, is now an archetype, ready to appear at any moment, anywhere, for the foreseeable future and beyond.
And every time he does, without fail, there is an overwhelming faction of Black folks who hope and pray he isn’t one of us.
One year ago yesterday, a gunman snatched away the lives of 49 dancing souls at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. This tragedy became known as the Pulse Massacre, the largest mass shooting (that was not a military operation) in American history.
As a few queer people of color pointed out amidst the predictable rush to deracialize the incident, the shooting took place during the club’s Latino night, with Black and Latina transgender women as the headliners.
On October 29th 2012, Glenda Moore’s two sons were killed during Hurricane Sandy, the youngest casualties during the storm. I say during rather than of the storm because the death of Moore’s children–Connor, 4 and Brendan, 2–was caused by another type of tempest, one that has gone on far, far longer and is far more brutal.
Police said Moore, a Black nurse, became stuck in Staten Island while trying to get to safety. When the floodwaters began to sweep her car away, the desperate mother was able to pull her sons from it, but the two small boys were quickly whisked up by the currents. Distraught, Moore banged on the doors of many neighbors who refused to lend a hand. One told her, “I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you.” Another turned off the lights and refused to answer when she rang the doorbell. Moore’s neighborhood was 64% white (in 2010).
This June marks the 48th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of violent acts of resistance in New York City credited with sparking the modern Gay Rights Movement. The uprisings, led mostly by trans people of color and drag queens, are commemorated each year with celebrations across the globe during what is known as Pride Month. For many LGBTQQIA+ people, this is a time to reaffirm their right to life and liberty against the backdrop of anti-queer stigma and violence they experience at the hands, knife- and gun-points of society-at-large.
Last week, something Trumpian must have sparked a race between major publications to put out the most fucked up writings on the topic of slavery.
On Tuesday, The New York Times compared Saartje Baartman–an enslaved Black woman who, in addition to the many other horrors she suffered both before and after her death, was forced to perform in freak shows due to her curvaceousness–to Kim Kardashian. Not to be outdone, The Atlantic’s June cover story, “My Family’s Slave”, written by the late Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Tizon, ignited an even bigger controversy with the tale of an abused Filipino maid, Eudocia “Lola” Tomas Pulida, who spent 56 years taking care of Tizon and his family without pay.