I don’t know how I feel about the Rosa Parks episode on Doctor Who.
On the one hand: There is no denying the importance of Rosa’s act, which was one step among many leading to the Civil Rights movements.
But there wouldn’t have been a need for any of that act if:
- Her ancestors weren’t sold into slavery
- African americans were actually treated as equals from the get-go, rather than as sub-human
And the episode doesn’t even acknowledge that simple fact. It reeks of euro-centric exceptionalism. It perpetuates the erasure of BIPOC excellence before the interference of European “civilisation”. More insultingly, it suggests (by mere implication) that Rosa could only rise up to a level of base humanity after having had to be treated as less than an animal.
This same level of myth-creating, history cleaning is also found in Legends of Tomorrow’s “Abominations” episode, in which we’re shown a portion of the horrors of slavery around the Civil War, but never acknowledge what lead to the situation, all while telling us that Ulysses S. Grant and the north were fighting for the actual abolition of slavery, when they were historically “indifferent” to the idea of it all. Oh, and there are zombies, too.
However, both of these episodes touch on something that’s worth reminding: How close to now all of these events have been. 1863 and 1955 are not so far away as some people would like us to believe.
But contrary to what the shows present, things haven’t become permanently better. The fact that “Black Lives Matter” is a phrase that needs to be uttered, the current rise in hate crimes against BIPOC of all walks, and the increase in the electing of overtly racist governments is an indicator that things aren’t actively better.
The “United States of America” is currently, by definition, in a civil war. The prison-industrial complex is slavery wearing a different face. The fact that guns have more rights than the people that get shot down by them is seen as a point of debate when the numbers speak for themselves is an indicator of an unhealthy “modern” and “developped” country. Nazis are marching the streets while those who combat them are painted as equally villainous.
But we’re being told that things are better. Not perfect, but certainly better.
Truth is: We’re being lied into complacency.