NOTE: This whole post is one giant spoiler alert about the movie, so read at your own discretion.
Marvel just released a new movie titled Avengers: Infinity Wars on April 27th, where almost all of the heroes in the Avengers Universe of Marvel unite to battle the super villain, Thanos, and prevent him from executing his incredibly Malthusian agenda of killing half the universe’s population so limited resources will be distributed more evenly. During the 2 hrs and 40 mins of the film, the audience gets to see heroes trying their best to prevent Thanos from collecting all of the infinity stones (that would allow him to eliminate half the population). One of the most exciting moments in the film is when the heroes from the United States need help, and travel to Wakanda (with all of it’s technological advances) to get it. Seeing Wakanda glorified again as a beacon of progress and technological advancement was empowering, without Wakanda’s barriers the Earth’s defenders would not have been able to hold off Thanos’ army at all.
However, this positive moment was short lived, as in the end of the film Thanos wins and turns half the population to dust, some victims being superheroes. One of the superheroes turned to dust was Black Panther, after only being featured in one other Marvel movie. The “death” of Black Panther was perhaps the most disheartening, because of how important he was as the main character in Marvel’s first black superhero movie and also because of how short his reign was. Black Panther was released only two months before its hero was literally turned to ash.
Perhaps the next Marvel movie will entail a way to reset time and bring back all of the beloved characters; one can only hope.
The discussion fostered around Nitasha Sharma’s Hip Hop Desis on Tuesday was incredibly interesting, and I am still thinking about some aspects of it. One part of the conversation in particular that struck me was started by the discussion question about the status of blackness. As a class, we discussed the difference between blackness as a commodity experienced through the media (for non-black people) as opposed to the actual lived experience of black people. This part of our discussion specifically stayed with me because it got me thinking about the white privilege I have, specifically around driving.
The term “driving while black” came up during the conversation which is what started my thoughts on this topic. When I’m driving down the highway and I notice a police car is cruising next to me, I make sure to drive the speed and feel pretty comfortable that I won’t get pulled over. If anything, I worry about accruing points on my license. I don’t worry about being wrongfully pulled over, and if I were to be pulled over I would not fear for my safety or my life.
When I’m driving with my friends that are black, I do get nervous when I see police cars. I get really worried. But even then, I’m still not worried my own safety, I’m worried about the safety of my friends. I don’t know what it’s like to–without fail–feel a course of adrenaline run through my body every time I see a police car or a police officer; and I feel like that’s something that I won’t ever be able to truly know. I can continue to educate myself so that I’m aware that police brutality is disproportionately inflicted on people of color (which is important), but I will never truly know that fear.
Part of what interested me most from these readings so far is Francis Galton’s definition of eugenics as “science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage” (79). This makes it seem so clinical, unbiased, and harmless—even inarguable. If the only goal of this so-called “science” is to improve the human race, how bad could it be? The mobilization of science in this way is extremely dangerous as it shrouds the inherent racist biases in what are supposed to be facts and legitimate scientific methods.
At the same time of reading this text, in another class I read Home by Toni Morrison which deals with many things, one of which being eugenics. One of the main characters, Ycidra, is employed by a white doctor in Georgia to help schedule his appointments and keep track of his scientific work. Ycidra discovers that this doctor is heavily interested in eugenics and is mainly “helping” the poor community of Atlanta. He administers shots and medicines he concocted himself to Ycidra. She nearly dies, however after a recovered she learns that she will never be able to have children. Morrison’s Home sheds light on the atrocities committed in the name of a false science as Ycidra is a victim of the forced sterilization of black women as a direct result of eugenics programs in the United States.
Reading these two texts side-by-side was enlightening because reading Galton’s “Eugenics: its Definition, Scope and Aims” allowed me to understand the thinking of people who believed in its message and how these racist ideologies were presented to the public through the ruse of science, and Home by Toni Morrison humanized the issue further by illustrating the experience of an unsuspecting woman who was abused by a doctor that justified sterilizing her without her knowledge or consent because, in his opinion, it was for the good of the human race.
The relevance of this course in my everyday life has manifested again in the form of tying in with my English class. Lately, we have done several readings about identity and some history about the Caribbean, including watching the documentary Haiti and Dominican Republic: An Island Divided. In my English class, we recently read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez which is also set in the Dominican Republic. While the documentary discussed Trujillo, the book focused much more on the impact of Trujillo, specifically on the Mirabal sisters (three revolutionaries who were assassinated under Trujillo’s orders and one sister that survived). Watching this documentary was interesting because the novel focused heavily on gender roles under his reign and did not focus on race or even discuss the Haitian genocide. For example, it mentions the fact that Trujillo wears makeup, but it did not explain that he wore makeup in attempt to make his skin look lighter. The makeup was only brought because Alvarez was describing Minerva Mirabal slapping Trujillo’s face after he made unwanted sexual advances (which happened in real life). The novel is important because of the light it sheds on the plight women under Trujillo, but the exclusion of the persecution of an entire people is disturbing. Both reading the novel and watching the documentary helped paint a fuller picture of the atrocities committed by Trujillo.
Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.
Since our last class on Thursday, I have not been able to stop thinking about the photographs we examined in class of indentured laborers in Trinidad. Being able to actually see snapshots into the lives of a group of people that we have been learning about was very eye-opening. Instead of abstractly thinking about the function of Indian laborers in society in the Caribbean, the photographs served as a concrete source of proof, a snapshot into their daily lives. Being able to see these women stooped over the rice paddies was much more impactful than just imagining it; it strengthened my understanding of indentured labor.
This weekend I started reading On Photography by Susan Sontag, and her ideas allowed me to view the experience of seeing those photographs in a different light. Sontag claims that “[p]hotographs furnish evidence” (5), and I certainly found that to be the case regarding my learning about the Coolies.
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Picador, 2010.