Sorry To Bother You Again: The Black Futurist Playlist

Sorry To Bother You was such a deep movie, and it put me in a mood to digest more media like it. My review (despite its length) just barely scratches the surface and there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to. So if you’re interested in doing the same, here are my recommendations.

WATCH

Atlanta (FX, 2016-present)- If you aren’t watching this show, you should be. It’s hard to describe but most episodes are kind of like a magical realism black Seinfeld. But then there are episodes that veer into very weird territory (especially in the second season).

Bamboozled (A Spike Lee Joint, 2000)- This isn’t science fiction, but it is a satire very much in this vein.

Dirty Computer (2018)- This 45 minute visual album is sci-fil all the way. The protagonist is a black queer woman whose identity is literally being erased by technology. The music shows her journey of self acceptance and rebellion against the status quo. 

Get Out (2017)- Also something you should have seen by now, but it’s still very much in the vein of STBY and I’d be remiss to leave it off. 

Lamborghini Angels/ITAL (Roses)/Audubon Ballroom (Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, 2012)- There’s a lot packed into this 12 minute music video if you listen and watch closely. Interestingly, while this video was officially released it is no longer on Lupe Fiasco’s or his former record label’s official YouTube/Vevo page, even though all of his music videos push the envelope. I’d love to hear your conspiracy theories if you’ve got them. 

“Negrotown” (Key & Peele, 2015)- A comedy sketch that cuts so deep you have to laugh to keep from crying. 

READ 
“When Survival Equals Destruction- Let’s Talk About Sorry to Bother You” by TaLynn Kel

“Sorry To Bother You is Great Science Fiction, People” by Wired.com Culture Editor

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates- This longform essay is sci-fil only in the sense that reparations is seen as an impossible fantasy by most. Yet, Coates deftly rips apart the idea that slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and the civil rights struggle are ancient history. It’s an idea that only benefits the system of white supremacist capitalism that America is built on. Germany paid reparations to Europe after WWII. When apartheid fell in in South Africa there was reparations and a restorative justice panel–why should the US be different? 

Futureland by Walter Mosley- This writer is best known for his noir detective novels starring the rakish, smooth, but troubled Easy Rawlins. Remember that Denzel Washington movie, “Devil in a Blue Dress”? That was based on the first book in the series. Mosley is also a very talented sci-fi writer and this collection of stories remains one of my favorite.

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction in the African Diaspora”, edited by Sheree Thomas- Another great collection of black sci-fi, this one pulled from black authors across the ages, including W.E.B. DuBois. If you read nothing else, check out Derrick Bell’s story “The Space Traders”, which is even more interesting in light of the current administration.

LISTEN

Everybody (Logic, 2017)- I actually reviewed this album in a post last year. I’ll link it here so I won’t repeat myself, but the TL;DR of it all is that this is a conscious concept album that bangs. Give it a try. 

“If Your Love Cannot Be Moved” (Stevie Wonder ft. Kim Burrell, A Time to Love, 2006)- Stevie Wonder is best known for his love songs. This isn’t one of them. It’s a deep cut, not one of his singles, but the lyrics remind you that Stevie lived through segregation. He was born in 1950 (just like my parents!) and started his music career in 1961, just 7 years after Brown v. Board of Education integrated schools and another 3 years before the Civil Rights Act ended segreation altogether. When he says “You can’t say we shall and not fight through hell. . . You can’t shout out peace and then vanish in the crowd” or “You can’t free the slave to enslave them differently”, he means that shit. This is a revolution song, no doubt about it.

They Don’t Really Care About Us” (Michael Jackson, HISTORY, 1995)- The title says it all. But in case you forgot, they (whether that be the Republican Party, patriarchy, the 1%, or corporate interests) don’t care about anything but what they can get out of you. So get off your ass and VOTE in this election and everyone that follows. 

Winter is Coming

So I’ve devoured all the books in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. I’m caught up on the tv show.  I bought the anthologies Dangerous Women and Rogues just to get my Westeros fix, even though I really don’t like short stories. I feel like I’ve read every character entry on the GOT wiki and seen every plausible theory on the discussion boards. What to do? The next book probably won’t drop before 2016, and there are 4 more months until the show comes back. I figured I can’t be the only one in this predicament, so I’m sharing my list of read that compare favorably to GRRM’s heady mix of high fantasy, political intrigue and family feuds.

 

TV RECOMMENDATIONS

VIKINGSRagnar--P

Although it airs on the History channel, this isn’t a documentary. It’s an engaging, fast-paced take on legendary Norse ruler Ragnar Lothbrok, who was the scourge of France and England in the 800s. There’s plenty of fighting and raiding, but clan politics and family tensions keep things interesting. And since it’s the History channel, there’s plenty of glimpses into Viking culture and religion that add depth to the plot.

REIGN

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Yes, this airs on the CW. Just think of it as  a lighter, fluffier GoT. This is a fictionalized take on the rise and reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Court intrigue, international politics and illicit romance abound, along with a touch of the supernatural. If you can learn get over the Renaissance Fair wardrobe styling, this is a fun show with enough substance to keep it from being silly.

TYRANT

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Recently greenlighted for a second season with FX, Tyrant tells the story of Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed. Bassam is an expat from the fictional Middle Eastern country of Abbudin who visits home for the first time in 20 years to see his father before he dies. Bassam is faced with a choice: return to America or help guide Abbudin’s new ruler, his impulsive brother Jamal. Family ties run deep, and Bassam, along with his American wife and children, are suddenly thrust into a world where they are foreigners. Bassam must figure out who he is, and who he can trust, before the balance of power shifts out of his favor.

HOUSE OF CARDS

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If you don’t know who Frank Underwood is, you ought to. This fictional Congressman is the living embodiment of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. Cold, calculating, and impeccably bred with Southern charm to spare, he and his wife Claire are on a mission to rule the political world. They work together with a loyalty and efficiency that puts the Lannisters and Starks to shame. Frank and Claire have an answer for every question, a backup plan to the backup plan, and a workaround for every obstacle. But can their luck hold forever? You’ll have to tune into Netflix and see.

 

READING LIST

The Accursed Kings (series)

iron king

A cult hit by French author Maurice Druon, this is a dramatized retelling of the Hundred Years War. It has recently come back into print due to the popularity of GoT, because George R.R. Martin cites these books as his main inspiration for the hit series. I haven’t started reading yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

The Chronicles of Amber (series)

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Amber and the Courts of Chaos are the two true worlds, of which Earth and many others are mere shadows. The royal families of these worlds are the only ones allowed to travel back and forth. The first five novels comprise the adventures of Corwin, a Prince of Amber who wakes up in a New York hospital with no knowledge of how he came to be there. With the help of his sister, he recovers his memory and undertakes a journey to claim the throne. The last five novels in the series follow Corwin’s son Merlin, who has come of age in a very different Amber than came before- and his destiny, like his father’s will change Amber forever.

Fevre Dream

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While this is a significant change of pace from GoT, Martin’s trademarks remain- morally ambiguous characters, the philosophical struggle with self-determination vs. predestination, and mesmerizing prose. This is not your average vampire story. Martin’s tale of a weary steamboat captain who partners with a child of the night is evocative, poetic and engrossing. Joshua York is a vampire with a humanist bent who strives to transcend his “peculiar condition” and achieve something no vampire ever has before. He enlists the help of Abner Marsh, whose life has become increasingly hardscrabble, by dangling his lifelong dream in front of him. As York and Marsh make their way down the river in the world’s fastest steamboat promises are made, secrets are revealed, and loyalties are tested.

Is Marriage for White People?

The analyview returns! I got a free copy of Dr. Richard Banks’ book, Is Marriage for White People from the professor who advises the BLSA group at Orange Law. It was a good read and surprisingly easy to get through; despite my impending finals, I managed to get through in just a few hours.

Thesis 1: The “marriage crisis” is not unique to black folks.

Hallelujah! Finally somebody said it, and it was a man, so people might actually believe it (true, but *eye roll* all the same). Marriage has been on the decline for decades now, and a lot of it has to do with the “success gap”–women both white and black are surpassing their male counterparts in education and income. However, the negative effects of societal trends are exacerbated in the black community by racial baggage.

Thesis 2: Marriage is a market.

A) The Man Shortage. We see the usual suspects: high rates of black male incarceration, interracial marriage of middle class, educated black men, and the success gap. However, he points out that the men who end up in prison are overwhelmingly not the men that successful black women are looking for anyway. The interracial marriage statistics are a bit more worrisome though–black men outmarry at three times the rate of black women (more than one in five black men, vs. less than one in ten black women). Finally, traditional ideas of marriage promote a male breadwinner. But given that black women earn college degrees at more than twice the rate of black men, and a labor market in which high wage industrial jobs are disappearing, that’s increasingly implausible.

Banks opens Chapter 4 with a bit of sensationalism on “man sharing”. He includes an anecdote from a physician with a largely black female population who says “Women are not surprised by the fact that their men are cheating on them. .  .  .They’re not shocked and they aren’t mad.”  o_O Really though??? So white women never get cheated on and when they do, they go slash some tires? Moving on, a 1980s study done at the University of Chicago did find that African-Americans were the least likely of all groups to have a monogamous relationship. In one predominantly black neighborhood, almost two out of every five men had simultaneous relationships with more than one sex partner. Now, the footnotes (I’m a history major and law student, how can I not read footnotes?) do state that these conclusions were drawn from much smaller sample sizes than that of the study as a whole, and thus the inference may not lie with the greater population. I know from the experiences of myself and others that man sharing definitely does happen, but I don’t know if I want to believe that women are just meekly putting up with it. Unfortunately, the rising STD contraction rates of black women and articles like this aren’t coming from nowhere.

B) Purchasing Power and Brand Loyalty. The simple fact is that middle class, educated black women outnumber black men who are the same. So black men hold all the cards, and they exploit them. It’s nothing personal, just human nature. Banks points out that many women put up with philandering behavior because they don’t want to be alone but insist on getting something out of the deal. In exchange for their acquiescence, they want expensive trips, dinners and trinkets. However, this perpetuates a cycle of distrust and discord. Successful black men now have three major disincentives to marry: the numbers on their side, women are supposedly gold diggers, and black women will remain loyal no matter what. Meanwhile, women resent men for expecting a lack of commitment with no repercussions, given that a woman who can’t carry on with multiple men without being deemed a whore.

Thesis 3: More black female led interracial relationships will benefit black people as a whole.

The same way competition forces business to adjust their prices and practices, competition shapes human mating behavior. A man who is less attractive will try to make up for it through humor, accumulating wealth, or other such mechanisms.So it logically follows that if black women outdated and outmarried in the same numbers as black men,  black women would step their game up and adapt to the new competition.

One of the biggest problems with black women’s determination to marry within the race is the inequality. Tyler Perry movies tout the “Blue Collar Brother” as the answer but the truth is, how many bus drivers have the heart of a poet? How many mechanics have the talent, drive and ambition to open their own auto shop and thrive? Marriages are based on shared values, and a weed smoking high school dropout who lives with his mama, or even the electrician with the associate’s degree who grew up in the hood, likely have little in common with a woman who went to an Ivy League school and works for a multinational corporation. That’s not good or bad, it just is. Suburbanite that I am, I’ll be the first one to admit that I dropped a potential suitor like a hot potato because he did a little “dope boy magic” in addition to his college internship. If the choice is ride or die, I’ll just walk. Basically, compatibility in a marriage relationship goes far, far beyond race.

At the end of the day, it’s about the children. Marriage isn’t what’s good for children–healthy, functional relationships between the two parents are. However, it’s hard to provide this stability between two people who are ill suited to each other. White middle class men arguably have much more in common when it comes to values than middle class black women and blue collar brothers. Furthermore, since white men and women outmarry at more equal rates and white men vastly outnumber black men, the man shortage disappears. Black women don’t have to settle for a lack of monogamy, and they can avoid the health consequences that come with it.

Thesis 4: It’s more than just numbers. 

A) Desire. At the heart of the interracial dating issue is the fact that many black women are either not attracted to white men at all, or just have a strong preference for black men–the way some men have a preference for women with light skin, long hair, or big boobs. What’s so wrong with it? Nothing really, and there’s no way to make someone feel attraction where there is none.

B) The Black Family. Some black women (like myself, admittedly) feel they have a duty to preserve the black family. As interracial marriages increase, we are moving closer to a beige America and some of us want to preserve the culture in our own small way. But the big issue is loyalty. Some women also feel that it would be a slap in the face to their beloved fathers, brothers and grandfathers to marry outside the race. The world still looks down on black men and it’s our job to lift them up, right? Well…not really. At least, not in the way that we’ve been doing.  Marrying outside the race doesn’t mean that you think black men are unworthy, and you don’t have to stop supporting the black community just because you marry outside of it. Black men feel no such loyalty to their women; marrying a white/Asian/Latina woman doesn’t mean to them that they love their mothers, sisters and cousins any less.

This is the really complicated bit. My sister is one of the few intrepid souls to try dating a white man; coincidentally, so is her best girlfriend! And they’re happy together. My brother and father don’t feel in any way put out by her choice. But many families aren’t as open as mine; in fact, some of my extended relatives still look at her boyfriend as an exotic and expect the drama to pop off at any moment. But even if they were to break up, that doesn’t mean interracial dating is a failure. Most relationships don’t make it to marriage, regardless of the two people’s race. Still, it’s hard to go against a lifetime of social conditioning, much less do so amid the objections of the people you hold dear.

C) Reciprocity. A study by the dating website OkCupid revealed that black women got the least responses to their personal messages. Closer examination of the data showed that other minority men–Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos–were all very likely to respond to black women, but black men were the least responsive, with white men in second. The racial divide goes both ways, and many white men think that women won’t be attracted to them. And black women are afraid of being treated as a fetish object. Their fears are not unreasonable–just look at the decades of sexual exploitation at the hands of white slaveowners, and the hypersexualization of black women that still saturates the media of today

Although Is Marriage for White People is a rather slim volume, Banks packs in a ton of information. I’ve merely summarized the main points of the book,  but I still highly recommend that you give it a read. While interracial dating is presented