Most "Black Mirror" episodes come across as "what if this really happened?" but when watching “Black Museum” it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a fictional cautionary tale. For Black people, it’s very real.
This article contains spoilers for Black Museum.
When deciding which episode of "Black Mirror" to watch first, I was immediately drawn to “Black Museum.” The preview screen showed a Black woman in an old school car somewhere in the desert. I wondered what conundrums a woman who looked like me would find herself in in this technologically advanced, alternate universe.
At the beginning of the episode, Nish (Letitia Wright) stops at a museum just off the stretch of road she’s been traveling on. The museum displays gadgets from high-tech crimes and is owned by a creepy, white man named Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) who eagerly shows Nish artifacts and tells their detailed backstories, all of which he is personally involved.
Throughout Nish’s tour, the owner teases the main attraction, a hologram of an inmate who can be electrocuted via a museum patron controlled electric chair. It turns out, Nish isn’t the curious traveler she portrays herself to be. Instead, she is the inmate’s daughter who has come to seek revenge on her father’s and grieving mother’s behalf.
Of course Haynes doesn’t know this, and he still doesn’t realize it despite Nish’s obviously uncomfortable body language when describing the torture he inflicted upon her father.
In the end, Nish takes the eye-for-an-eye approach by torturing Haynes and burning Black Museum. The conclusion of the episode left me feeling vindicated yet overwhelmingly sad. I like "Black Mirror" because the stories seem just outside the realm of possibility, but “Black Museum” was different. The horrors of "Black Museum" have happened a million times before to Black people in the United States, and these horrors still continue today.
I think of trans-generational traumas, and how they shape us, and I wonder whether the pang that I sometimes feel in my gut connects me with the agony of my foremothers.
Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions of racialized reproductive and sexual violences against Black women
We have been rather preoccupied with our statues of late. As we should be. They are symbols of who and what our nation chooses to venerate and immortalize, and monuments to white supremacy have stood long enough—they should never have been erected to begin with.
At the edge of Central Park, in New York City, stands a figure in honor of J. Marion Sims, an allegiant to the Confederacy who often vocalized his loyalty to the south and southern tradition, including slavery. This nineteenth century doctor is known as the “father of modern gynecology.” While the field respectfully celebrates its patriarch, it too often neglects to remember its mothers. Among them: Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey.
Sims became the world’s most renowned authority on reproductive health after years of experimental operations on enslaved Black women in the backyard hospital of his Montgomery, Alabama home from 1845 to 1849. Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey were his subjects, taken on from local slavers. These young women were in horrible condition and went hoping that he would cure their ailments quickly.
This began “before the time of anesthesia,” Sims notes in his autobiography. The first successful surgery performed with anesthesia occurred in 1846, but Sims never gave any to the enslaved women in his care. It is recorded that he subscribed to the belief that Black people did not have the same capacity to feel pain as white people, a belief that many people in the medical field unfortunately still hold. Physicians continually offer less pain relief and fewer management resources to their Black patients, even to children, due to this accepted myth.
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