Finding Hope in a TARDIS: Violence, Racism, and Headline Fatigue
Over the last few months it’s been harder and harder for me to turn away from headlines splattered with police brutality, murders, terrorist attacks on churches and a blatant disrespect for the lives of people of color. The past two years seem to be a constant barrage of violence, death and frustration, with blatant racism and bias at the root of it all. Every day black women and men are forced to live a reality in which their lives are less valued simply because of the color of their skin. I know I’m not alone in my fatigue and nearly physical anger at every headline; but like most of us on the other side of computer screens, it can seem that way sometimes.
Last week I went to a progressive organizing conference in Arizona, where I had the opportunity to speak to and to hear from black women from around the country. It was amazing to be around like-minded activists, advocates, organizers and general “doers." Conversation after conversation centered around common frustrations, but also around strategy and action. We talked about how to change the narratives and how we can work together. When news about Sandra Bland broke on Monday, however, the sense of urgency and anger only grew.
Then at the end of one of the sessions I led last week, I had the most unique bonding experience of my life. A young trans woman of color and amazing activist came up to me after my session to talk about the importance of gender identity and expansion of the narrative and definition of the word ”woman.” I thanked her for taking the lead in the conversation – but I couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing a bright blue TARDIS around her neck.
If you read my very first post or listened to BGN's first podcast on “Doctor Who,” you know that I am a Whovian and have been one since I was nine. So, if anyone is going to randomly notice a TARDIS it’s going to be me.
Mid sentence I blurted out, “TARDIS!” She smiled at my recognition and – being the blerd I am - I rummaged through my bag to find my old beat-up TARDIS wallet that had been a gift from a friend when I first moved to New York.
Her smile widened as she said, "Wait… I have something for you."
Reaching into her bag she pulled out a brand-new T.A.R.D.I.S necklace and gave it to me. I was more than speechless at her kindness and literally jumped around like a kid cradling the necklace. But it was what she said next that would blow my mind.
“I give my friends TARDIS’s because it connects people through time and space.”
My jaw dropped. Perhaps it was a breaking point or the sudden realization that light existed in the dark conversations I’d been having up to that point, but the amazing juxtaposition of the prior conversation on issues that affect women and our systematic culture of violence with this incredibly hopeful statement based on the philosophy of a fictional character nearly brought me to tears.
We took an obligatory selfie then parted ways; but I faithfully wore that TARDIS throughout the rest of the conference, even during on-air interviews. Somehow wearing this necklace made me feel more hopeful about our ability to change the narrative of violence and racism that women of color wade through every day. More than that, wearing it made me feel connected to at least one other person who still saw good in the world beyond the wrongs we were all working to fight.
The most interesting thing is, as I wore the necklace it began to connect me to more and more women of color at the conference. Suddenly there were small conversations and side discussions around the necklace that unearthed unassuming Whovians. It appeared we all needed a reprieve, a chance to step away from the harsh reality of being a woman of color during a time when being a woman of color felt so unsafe. It is not that being a woman of color suddenly felt safer, but those brief moments gave us the chance to connect outside of the anger, frustration and the hopelessness of the headlines.
Fast forward to last night: I rewatched “The Rings of Akhaten” from season 702 of “Doctor Who.” As I watched I remembered the feeling I had at the conference. Suddenly it dawned on me why so many people, even amid the recent violence, allow themselves to be captured by sci-fi programs like DW or fantasy shows like GOT. I realized that our random escapades into someone else's world - these trips to another time or dimension like the 11th Doctor's fight against a parasitic, memory-consuming sun - are just our way of coping with what is happening in the headlines; our way of finding hope so we can continue to push forward.
I'd like to think that is what “Star Trek” or the “Twilight Zone” was for my mother's generation as they watched the marches in the 60's. You see, some people have music, some people have art or dance, but some of us have sci-fi and fantasy. Because sometimes you have to be able to think, if only for a moment, that somewhere - even in the course of a fictional timeline - there is still hope.