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Intersections: THEATRE REVIEW: HOME A performance that brings gaslighting out of the dark

In Community/World News, Opinion/Editorial by Cindy Vicente

For my Afro-American Literature course, our class attended a performance of Home, a powerful play depicting the final moments of four high-profile murders of Black folks, written and directed by Millersville University student Rasheed Wesley. Afterwards, the cast facilitated a talkback session, fielding questions and comments from the audience. They invited a member of law enforcement who we will call Sgt. Fakename. I understood the choice to have a cop on the panel, in fact, I will even venture to say it was good. It exposed the problem exactly. Sgt. Fakename, while decent-natured, demonstrated erred and Blue*-tainted logic. While he said many things, the most disturbing was, “the reason we have the president we have is because people are tired of having this stuff shoved down their throats.” That sentiment is extremely problematic for a variety of reasons. Let’s begin deconstruction.

First, judging and policing (no pun intended) the language, strategies, protests, and (justified) anger on behalf of communities of color only demonstrates why passivity is no longer the answer to institutionalized and social injustices. If you want to help, but aren’t a member of the affected communities, then ask those who are how you can best help. And then do it, or don’t. You, however, do not get to criticize how those folks react to persistent oppression and persecution. It’s classic gaslighting. We poke, stab, spit on, keep down a group of people—for our benefit—and are somehow then surprised by or critical of the anger and push for force rather than passivity. Enter the Angry Black Person. That stereotype is a way for dominant culture (White culture) to invalidate the complaints and grievances on behalf of people of color regarding their own oppression and annihilation at the hands of law enforcement, and criminal justice system.

Secondly, Stonewall, Berlin Wall, WWII, Boston Tea Party, Civil War; what do these events have in common? Force and/or violence as a means of achieving an objective to correct an injustice of the time. I am glad we didn’t wait for these nice white slave owners to give up their privilege and power and free their slaves. If we wait to be given justice, we will wait our lifetime, our children’s lifetime, their children’s lifetime. The time for conversation has passed, and that explains why we see ‘riots’—which are the language of the ignored, and the justly angry. The purpose of our existence is to progress and evolve. We cannot evolve while still coddling those who do not want to progress because they stand to lose their power and privilege. I will never coddle the racist—active or passive, —the sexist, the heterosexist, the transphobe, the xenophobe, or any person who in any way helps push forward that narrative.

Sgt. Fakename’s comment was inappropriate, incredibly tone-deaf, and marinated in Blue beliefs; however, he is far from alone in his sentiment. He and many others, in essence, blamed us and our pursuit of justice and equity for electing a tyrant. I’ll concede he is right in some distorted way, but if our pursuit of justice and equity—especially for those who have been systemically disenfranchised and brutalized—is the reason so many whites voted for the Commander in Cheeto, then I argue that we are not the problem. We do not need to ‘just get over’ his election, and the danger that it now presents for Blacks, Latinx, undocumented folks, Queer people, and transgender individuals; it is those folks who need to relinquish their white, tight grip on the past where they could be openly racist, oppressive, sexist, and demand folks “speak English.” That world has changed around them, and they need to accept and move on.

We may have suffered a setback, but we have not lost. I have hope due to organized resistance like BLM. I will continue to give them money each month; I will show up to protests and demonstrations, and ask other organizers how I can serve them best. I see BLM at Queer events, refugee and undocumented events, at Planned Parenthood fundraisers and many other actions; we need to show up for them.

* Blue-tainted logic: Police mentality/leaning

**Gaslighting: manipulating someone through psychological means into doubting their own sanity. (Oxford Dictionary)