"I want you to feel what I feel": A Depiction of Black Suffering and White Refusal in Lovecraft Country

Curator's Note

Since the Atlantic Slave Trade, there is a recognizable refusal in non-black communities to acknowledge Black pain and suffering. Claudia Rankine emphasizes that Black life’s condition is one of mourning, but for centuries this pain, both physical and emotional, has been and continues to be disregarded and forcibly suppressed. In Misha Green’s groundbreaking series, Lovecraft Country, Black life takes a mystical turn when the series incorporates a level of science fiction and fantasy into the historical and everyday occurrences of the 1950s. In Episode 8, “Jig-a-Bobo,” audiences expected something powerful because they knew Emmitt Till’s horrifying death would take center stage. There are many elements to discuss in this episode, but the powerful portrayal of white refusal and inability to understand Black pain is accentuated during a conversation between Ruby Baptiste and Christina Braithwhite in one breathtaking (and infuriating) scene. When Christina refuses to respond to whether or not she cares about Emmitt Till’s death, Ruby asserts:

“I don’t want you to say anything, I want you to feel what I feel right now. Heartbroken, scared, furious, tired. So fucking tired, of feeling this way over and over.”

Christina only wants one thing, to be immortal. Arguably, the desire for immortality is present in every action that she takes until the series’ final episode. After Ruby has expressed her feelings, Christina admits that she does not care about Emmitt Till, despite the fact that there were hundreds of Black people lined up to mourn and pay respects to his grieving mother. Nevertheless, Christina, through a magical conjuration, places herself in Till’s position to experience his brutal murder first-hand. It could be argued that she wants to try and understand the “black experience,” but it could also be just another attempt to flaunt her immortality and power.

It is a shame that Christina had to magically recreate Till’s death to try and understand its significance. In the end, she was only concerned with her own selfish intentions. Do not let anyone fool you, that same white refusal, disregard and dismissal for Black life and Black pain exists today. Anti-blackness is “the ground on which we stand” (Sharpe, 2016). Until the condition of Black life is fully acknowledged and repaired, true progress will remain a distant dream and freedom will remain transactional. 

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.