And the Winner is…: “Hidden Fences” and the bounds of white imagination
Last night the Golden Globes aired and amidst the normal red carpet couture conversations there was a sense of expectancy, no, the arrival of something different. Maybe it was the way the paparazzi’s flashes bounced off their skin; the Black and brown bodies dripping in shimmering metallics like they had floated in from an intergalactic cocktail party in a universe far, far away–but it felt like no matter who got a golden trophy, they had already won.
But then whiteness showed up, as it always does, a tether pulling us away from the Afrofuture, back even from this moment and to a not so distant past. With one “innocent” mistake whiteness reminded us that we are interchangeable, frivolous and indiscernible. When “Hidden Fences” fell from one white mouth after another, it was supposed to be a sign that our stories don’t matter, no one cares and we can be invited and still unwelcome. At least, it was supposed to be: But instead it showed the limitations of the white imagination.
An imagination that cannot tell the difference between a screenplay based on a play by one of the greatest and most prolific playwrights in American history and a movie based on the true story of the Black women who were pivotal in NASA’s moon mission. Black imagination propelled us to space. White imagination couldn’t get the names right.
But what’s ironic about this “unintentional” snub is that “Hidden Fences” is exactly why the Black bodies are in the room. These Black artists can see the truth, beauty, pain, complexity and fullness of Black life and experiences. With this vision, they can tell the stories that white imagination doesn’t believe exists. White imagination can’t fathom an awkward Black girl because that would mean acknowledging the full humanity of Black women and girls, and yet there sat Issa Rae with a Kanekalon crown, donned in white. White imagination is struggling to solve a very simple equation that has been stumping it for centuries; if bodies have souls and Black men have bodies, how then? To which Moonlight replies, then Black men have souls. And as America prepares to send its first Black woman to the International Space Station, white imagination cant find the space in its mouth to admit and affirm that Black women got us to space in the first place.
There were indeed hidden fences at the Golden Globes last night. However it was not a nominated film about a baseball game on the moon featuring Denzel Washington and Janelle Monae. It was formed by boards of ancestral lies and fortified by indifference that makes it impossible for white imagination to dream Black characters beyond caricatures. So Donald and Viola and Tracee and Mahershala and Janelle and Issa and Octavia and Courtney hopped the fence. A fence that is coming down, whether whiteness can imagine it or not.