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Sakena Jwan Washington

The Fear of Nostalgia: HBO’s Watchmen and African-American Genealogy

Fantasy and Sci-Fi has always been political, which is why I was surprised that Watchmen’s overt approach to race ruffled the feathers of many viewers. Science fiction has a way of teaching us about ourselves while giving us some distance between our face and the mirror. Watchmen may have turned up the volume, but the presence of politics is neither a betrayal of the original graphic novel or the genre itself.

The riveting first fifteen minutes of episode one, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, depict the brutal Black Wall Street massacre that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Writers Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse do so much more than shine a light on America’s race problem. They show that this massacre, like so many in America’s history, led to generational trauma and displaced children, forcing people to create new families of their own. By doing so, they dismantle the adoption trope as one that belongs solely to white heroes while at the same time paralleling the unknowns that often exist in African-American lineage. The grim reality is that because of events like the Tulsa massacre, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the Reconstruction era that followed it, there are many dead ends in African-American genealogy.

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