The Black Time Traveler’s Guide to the United States of America

In 1985 one of the most infamous science fiction movies premiered. It has been referenced in movies such as “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989), “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Ready Player One” (2018). I am talking about “Back to the Future”. If you have not watched it, that’s shocking, but to give a short synopsis, teen Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and eccentric older scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel from 1985 to 1955 in a modified DeLorean DMC-12. Since seeing this movie, I have been interested in backward time travel.

Philosophy_Blog_3A_Back_to_the_FutureIn time travel movies, there is never a shortage of time periods that people travel to. In the “Back to the Future” franchise, Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to 1955, 2015 and 1885 in each of the respective movies. In the cult classic “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, Bill and Ted travel to 1805, 1879, 410 BC, and several other times all within one movie. In watching several time travel movies, I have learned one thing.

DON’T GO TO THE PAST.

To be more accurate, I must say to not go into the past unless you are a white male. This trope is referred to as No Equal Opportunity Time Travel for more obvious reasons. Backward Time Travel does not favor everyone equally. Comedian Louis C.K. says in one of his skits “Here’s how great it is to be white — I can get into a time machine and go to any time and it would be fuckin’ awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege! Black people can’t fuck with time machines. A black guy in a time machine is like, ‘Hey anything before 1980, no thank you, I don’t wanna go.'” This comedically explains the problem with time travel for people who are not white.

There are a few ways to demonstrate why I believe backward time travel to be the wrong idea for people of color. The first demonstration is through more propositional logic. Let us begin.

  1. You are a person of color.
  2. If you are a person of color, laws are more strictly enforced.
  3. In the past, there were more oppressive laws.
  4. No one wants to be subject to the more oppressive law.
  5. Therefore, no person of color should not want to go to the past.

Philosophy_Blog_3A_Emmett_Till

The second demonstration is from a historical perspective. I will be expanding upon the third premise of the argument above. In the past, there were more oppressive laws. No one can deny the past had oppressive laws for people of color. We can look at the laws that targeted the black community. We had legal slavery. That should be enough, but people may argue that we abolished slavery in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation and with the 13th Amendment. While we “ended” slavery, there were still oppressive laws across the United States for black people. We can look at the Jim Crow Laws, and how 14-year-old Emmett Till (pictured above) was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman. She later admitted to not doing it, but that doesn’t change the facts. Rest In Power, Emmett Till.  We can look at segregation of schools, and how 101 politicians signed the Southern Manifesto to combat Brown vs. Board of Education. We can look at the War on Drugs, and how marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug while Cocaine and Meth are both Schedule 2 drugs.

Now to provide a little more context, it is a bad idea for anyone who is not white to travel to the past. We tend to think of the past as this interesting place, which it is. Just because it is interesting doesn’t mean that you should go there. When we look at the history of the queer community, we see their inability to express themselves to the point where police officers would raid gay bars. When we look at the Latinx community, we see a history of oppression, stolen land, forced sterilization and anti-immigration. When we look at the Native American community, we see a history of erasure, oppression, stolen land and presidents who took honor in killing them. When we look at the Asian community, we see the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, forced Japanese internment during WW2 and the aftermath of it. There is no good reason to subject yourself to living in the past.

So to all of the black children who want to time travel, I recommend you pick up an accurate history textbook. That should convince you that the only place you want to travel to is towards progress.

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