Season 5 | Episode 6 – “May 27, 2020”
All of the television shows that do it for the culture have never shied away from tackling the tough issues. Back in the day, there would be a special disclaimer before the show began. I can recall “special episodes” of Good Times, A Different World, The Cosby Show, etc. I would categorize this episode of Queen Sugar as a “special episode.”
On May 25, 2020, around 8 p.m., Minneapolis police officers responded to a call from a store clerk who claimed Mr. George Floyd had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Minutes later, Mr. George Floyd was murdered by the police. Bystander footage of the encounter went viral. And that footage showed Officer Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, while he begged for mercy, called for his mother and while other police officers watched. It took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to end George Floyd’s life. On May 27, 2020, the world learned of this horrific act. Last night’s episode is that day. On that day everything shifted. And on the day this episode aired, the jury selection in the murder trial against Derek Chauvin was completed. This episode follows the Bordelons as they grapple with Mr. Floyd’s death and all of the questions and emotions that followed. I will try to find the funny and lighthearted moments, but they were few and far between. 💔 Usually, I break this up by siblings. Today’s edition is broken up by issues.
PTSD, Trauma and The Never-ending Cycle of Violence Against Black People
Micah and Charley are both awakened by their buzzing phones. They both learn of the news and quickly turn on their televisions to try to figure out what’s happening. Charley is in disbelief and shock. Micah has a physical reaction and has to remember to breathe. It wasn’t that long ago that he was pulled over by the police and suffered their abuse. He has flashbacks of that night. He and Charley exit their rooms at the same time and Charley opens her arms for him to come. No words need to be spoken.
Charley joins Micah in his room and they watch the news together. She cannot understand how this happened because there was no resistance. Micah reminds her that it doesn’t matter to them. And then Charley truly realizes Micah’s struggle. She turns off the TV and asks Micah to talk to her. Micah does what he has been doing since his encounter with the police happened and tries to brush it off. But this time, Charley won’t let him. She tells him that pushing it down is not the way. She knows this because she’s tried it and it doesn’t work. I was surprised that Charley admitted that that’s what she’s been doing since we’ve known her. I am just waiting for everything that she has pushed down to come up. Micah’s struggle is heart wrenching. Although Charley tries to tell him that this is murder it’s unacceptable, and he will not get away with it, Micah is not believing that at all. This happened in broad daylight. There was no attempt to hide it. The murder of Black people is very acceptable and that’s the point. And he breaks down. The only relief I could find in this was that Micah was home with Charley and she was able to comfort and console him as only a mother can. But this is tough. Micah has PTSD and he probably experiences something similar every time this happens. But this one was just so egregious and so cold.
Prosper is still staying with Vi, which is a good thing. Prosper asks for the funny papers in an attempt to keep his spirits up. Vi cannot understand how all of this happened over $20. As a business owner, if a person were to give her a fake 20, the last thing she would think to do is call the police. In fact, if that happened, she would give the person food because they might just be trying to survive. Prosper brings up a good point. Is that even what happened? One thing we know for sure is that “they” lie. We have been here before. It’s the cycle. In a matter of days, the story will be spun to make the murderer the victim. It never stops.
Say Their Names
Nova is doing what Nova does. Cleansing her space with sage. Praying. Meditating. And now she’s ready for a live broadcast. She sets the timer for 08:46 (the amount of time Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s neck), presses record and starts. She begins with the ancestors that have been taken too soon from us and takes the time to honor their lives by saying their names. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Gardner…and the list goes on and on and on…and ends with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. And then she breaks down. Like we all did.
Nova, being the grand journalist that she is, is taking this opportunity to make sure that this murder doesn’t just trend for a few days. This needs to mean something. In preparation for whatever she’s about to do, she is reading, “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America.” Of interest to her is not the lynchings, but the people who gathered to watch and made it an event. They wore their Sunday best to come and see people be murdered. Chauvin wasn’t alone on that day. There were three other police officers who watched it happen and did not try to stop it. Guilty bystanders. Just like all of the people who have gathered for centuries to watch Black people hanging from trees. Calvin doesn’t even know what to say in this conversation.
Nova’s article will be about bystanders – those who watch and why. The police officers who just sat and looked on arguably assisted and facilitated in the murder. Courtney serves dinner as Nova keeps an eye on the news. She’s planning to join the protest tonight. Calvin is highly bothered by her news watching and suggests that they record it so she can watch later. Huh? Come again? So we are going to DVR the revolution so we can sit back later, binge watch it and bask in it? I think not. He also wants her to stay home. I promise you that ain’t gonna happen. Anyway, Courtney asks about how the article on bystanders is going and she quotes James Baldwin. “It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” My biggest problem with Courtney at this moment is that she called him “Jimmy B.” Show some respect little (white) girl. Of course Calvin is oblivious to who James Baldwin is because he has taken up residence at the intersection of Clueless St. and Ignorance Ave. Nova is impressed, but she tells Courtney that she needs to call him James Baldwin. You better put some respecK on James Baldwin’s name.
Nova is digging deep for this article and wants Calvin to tell her about the time he was a bystander and watched his fellow officers beat up a Black boy. Uh oh. Courtney was like…you did what? Calvin said it was 20 years ago, he was a rookie and was trying to fit in. The boy stole a chocolate bar and the police were called. Several police showed up – for a candy thief. So, yeah. He watched. And did nothing. Afterwards, he asked why they took it so far. His partner told him that it was down payment. If they handle these kids when they are young, they would know what to expect later in life. Calvin acknowledged that he should have been stronger and spoken up. But the fact remains that he didn’t. And he is among the bystanders that Nova will write about. I actually appreciated this conversation, because I, too, wonder what goes through the minds of the police officers who know what’s happening and refuse to speak up even when they know someone can and may die as a result of their silence.
Nova is really feeling all the things, mainly because she is living with and in a relationship with a white man. She has a lot of rage (which I totally understand) and Calvin is catching it all because he’s right there. While she is trying to process everything, Calvin is watching something violent on TV. That was problematic for me and for Nova. She interrupts his tv watching to ask him if he is ashamed by what happened to George Floyd. For Black folks, anytime we watch the news and something happens, we say a silent prayer (sweet baby Jesus, please don’t let this person be Black) because we don’t want to take on the blame that immediately follows. She wants to know if white people feel that. Calvin says he felt disgust, but not shame because he had nothing to do with it. Nova says that if the tables were turned, she would feel shame because every Black person’s endeavors are collective – besides success. Courtney is in the conversation now and she understands what Nova is saying (of course) but Calvin is still clueless and that is bothering the hell out of Nova. She goes on. If that were a Black person that killed somebody while people were begging them stop, she would be in shambles. Meanwhile, there’s an imbecile in the White House and yall are good with it? If Obama were to behave in the same manner, Black folks would be collectively ashamed. Calvin still doesn’t get it and Nova tells him that all of this is white supremacy in action. Nova is hot, yall. And we all were. But how exactly was she expecting a white man to react to this? The way Calvin was reacting was no surprise to me. The fact that he really had no reaction was not a surprise either. Was Nova expecting too much? I have an announcement to make. CALVIN IS WHITE. If Nova is going to be in an interracial relationship, she might as well prepare to be Calvin’s teacher for the rest of her natural life. And that’s what she signed up for.
How Do We Get Free? How Do We Resist? How Do We Fight?
Give light and people will find a way.Ella Baker
Micah tunes into the news later that night to find that rioting is happening. He is on board. Burn the sh*t down! *SN: I want Micah to stay away from anything arson related. We been there before and we don’t need to go down that road again.* And he says it just in time for Charley to walk in and hear. She thinks he’s doing the most and needs to chill. There’s a building on fire and somebody could get hurt or die. Micah’s not concerned. Charley tells him that we cannot become the thing that we hate. But how do fight back? With love? Charley reminds Micah that love isn’t a weakness or something to be mocked. Ella Baker and Martin Luther King taught us to lead with love. But as Charley is quoting King, Micah came back with a King quote of his own. Riots are the voice of the unheard. King said that, too. Charley wants Micah to realize that we have other tools besides rioting and looting – like voting, policy. Micah isn’t convinced especially because the system is working the way it was intended to work. How can we continue to turn the other cheek? The only way is to take it to the streets. Period. Charley tells Micah that there will be protest tomorrow night and the council is concerned about violence. There will be a heavy police presence. She wants to know if he plans to go. Not only is Micah planning to go, but he helped planned the protest. This conversation right here! Some of it was generational. Some of it was ideology. All of it was true. How do we change this and how do we get free?
Micah is ready for the protest he helped plan. He has his “Justice For All Or Else” tee on and tells Charley that he will be safe. He also asks Charley not to try and stop him. He has to fight this. But she wasn’t planning to do that at all. Instead, she asks him if he has an extra tee. She’s going with him! Micah is delighted. I can’t help but to wonder why she chose to go. Was it because she’s afraid of what might happen to him at the protest? Does she want to show Micah that she supports him 100%? Did their conversation change the way she felt about protest and resistance? Was it all of the above?
At the rally, the Bordelon presence is real, but they aren’t together. Nova’s there. Courtney AND Calvin came, too. Charley is there shouting, “no justice, no peace” with the rest of them and Micah spots her in the crowd. She raises her fist and gives him all the energy he needs. It was everything.
The Case for Self-Defense
Word of the protest in St. Jo has gotten out and Vi, Hollywood and Prosper are boarding up windows at the restaurant. Prosper and Vi don’t think they need it, but Hollywood does. People are mad and anything could happen. When Vi helps Hollywood finds some tools in his box, she discovers a gun. She is floored. Hollywood didn’t just get a gun. He has had a gun for a while and Vi didn’t know. It was something they discussed and he agreed that he wouldn’t keep a gun, but he lied. He is not backing down tho. Wood said that if ANYBODY comes for ANYBODY that he loves, including them “arguing-ass Bordelon kids,” he is willing to do what he has to do. And if he gets killed while doing that, that’s just how it’s going to be. Period. And you know what, Vi can’t even argue with that. Nonetheless guns scare her. Hollywood leaves her speechless when he says that he is going to fight for their chance to live. And this is another conversation that’s being had in Black homes across the country. Do we need this? Are we sure this is what we need to do? With every murder, we ask the same questions. But I suspect that after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor AND George Floyd happening so close to each other, this conversation took on new life.
Self-Care is Revolutionary
RA and Darla were enjoying their honeymoon and had no idea that the country was on fire. Hollywood called him to break the news and RA immediately broke down after seeing a few minutes of news coverage. Both RA and Darla worry about Blue, but it seems that Aunt Vi has kept the news from him. Darla is relieved that Blue hasn’t been watching the murder over and over. It’s traumatic. Black kids shouldn’t have to deal with this. Darla wants to head home to be with and comfort her child. RA wants them to stay. Why should they rush home? He’s tired of the constant loop of misery. They deserve rest and to take care of themselves. Why rush back to that? The pain will always be there. Can’t the pain wait a few days? I feel RA on this! Rest is revolutionary. We rest, then rise. We also need a break from it all. The pain will always be there. The fight will always be there. We have to take care of ourselves.
Ultimately, RA and Darla head home so they could be there for Blue. But on the way home, they stopped at a gas station. Per the usual, Billy Bob was feeling froggy and emboldened, so he commented on Darla’s “Black Moms Matter” shirt with the some All Lives Matter bs. What about my mom? Don’t she matter? He was like…what if I walked around with a shirt that said “White Lives Matter?” Darla clapped back…”I would say that it was redundant.” Tell him Darla! Billy Bob was still feeling himself and kept it going with all of the usual lines: (1) the cops got called because of his behavior, (2) he was resisting arrest, (3) he got what he deserved, (4) yall can’t be burning down cities because a Black man got killed…blah, blah, blah. RA told him to use that gas he just pumped and keep it moving. I was scared because RA is fresh off probation. We don’t need no problems and it would be a dude like Billy Bob that would have him back in jail again.
It turns out that Blue had heard about Mr. Floyd and had been hearing a lot about Black Lives Matter. He is still unsure of the details. Darla was searching for the words to make this a kid friendly discussion, but RA decided in that moment that it was time. And Darla had to let him do what needed to be done. It was time to tell the truth and to not sugarcoat the thing that cannot be sugarcoated. He got killed by police officers. We can’t say all lives matter until they act like Black lives matter too. This world has great things to offer and I want that for you. But there are bad people and bad things out there. Bad people can’t see you, they won’t see you. I can’t protect you from those people all the time. Be careful if you are ever stopped by the police. Blue doesn’t even see how that’s possible because he would never break the law. Sadly, that doesn’t matter. You will be stopped because you are Black and that’s what happens. Blue says we can change it and even quotes Nova. RA tells him he can change things by staying alive to do something special with his life. And then Blue asks the question that broke my heart. How do I stay alive? They give him the rules. 1. Don’t run. Even if you’re scared. 2. Call us first. Immediately. Blue is in tears and so am I. I have had light versions of the talk with my kids, but it’s time for a refresher and I will use this scene as an introduction. Stealing their joy is heartbreaking. Joy is revolutionary, too. But not equipping them for what will surely come doesn’t do us any favors. I feel for all of the parents who have to have these conversations.
If I could a name a favorite part of this episode, it would be the care and attention given to Mr. George Floyd’s humanity. Both Blue and Prosper addressed him as “Mr. George Floyd.” The show’s bookends, the youngest and the oldest, showing respect. They called his name, several times. They called the names of so many that we have lost. I think this may have been the first show to do that. Hollywood was angry that we only knew and paid attention to how he died. No one mentioned how he lived. He lived and he was loved. What really connected George Floyd to Hollywood was the fact that he called out to his deceased mother. Your mother. The only person who can protect you and save you…but is no longer with you. To call out for your mother…
Per the usual, I got comments, questions and concerns:
On Hollywood: I am worried about Wood. He is taking the death of his mother very hard, as to be expected. To be going through a pandemic, to lose your mom because of the pandemic, to not be able to grieve in the normal way, and to tie your grief to the murder of a man killed during the pandemic is all too much. When he told Vi that he was “over” The Real Spot, I got scared for him. That place was supposed to be for men to come and lay their burdens down. It will be needed now more than ever, and it was his dream.
On Courtney: Is anyone else tired of Courtney? She commented that Nova didn’t need the pepper because she seasons her food. *insert side eye here* And then she calls Baldwin Jimmy B like they are old friends. Is she too woke for her own good? I am pretty sure she would call herself an ally. I wonder if she’s an accomplice, too. When she actually has something to lose to fight injustice, where will she fall? I wonder about Calvin, too.
On Tees: The T-shirts tell a story. There were 2 shirts featured in this episode that I wouldn’t mind purchasing. First, Darla’s “Black Mom’s Matter” tee was cute. And Micah’s rally shirt was cool.
On Charley: She has the inside scoop because she’s on the Council. I wonder if there will be any ramifications or backlash from the Council because her son planned the protest and because she participated. I was so happy when she encouraged Micah to deal with the grief he was feeling. I wish that he had gone to therapy after everything happened. For Charley to acknowledge that all of the pain and grief she’s endured has been pushed down was telling. I am wondering when it will all come up.
That’s all I got. I am emotionally spent. This episode covered so much and I am sure that I missed lots of things. Feel free to chime in with the things that resonated most for you. I have to give a standing ovation to Ava and the team for this episode (and all episodes, really). Our stories matter and who tells our stories matter even more. I’m glad we got Ava.