It’s easy to look at something like Monáe’s mythos and see only the obvious metaphors. Her android’s struggle for the freedom to love after all paralells the struggle of American slave women to marry legally, to keep their children, to control their very bodies, in a system that cruelly commodified these activities. But it’s wrong only to apply an historical, and racial, lens to the work of any modern black woman. We have spent generations sharing the struggles of other opressed groups, collaborating with and occasionally being betrayed by them, and progressing nonetheless. We’re the ones who (literally) wrote the book on intersectionality. And it’s clear that Janelle Monáe feels no sense of threat from the others with whom our future will be shared. She welcomes, after all, with love and dancing.
And yet. When I watch her videos and listen to her lyrics I’m SHOCKED to see so much of myself in this ultra-technological future - despite my own writings, despite my own knowledge that black history and myth abounds with techies and innovators, despite my LIFE and my long-held desire to see this very thing. It’s not Monáe’s ability to imagine an inclusive future that’s remarkable, but my subconcious resistance. What the hell is wrong with me, that her vision feels so strange?
Too many years of ‘The Jetsons’, maybe. Too many white-supremacist Medieval Europes. I’ve spent years swallowing these bizarro world versions of humanity, and they have become a toxin poisoning my imagination. But Janelle Monáe is a tiny, fast-footed, pompadour’d antidote to all of that."