Thursday, March 01, 2018

Chicanonautica: Afrofuturism, Identity, y Yo

by Ernest Hogan

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I am considered to be an Afrofuturist. Besides having a lot of Afro in my futurismo, racism is a primitive default setting the human organism uses to deal with the unfamiliar. All aliens look alike.

Now my novels are discussed in a dissertation, Afrofuturism, Science Fiction,and the Reinvention of African American Culture by Myungsung Kim, as part of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Arizona State University.
There I am, along with George Schuyler, Ishmael Reed, Octavia Butler, and Nalo Hopkinson.

How do I (along with Gloria Anzaldúa, Alex Rivera, Rosa Sánchez, Beatriz Pita, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Roberto Sifuentes, and Sesshu Foster) fit in here? Quoting Kim: Chicana/o scholars and artists constantly enact U.S./Mexico border experience as akin to the ontological status of alien. 

The story of my life!

And I have a peculiar relationship with black people, and it’s not just the accident of sharing the name of the Father of Ragtime, or the fact that I arrived on this planet on the same day that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus. All my life, I’ve been mistaken for black. I’ve been called the n-word a ridiculous number of times. As a teenaged science fiction fan, mine was often the only brown face in the room, and only later did I realize that I was counted many times as representative of the noncaucasian members of the human race.

In 1991, at the World Fantasy convention in Tucson, Harlan Ellison, one of my favorite writers, counted the black people in his audience to show how things have improved. He pointed on my direction. I looked around, and whispered, “What does he mean? I don’t see any black people on this side of the room.”

"He means you," my wife whispered back, in her wisdom.

I respectfully played black for the rest of the con, but then all I really had to do was be myself.

That, and being called a “dumb fucking white person” by an Indian in Taos, define my identity crisis.

Hopefully, this will come in handy in a world going crazy over the Black Panther movie. Is Afrofuturism going be normalized into mainstream, global culture? Or will it just be appropriated by Disney Marvel? Is this another breakthrough like the election of Obama? Or just another corporate product?

The phenomenon is not what I was expecting. People are going to the movie in Afro garb that is not cosplay copycatism. I was particularly impressed by two guys dressed like African kings, high-end suits, crowns, and obviously fake lion and leopard skins. It reminds me of Black Pride manifestations from the Sixties.

Don’t buy your identity off the corporate rack; create your own.

I’ve even heard rumors of white kids dressing like T’Challa. Disney Marvel probably won’t be able to control the phenomenon, and that’s a good thing.

The all-white future of the 20th century is dead. Sci-fi productions with nothing but caucasoid faces cause people to think, What’s wrong with this picture? And I can’t keep up with all the writers of color being published these days.

So, call me an Afrofuturist. I can be that, and a Chicano, and a cyberpunk, and a helluvalota other things. It’s just my complicated, crazy, mestizo/rasquache/recombocultural reality.

It’s also what the world is coming to--me, Black Panther, Myungsung Kim, and a whole lot other folks.

Ernest Hogan never knows what people are going to think he is. His mother’s maiden name is Garcia, and he was born in East L.A. As far as he knows, he’s on the planet legally.

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