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Queen & Slim: The Background and What it Means in America Today

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rowan chapter.

*** Note: I am aware that as a white woman, I may not get everything right in this article. However, I find the ignorance in this country appalling and am willing to learn more and become educated on the BLM movement. I do not condone racism of any kind and stand with those affected by white violence and supremacy in America. Say their names.***

Queen & Slim is a film that was released in 2019 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement today. In it, we meet the unnamed duo as they embark on their first date, but on their way home, it takes an unexpected turn. The two are forced to kill a racist, white police officer in self-defense, and due to the corrupt criminal justice system in America, flee in fear of the future. They travel across the country in order to avoid their fate in a beautiful and provocative story of compassion, love, and purpose. What this movie explores isn’t just a surface-level cross-country love story, however, it is so much more than that. Queen & Slim provides America with an honest look at what it is like to live life as a black person in America; with constant fear and inequality. It is within their enriching story that privileged people like myself get a birds-eye view of the black experience and the hardships and discrimination that black people face on a day-to-day basis.

The film’s director, Melina Matsoukas, stated in a NY Times article that she found inspiration for the film following the release of the footage of the 2015 Sandra Bland arrest (view here: Warning: This video and the following story could be unsettling to some people). Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old African American woman that was arrested during a pretextual traffic stop when the situation between her and Texas State trooper Brian Encinia escalated. In the footage, it is obvious that there was no reason for Encinia to remove Bland from the vehicle; following inspection of the footage, the officer was placed on administrative leave. However, three days following her arrest, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail cell. They ruled her death a suicide, and the autopsy revealed that she had multiple abrasions most likely due to self-harm. Two days after her death, there was a critical uproar of protests around the country in her honor. 31,000 people tweeted using the hashtag #SandraBland, and signed an online petition calling for the investigation of her death. The FBI eventually launched an investigation surrounding Bland’s death, and Encinia was further terminated by the DPS. This was a clear case of racial profiling and police brutality.

Unfortunately, Sandra Bland’s case is one of the many instances of racial injustice in this country, and Queen & Slim highlights this; innocent lives are being lost for no reason. The film showcases the many issues that the black community faces, and we are met at the get-go with an anxiety that haunts us for the remainder of the film. Despite this, there is also a wonderful story about truly living instead of just surviving. Queen and Slim perpetuate a journey and a love story so beautiful that I forgot why they were even placed in the situation in the first place. Despite being on the run from injustice, the two manage to take every moment with a grain of salt and live. However, by the end of the film, it is then we realize that the black community can not live without persistent fear. Queen & Slim is such a moving film and right now more than ever, so many people are finally feeling the weight that this movie makes you feel.

Racism is a pandemic relevant as ever in America. It is important that we all continue to educate ourselves on racism and the history of discrimination, and put a stop to it whenever we see it. When you interrupt a conversation with racist undertones, you’re recognizing your privilege, but also attempting to understand and put an end to the problems of today. Don’t excuse anyone’s negative behavior, and never tell a black person how they should feel on the topic of racism. Lend an open ear and truly listen to what is going on around you.

Maranda is a Senior Writing Arts and Emergency Management dual major at Rowan University. She hopes to become a published poetry author and eventually go to law school or work for Homeland Security. In her free time she enjoys listening to all genres of music, reading, creating art, writing poetry, and watching 80s movies.
Destiny is currently enrolled in Columbia University's MFA Writing program. She is a national writer at Her Campus and the former editor-in-chief of Her Campus Rowan. She likes thrifting, romance novels, cooking shows, and can often be found binging documentaries.