When Trauma Speaks to Trauma

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was watch Supergirl Episode 6×12.  For those of you who don’t know, the episode titled Blind Spots was cowritten by Azie Tesfai, the actress who plays Kelly Olsen on the show.  The story deals with the fallout from one of Supergirl’s Superhero battles, and how it effects a low-income black neighborhood.  The episode was brilliant, emotional, and raw in a way you rarely see in television.  I really can’t overstate just how good this episode is.

There’s a lot of things going on in the episode.  It hits on white privilege and systemic racism in a big way.  It speaks to things like generational scars, and racial trauma and the ways even the most well intentioned and caring of allies fail marginalized people when they need them.  Throughout the episode, you watch as Kelly, a black woman begs the white people in her life who are in positions of power to help, and how none of them listen to her pleas until she finally breaks down and just lets loose all of her emotions, telling them how badly they have failed her.  It’s painful to watch.

As a white woman, there are things about Kelly’s experience, which is wonderfully captured by Tesfai’s amazing writing, that I will never understand, no matter how much I want to.  So much of it is a result of things I will never experience.  The kind of cradle to grave discrimination that comes with being a minority, and in America, most especially comes with being black.

As a trans woman, as a person who is visibly a member of a marginalized group, so much of what Tesfai puts into this episode speaks to me on a deep level.  The feeling of not being seen.  The feeling that the needs of people like me falling on deaf ears.  The feeling of screaming into a void.  The feeling that we always have to bottle it up and put on a good face.  The frustration that come with knowing that even the most well-meaning people in our lives will never understand if they don’t share our marginalized identity.  The feeling of being tired.

I might not share all the aspects of Tesfai’s experience, but what she wrote spoke to so much of what I feel as part of a marginalized community that I had tears in my eyes at several points in the episode.  I felt seen in a way I rarely do, which brings me to the point of this post.

This episode is a perfect example of why diverse and marginalized voices are needed.  They’re needed writing tv shows, movies, video games, novels, plays and every other form of media.  No white person could have told the story Tesfai told last night.  It’s not even a matter of ‘A black person could tell this story better’.  It’s literally a matter of ‘only a black person could tell that story’.  There are to many little touches, to many little moments that shape the story that could only come from someone with that particular lived experience.

The trauma that Tesfai put on the page and the screen with the help of David Ramsey who did a wonderful job directing the episode, spoke to me, and to my trauma.  It reminded me of something I think a lot of people forget.  Diverse and marginalized voices don’t just speak to people within their own community.  There is shared experience and shared trauma that comes with being the other.

I think being reminded of that, of feeling that connection across the lines of marginalization, is important.  I think it’s necessary.  I think we need to be reminded first, that we’re not alone in feeling like we’re on the outside looking in, and second, that we can’t become so lost in our on struggles and pain that we forget to reach out and help other communities across those same lines.

I want to sign off by saying thank you to Azie for the episode.  It was beautiful.  Probably the best episode of Supergirl that has gone in front of the camera in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what else you write.