On 'Queen & Slim': Black Love & Shared Trauma

The effects of traumatic experiences live in our bodies, even when the event is long over.

Culture & Entertainment

Disclaimer: There are light spoilers ahead.

As the credits rolled on Queen & Slim, I remained confined to my $12.85 faux leather movie seat due to high anxiety, experiencing classic symptoms like a lump in my throat, a slight queasiness in my belly, and racing thoughts. Why am I feeling this way after watching a movie meant to entertain me? Scanning the room, many other moviegoers also remained for reasons unknown to me. After several deep breaths, I was calm enough to leave.

Walking to my car, I'd hear commentary from other moviegoers that were riddled with frustration, hurt, and pain. One woman could be heard saying how "we never make it out alive." Another man questioned his partner, "Why you make me see this?" His genuine concern was felt on a spiritual level. My question was simple, "Why does mainstream black 'entertainment' regurgitate black pain?"


Instantly, I became pissed with myself for listening to Issa Rae and "rooting for everybody black". No, I don't have an axe to grind against Lena Waithe or Melina Matsoukas, two amazing creators who've worked extremely hard to secure their positions in Hollywood. However, I was disappointed in their creating cliche black cinema using black trauma, triggers, fears, and pain as the backdrop to promote the depths of intimate and community black love.

For those who've seen the film, you're aware that Queen and Slim met online and decided to have their first date at a local restaurant. Although the dialogue between the pair was cheesy, I remained hopeful that we, black folk, and our love stories would be represented lovingly and wholeheartedly. Listen, I'm not naive, I'm aware all stories require conflict, yet I wasn't prepared for depths the creators would go to emphasize this point.


The next scene is where Waithe began reaching for the low-hanging fruit of stereotypes and cliches, and black trauma. While driving, Queen and Slim were pulled over by a white, racist cop due to the latter's erratic driving, while arguing over a cliche issue, his phone. Of note, when the red and blue cops sirens were visible, a collective gasp filled the theater because many of us knew from experience what was going to happen next.

Our bodies knew too.

The effects of traumatic experiences live in our bodies, even when the event is long over. #PTSD

During the stop, it was apparent Slim was listening when given the "this is what you do when interacting with cops" talk, as he exercised extreme caution when interacting with the police. Queen had the stereotypical role of an "aggressive black woman", who disregarded the rules of engagement when interacting with police, which was due presumably to her background as a lawyer. Her actions unnecessarily escalated an already dire situation. Subsequently, Queen was shot by the officer, grazed by his bullet. Slim was able to fend off and kill the cop, which started the traumatic journey of Queen and Slim.



For many black men and women, including myself, the very sight of the police can trigger anxiety and depression due to historical and present-day representation. Historically, they were "slave-catchers" and night watch. In the 1960's, they sprayed our grandparents with water hoses. Within the last 20 years, they've murdered Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, and Atatiana Jefferson. At this very moment, they are occupying our neighborhoods and utilizing tactics like stop and frisk, exerting their authority at any given moment. Why, in our two hours away from reality, must we confront our societal truths?

The remainder of the film saw Queen and Slim's relationship developed as they navigated various unrealistic encounters. There's no denying the pair's chemistry, which could be felt in the film's intimate scenes, like dancing at the hole-in-the-wall club or during their musty sex scene; however, it's important to highlight that their foundation was built on a shared traumatic experience, which is often confused with healthy compatibility.

We saw two people, on the run for murder, have this brief yet intense relationship while promoting this ride or die mentality, an ideology promoted in our music and films for decades, but has yet to serve the black community well.


To the dismay of moviegoers, Queen and Slim met their demise in a Cleo-Without-A-Gun-Set-It-Off style shooting scene, where the police exercised extreme force, later described as justifiable by news outlets because the couple was "armed and dangerous".

When the black community learned of their deaths, the black Bonnie & Clyde were viewed as martyrs and were given the traditional posthumous black martyr package, which consisted of their images printed on t-shirts, worn by black boys playing basketball, and the creation of a mural on a dilapidated city wall. I'm assuming some teddy bears and flowers found their way onto the helicopter runway, as its symbolism is essential when discussing black grief.

In the days following me viewing the movie, I ponder how the film Queen & Slim could've best represented black folk without preying on our ills and fears in the process. The answer was simple: It couldn't. This was a story that didn't require telling because the majority are aware of the systematic racism that exists within our legal system. We've encountered racist police and have witnessed dysfunctional black relationships, both within our community and personal lives. Why must we constantly relive these harmful truths in our entertainment?


There were minimal redeeming qualities in the storyline, and imagery, in this movie that spoke to healthy black love, neither with a partner nor self, which is a unique responsibility of both Waithe and Matsoukas, given their respective platforms.

Our stories deserve to be told in the most creative, authentic, edifying, and uplifting fashion. Unfortunately, this wasn't it.

In interviews, Lena boasted about white hands not touching this story, yet it was immersed in the white supremacist patriarchal capitalistic stereotypes that continue to harm us. How can I argue against our portrayal through a "white lens", when it's the "black lens" that continues to fail us. Black entertainment cannot continue to be rooted in shared trauma and there be an expectation of support because "at least we got beautiful chocolate black folk on the screen". The longer we continue to subscribe to this unhealthy narrative, and not hold our folk to higher standards, we'll forever be emotionally crippled.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image via Tumblr

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Starz.

Listen. We all love a good rerun of Sex and the City, but the ghosts of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda can go ahead and rest. There's finally a new, formidable foursome further uptown—Harlem that is—and they've taken the fashion, sex, and sister-girlfriend drama to entertainingly engaging new levels. Trust me, Starz's new series Run the World is the ode to Black femininity, friendship, and NYC flavor we all need right now. And if you haven't been tuned in on Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m., you're truly missing out.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? It is this indescribable feeling that takes over your body without warning. The lucky ones get to experience this feeling more than once in their lifetime. Regardless, if this feeling lasted for forever or just for a moment, we will always remember the person who made us feel this way. When you experience love, yes we are physically attracted to that person, but it's deeper than that. Love is about accepting someone for who they are on the inside and wanting to share your life with them.

Keep reading... Show less

Ladies and ladies: if you aren't familiar, let me introduce you to a being named Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He's an Emmy award-winning actor, 35, and towering at 6 feet 3 inches tall. His name, which roughly translates from Arabic and means "Graced by God," may be unfamiliar for Black men in Hollywood, but he's carving out his lane just the same.

Keep reading... Show less

Summer is finally here and we're seeing the latest in this season's biggest trends exploding everywhere. Excitedly exiting the cold and gloomy winter months, fashion girls everywhere are taking advantage of the coolest new and re-emerging styles for the warm weather season. With there being much anticipation to finally be outside after a year and a half, I've seen so many new and refreshing styles to add to my closet in anticipation of a stylish summer like never before.

Keep reading... Show less

To say that Lori Harvey's love life has been in the driver's seat of her career is a massive understatement. She's been linked to many, claiming few, and taking a page out of Beyonce's book in the process, by simply not addressing any of the chatter at all. In fact, up until now, the usually private mogul's only job was to be the beautifully radiant famous daughter of Steve Harvey, and keep us all guessing without an ounce of clarity on who is who, and what's next for any of them. But now, sis is stepping out and speaking up on all of the above.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Michelle Williams On Depression, Healing & Why It’s Important To Check In With Yourself

"Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."

Latest Posts