Life and Death in “Chocolate Babies”
Matt Randolph ‘16
This article is an excerpt from an original blog post by the author. It is part of a larger blog series of academic reflections for Professor Polk’s “Black Sexualities” Course at Amherst College.
“In the 1996 film “Chocolate Babies,” directed by Stephen Winter, one of the protagonists, a gay Filipino-American man named Sam says these words to his black boyfriend Max after suffering from the personal impact of the queer political activism that they had undertaken. In order to do political work on behalf of their dying community, the queer people of color that make up the group of the film’s protagonists have had to sacrifice their own well-being and the stability of their personal lives. The eternal presence of death and suffering, and its personal consequences seems to be a consistent, ongoing reality for queer people of color from the AIDS crisis to the present day…….
……While the country celebrated same-sex marriage this past summer, I am certain that many queer and trans* people of color (perhaps homeless, impoverished, and/or vulnerable to various forms of violence) knew that the fight really was not over. There was a myriad of other unaddressed social justice issues that had yet to be championed that were more immediately relevant to their struggle not only for political rights as American citizens but their struggle to simply survive and exist as human beings. The issues might be overlooked by many of today’s queer elite which seems comparatively more satisfied with same-sex marriage.
In light of this, what does it mean to be a queer person of color in higher education? I’m not entirely sure, but I do feel obligated to fight for the uplift of other queer people with less privilege than myself. Although I am gay and black myself, my social position as an Amherst College student sets me on a path to receive particular opportunities and advantages compared with queer people of color in more disadvantaged situations or communities. In spite of my identification with the nuanced narrative of communal struggle and kinship among queer people of color in “Chocolate Babies,” I still undoubtedly carry a great deal of privilege compared to the characters in the film…….
……If I reach my professional aspiration of becoming a professor one day, I could work to shape critical conversations on academic and intellectual planes, contributing to the eventual political and social transformation of the entire nation. The very existence of my black queer body in a place of academic power and prestige would challenge society’s expected localization and social mapping of my identity. Indeed, the academic and professional success of queer people of color is itself a potentially revolutionary act. While I cannot speak for all queer people, I have the unique opportunity to use my academic privileges to work hard and forge an intellectual and political space for myself and others. There is so much I can do to cast a spotlight on the unheard voices of my queer black and brown brothers and sisters.”