People are made up of many paradoxes and contradictions. One of mine, as a black woman specifically, is my love of time travel.
For me regardless of the story if there’s time travel, a time lapse, or some other distortion of the western notion of time and progression, I’m pretty much hooked. There are plenty of shows I watch/books I read with varying degrees of time distortion in them, namely Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sleepy Hollow, and of course Doctor Who. Any and every time I’m watching a show and time travel becomes an important aspect, or even a side plot, I am immediately here for it.
I am someone who not only loves history, but also the idea of the future and the idea of where society will go from here. There are so many factors that determine how we get to where we are which is why learning about the analyzing the past can be complicated, and determining the future can be the same way. The idea that a thousand mini, and seemingly irrelevant decisions can shape the lives of billions of people in the future is amazing to me and I love reading things that explore that idea.
At the same time, as a black woman I can’t really think of any time in the past that I would want to visit.
I know most people of color have this feeling; especially if you try to go back into American history there is pretty much no time where we would want to go back and live because to be honest we would not have great lives in the past (although if we add movement of space to change in time it might work out—going back to the Ancient African civilizations could be awesome).
In most popular stories where time travel happens, the characters are usually white and privileged. They can go back in time and deal with problems like trying to make sure their parents go to the dance together in the 1950s so that they can exist in the ‘80s without worrying about Jim Crow laws or whether or not they would be lynched. They can go back in time to the 18th century without someone assuming they are a runaway slave and attempting to capture them and take them to the antebellum South. And while, as shown in Octavia Butler’s Kindred, those stories of black people struggling after being dropped off in the past can be amazing stories, they are also completely indicative of why I would never want to go back to the 1850s to explore how life was back then. If you are someone who could go back in time and only worry about how you’re going to come back home because you have a job and/or would miss your family and not because there is a legitimate threat to your life, then go ahead and time travel. But time travel would not be safe for me, especially not in the past and no matter how much I love it in theory.
Going to the future I am sure would be a better bet, but even then it isn’t so clear. White supremacy and patriarchy are so ingrained in our society that it’s pretty much a toss up whether or not I would be meeting more of the same or something different (and better for me).
At the same time, I still love time travel, especially when it’s done well. As a plot device it tends to be really complicated and when done well it can really make you think about how arbitrary but important time really is. It also helps us realize that we really can’t make sense of time; we just think of it in a way that most closely fits our ideals and go from there. Exploring that is always really interesting to me, even if I wouldn’t want to actually explore them in real life.
That being said, if the Doctor came in his TARDIS right now, ya’ll wouldn’t see me for a very long time…though mostly because I’ll be in the 51st century somewhere in space and not on this boring planet and less because I was so ecstatic about visiting Victorian London (I’m not).