oppenheimer and they cloned tyrone. there is a living god and he’s…white?

“shit cain and abel was trippen anyway 

shit they tryna kill each other wit an axe 

they put this shit all in the bible ”

-rxk nephew

it is hot outside this month, the hottest month on living record, and with hot film releases to match. oppenheimer, along with its companion movie, barbie, have released with the most cultural currency since fidget spinners hit the streets, or the last marvel movie hit the theaters. seeing as cultural currency finds itself ubiquitous and begs itself into relevance even when one does not have interest in the subject which it transmits itself through (and i was surely uninterested) i found myself sitting beside my uncle, watching oppenheimer, in a detroit theater with worn seats, as the summer dusk set in. the intention was to find material for bonding, and a convenient way to do so with someone considerably senior with very different interests whom i love dearly was to share in a film finding itself prominent in the social milieu.

but i found something else,

as the cinemagic enveloped the star-studded cast and floated mesmerisingly through the compelling story of the synthetic brilliance of cillian-murphy-as-robert-oppenheimer, there came a scene of cillian and a florence pugh character who played an early mistress of oppenheimer, jean tatlock in post-coital intimacy reading a hindu vedic text with the line;

“now, i am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”

this excerpt from the bhagavad gita, or hindu “song of God” finds itself in a scene of the vedic text where a hindu deity, krishna reveals its universal form

this gave me pause.

as the movie trudged on through nolan’s imaginings of the oppenheimer story, as he transformed from un-realized genius into the man who was the principal mind behind the construction, and perfection of the first atomic bomb, the line found itself appear again in echoes;

“now, i am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”

this moment found itself a backdrop in murphy-as-oppenheimer’s mind during the test- detonation of the first successful atomic bomb in new mexico.

this returned me to pause.

the vedic verse now was not just isolated and vaguely powerful or resonating, but a through line which the movie could be understood. this vedic interpretation through which oppenheimer is given legibility, put the bomb construction at the level of cosmological legitimacy, and in the film made a white, powerful, world-destroying God not only possible but cosmologically inevitable, not only because by virtue of antiquity and prophecy it could saint the actions of oppenheimer in the lines of a perhaps “high minded” sector of an audience, not only because this hindu verse was something that was consulted on other terms by oppenheimer in real life, but because it was pragmatic, and digestible to a larger audience

the pragmatism of this line is not only my imagination, or in nolan’s directorial spirit, but to at least some degree reality, as it has become even a meme, repeated into viral fame

“now i am become ____ , the destroyer of ______”

used to communicate the feelings and expressions of people and their banalities, perhaps this is coincidence, and other members of the oppenheimer audience have found a power or digestibility in the line that makes itself legible on other terms. whether or not it is digestible to others for the same reason as i, it cannot be lost that either way, a line which was employed to communicate the godly, cosmic, historical, inevitability of white destruction had become culturally relevant

the film was cinematically excellent, traipsing through a life with poetic grace, literary brilliance, and suspense

the film was excellent, but on terms that i refuse.

as the days went forward, the line, and my interpretation continued to reverberate

“now, i am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, becoming

“white God is inevitable in their minds, and they believe white God will destroy outside of moralistic terms, inevitably, prophesied”

this continued to give me pause.

one day i sat down among friends, to watch another hit, this time a netflix hit named “they cloned tyrone”, this time not a culturally coerced situation, but a product of promotion at an erykah badu concert which i had recently attended (i love auntie Erykah) , and of the recommendation by my mother (i love my mfkin MAMA!!!), this was to be a Black release, i was excited, and ready to see this mysterious Black movie, whose plot, and premise was a complete mystery to me.

the movie began with the patina of blaxploitation. i could get into it! i fucks with foxy brown and the mack. then it got into the themes and plot. it satirically communicated that through blackcultural institutions the white man makes us slave (while being a black culturally instituted film that repeated that we were slave, which is mad ironic, and you prolly confused reading this, but I’ll develop that more right after this parenthetical ends) and covered everything without exception. the food. the chetch. the music.

in the church scene specifically, the black pastor says “be obedient”, and the congregation gets high on the shit!

based on how the movie was developing, this meant “through the church, you are slave”

with music, with food, culture at large

“through Black culture you are slave”

this gave me pause.

like through the church-

ion even gotta say it, imma let my mans James Weldon Johnson talk. Baba James, in the preface of your book God’s trombones: seven Negro sermons in verse what did you say?

Baba Johnson: “The old-time Negro preacher has not yet been given the niche in which he properly belongs. He has been portrayed only as a semi-comic figure. He had, it is true, his comic aspects, but on the whole he was an important figure, and at bottom a vital factor. It was through him that the people of diverse languages and customs who were brought here from diverse parts of Africa and thrown into slavery were given their first sense of unity and solidarity. He was the first shepherd of this bewildered flock. His power for good or ill was very great. It was the old-time preacher who for generations was the mainspring of hope and inspiration for the Negro in America. It was also he who instilled into the Negro the narcotic doctrine epitomized in the Spiritual, “You May Have All Dis World, But Give Me Jesus.” This power of the old-time preacher, somewhat lessened and changed in his successors, is still a vital force; in fact, it is still the greatest single influence among the colored people of the United States.”

and the church is an institution that dooms us only to slave-ness?

like through music-

im not gon try to say some shit some other brotha said, Baba Amiri Baraka, what was you saying in Blues People?

Baba Baraka: “Concomitant with the development of these severely diverse rhythms, changes also were made in the basic functions of the traditionally non-solo instruments of the jazz group. Perhaps the biggest innovation was the changed role of the drummer. The steadiness of the beat was usually maintained in pre-bop jazz groups by the bass drum either two or tour beats to the bar). Then the bebop drummer began to use his top cymbals to maintain the beat, and used the bass drum for occasional accents or thundering emphases. The top cymbal was hit so that the whirring, shimmering cymbal sound underscored the music with a legato implication of the desired 4/4 beat. This practice also made it necessary for the string bass to carry the constant 4/4 underpinning of the music as well, and gave the instrument a much more potent function in the jazz rhythm section than it had ever had before. Above the steadiness and almost perfect legato implied by the cymbals’ beat and augmented by the bass fiddle, the other instruments would vary their attack on the melodic line, thereby displacing accents in such a way as to imply a polyrhythmic effect. The good bop drummer could also, while maintaining the steady 4/4 with the cymbal, use his left hand and high-hat cymbal and bass drum to set up a still more complex polyrhythmic effect. There is a perfect analogy here to African music, where over one rhythm. many other rhythms and a rhythmically derived “melody” are all juxtaposed. One recording of Belgian Congo music features as its rhythmic foundation and impetus an instrument called the boyeke, which is actually a notched palm rib about four feet long which is wrapped with a flexible stick to produce a steady rhythmic accompaniment It is amazing how closely the use of this native African instrument corresponds to the use of the top cymbal in bebop. Even the sounds of the instruments are fantastically similar, as is the use of diverse polyrhythms above the basic beat.”

and Black music dooms us only to slave-ness? 

there is nothing it provides as pretext, or fugivity from the violent context instituted on black folks?

i do not provide these examples because I’m hating! “they cloned tyrone” just provides no alternative to the slave shit! i would not have to transcribe this meditation if there was an exhibition in they cloned tyrone of what we do and partake in that maintains us! i realize that we live in a settler colony, and our economic choices are largely determined by our captivity! any Nigga on the street know that shit word to E. Franklin Frazier, but there are words, and actions, and maintenance beyond our fugivity, beyond the economy, beyond “history”, beyond objectivity as posited, where we have operated from the time we got here! Vincent Harding told us “There Is A River” !

and auntie Erykah n my MAMA was excited about this shit!?!?!?

and i think again,

“now, i am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, becoming

“white God is inevitable in their minds, and they believe white God will destroy outside of moralistic terms, inevitably, prophesied”


“through Black culture you are slave”

the white God gets to destroy without moral basis and by cosmological objective, and that the Black, and more largely, colonized person through their cultures, and their cosmology (which we cannot possess and must be instituted onto us) must become slave.

this gave me Pause.

and then ideas in my mental space Played.

these ideas function relative to one another, logically!

the white God can destroy with impunity, whereas church/music/food/culture as an institution is painted as a manner through which our slave-ness is reaffirmed

the God is white and slave is the “dominated”! and that is meant to be culturally final, and inevitable

spirit and culture only allowed to work for and justify them never us

the spirit of our people is never given space to operate in the light of the Sun by the white supremacist order as exists

i do not contend here that there is some grand boogeyman entity which reviews our films and makes sure that they reaffirm white supremacy and control, but that these ideas reproduce themselves, and leave no possibility for the overturn of this logical order, the white dominator, no matter how triumphant or remorseful, and the colonized slave, who functions relative, whether visible or not (as some other critiques of oppenheimer have demonstrated, there are no colonized peoples in oppenheimer)

we refuse that order. we have, and will continue to refuse that order.