(Spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own caution.)
A recent episode of Doctor Who, entitled Rosa, focused on the group’s efforts to thwart someone who was attempting to undo the efforts made by the Civil Rights movement. Specifically, a man from the future was doing everything he could to prevent Rosa Parks from refusing to give up her seat on the bus. His reasoning was that small changes could have major consequences, and he hoped that preventing Parks’s actions would mean the Civil Rights movement never happened.
Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a 20-something young man from Britain, runs afoul of Southern segregation when he attempts to return a white woman’s dropped handkerchief and gets slapped, hard, by the woman’s husband. The episode continues to focus on Sinclair’s experiences with segregation and the group’s attempts to ensure Parks can carry on with her planned refusal to relinquish her seat to a white person.
After the episode aired, there was some discussion about whether it was the BBC’s/Doctor Who’s story to tell. After all, the story’s focus, Rosa Parks, is a black woman facing segregation in America. The British never had segregation, so how can they speak to it and its effects on blacks from the American South?
My question is, who gets to decide who gets to tell what stories? Should straight people refrain from telling stories about gay people? Should men not tell stories about women, and vice versa? Rosa Parks, sadly, passed away October 24, 2005, and she can no longer tell the story that is rightly hers. Does that mean that her story now has to die with her? I mean, it’s her story. Who better to tell it than her?
The episode was incredibly respectful to Parks, her actions, and her legacy. It also added information about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was lynched after he was accused of offending a white woman. I would argue that this information being presented on long-running, world-spanning television show of the scope and magnitude of Doctor Who is incredibly warranted and necessary to furthering the historical significance and ramifications of Parks’s actions. There is even a correlation brought up in the episode by Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), a Pakistani police officer, who says she faces discrimination in 2018 London, being called a “Paki” when she goes about her daily life.
There are so many important stories that need to be told every day. Some stories are given more weight than others, and some stories get a larger platform than others. As long as the stories and the characters, whether real or fictional, are treated with dignity and respect, what harm is there in anyone telling them? People learn new things every day. How many kids around the world now know about Rosa Parks and Emmett Till? If Doctor Who hadn’t been allowed to tell their story, no matter if some of it was fictionalized, think of the loss. This story may have sparked the next big person in equal rights movements, who may have otherwise not been inspired to do so.
Let the stories be told, I say, and let people learn about things that they may not have otherwise ever learned.