For nearly two years I’ve been yelling, “OMG, I love Empire!” By “empire,” I didn’t necessarily mean the American empire, but the hit TV show, Empire. For months my televisional week revolved around Empire. I was obsessed with its characters. I was infatuated with Jamal. I was captivated by Cookie. I loved the terror exacted by Lucious the patriarch.  I loved the bougie hip hop #veryblack shade that was constantly being thrown as a #veryreal constant of the upward spiral of blackness in an empire defined by the demise of blackness. And because I love (big “e”) Empire, I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time.

The delay is due to my reluctance to critique the very things I love…and I do love the American empire (little “e”)  so very very much. Perhaps too much. So much so that I am guilty of hating the abuses of America more so because of how they besmirch the American ideal, and less so because of the abuses themselves.

But at the end of the day, America is an empire in the purest form. And anyone committed to justice for all has to question their love for the American empire. The great James Baldwin said it best when he said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”  

But the problem is, empires are generally not open to criticism. To call into question the assertions of empire is to question the very premise of imperialism itself. The problem with empire is that the promises and guarantees, therein, require the execution of grave injustices and brutal atrocities. To question such executions is to threaten the empire that I am devoted to loving. Jamal and Cookie and Lucious are but figurative commodities depicting the imperial realities for which I aspire. A reality in which blackness and queerness and power personified is privileged are centered in imperial conquest.

But then, I am reminded that empire is not defined by diversity but dominance. A dominance that if spoken against is in itself an unspeakable betrayal. To speak against empire and live in opposition to empire is existential treason of the highest order. For this reason loving empire is dangerous. Loving empire endangers the marginalizations that are created by empire. Blackness, queerness, and liberty and justice for ALL do not coexist in empire. Freedom of speech that is prophetic and subversive is a threat to empire. To truly love empire is to love oppression, to love stratified power, to love armies, and homogeneity, and hegemony. To love empire is to love all the things that sustain empire. To love empire is to love all the things that denounce who I am. Loving the American empire is juxtaposed to black selflove, queer selflove, and the sacrificial love of the other.

As such, I love America more than any other country in this world, but because it is an empire I must persist on an internal self-critique of my complicity to the evil that sustains its imperial allegiance.

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