I loved this scene. Love, love, loved it. I mean, Ichabod’s been imprisoned by an African American woman and an Asian American man. Both minorities. Both Americans.
That’s such an obvious thing to us, but think how radical this must be to your average British colonist. The concept of an “American” didn’t even technically exist in the 1770s, much less apply to people like Abbie and Andy.
When Ichabod was last awake, slavery was still legal in the colonies, and nearby New York City was one of the largest inbound ports for human trafficking. Yes, Crane identifies as an abolitionist, which is modern shorthand for ‘NOT A RACIST’, but the historical reality was anything but. Abolitionists were often just as racist as their slaveholding cousins, and many of those trying to free slaves wanted to do so not so that black people could become part of this new American society but so that they could be sent back to Africa “where they belonged”. There were few, if any, safe communities for African Americans in the 1770s, and certainly not the kind of societal opportunities that exist today. So seeing an African American – and a woman, to boot!—in charge of keeping the peace among white people? Ichabod might as well have woken up on Mars.
Furthermore, a man of Asian descent was likely completely out of your average British colonist’s experience. Although obviously land trade had existed for hundreds of years, European nations didn’t start making their first intense colonialist forays into the Southern Asian continent until about 20 years after Ichabod would have fallen asleep. And Southeastern Asian immigrants (such as Chinese) didn’t start flocking to the States en masse until nearly 100 years later. So it would have been very, very unlikely that an apparent grunt like Ichabod had ever seen someone of Asian descent. And again—even if he had, he most certainly was not in a position of power and governmental authority, as he is here.
We see so much of Ichabod’s reaction to the physical changes in the world – that livery stable’s now a Starbucks; those carriages drive themselves; why are women now wearing trousers?—but little of his reaction to this new racial and gender paradigm, which, if you think about it, should be leaving him even MORE disoriented. This is a world in which women have the authority to keep law and order, in which minorities can clasp a white guy in chains. This is so radically, powerfully different from the personal experience of a 1770s colonist, I really can’t even wrap my head around it.
So far Ichabod’s just sort of rolled with it, which leads me to believe he has some deeper backstory that we haven’t yet seen. Perhaps he’s spent some time with the local Delaware, who traditionally had women in roles as diplomats and political authorities. And who knows, maybe they took him as a prisoner of war, meaning maybe this isn’t the first time a PoC has put him in chains.
But I can’t wait to see how Ichabod deals with this new world he’s woken up in. I hope the writers don’t take the easy way out, and leave it at “I was an abolitionist, so I’m not a racist”. I hope Ichabod does have some adjustment to do; that he does have to reexamine racist perceptions he’d internalized and how the infant nation he defected to benefited on the backs of the disenfranchised. Because that story could be really neat. To see a hero unlearn his internalized racism and sexism—and on a Fox show, nonetheless—while battling headless horsemen and secret conspiracies and magic trees? Yeah, sign me up.