Thursday, March 5, 2015

Go 'Mal!: Why I'm #HereforCookie, Part Two

Yes, this is my second post on Empire, the Lee Daniel's-produced-works-beautifully-because-Taraj P.Henson-is-a-star-and-delivers-every.time, new Black soap opera currently on Fox Network. And while this blog won't (maybe) change into the #HereforCookie blog, I do have to write, again, about the importance of the portrayal of her relationship and love for her son, Jamal. The importance of the representation of a Black mother supporting and loving her gay son, unconditionally. Why that matters in 2015. And why it gets me, everytime. 

Some of this is really the brilliance of Taraji P. Henson's acting, nailing the character of Cookie--a woman who was sent to prison for as yet undisclosed reasons, leaving her three young children and husband behind, along with an emerging hip-hop Empire. One of the first scenes we see with her in jail is her visit with Jamal where she reminds him that, though he's different, "I got  you." And, that seems to be the theme throughout: from her defense of him to Lucious to Hakeem's declaration that she loves Jamal more. With last night's episode, we're seeing a little bit of the "fall out" from Jamal's coming out, but it was the episode "Lyon's Roar" that demonstrated the importance of Black ally representation, again beyond a mother's love. It also showed some of the troubling aspects of this representation as well. 

I'll admit, I  was surprised that Jamal came out during his white party performance last week, using the words of his father to, in his words, explain some of his truths. It was a powerful scene (below): changing the lyrics from "it's the kind of song that makes a woman love a man"to, "man love a man." Something we've all done. It's a significant moment, as the flashback reminds us of addressing and, perhaps, healing the wounds of "family," father and son, cast in the innocence and purity of the white party. Still, an equally significant moment was Cookie's, again, demonstration of love and support for her son. As the scene cuts back between past and present with his brother Andre declaring, "he just came out," Cookie, with a bone-chilling show of support screams "Go 'Mal," (captured in this screenshot below), confirming the chorus he then continues that 'You're So Beautiful." 

Seriously, tears. 

Look, if you're not a queer person of color, in this instance, a Black queer person who's been questioned, shunned, beaten, or ostracized by the people closest to you precisely because of your identity, you may not understand what a powerful statement this is. But, to have a working class Black mother break the 
silence with her unwavering love for her gay son, plus a sweet little dance (shake it fast) and then, "I love you" is more than any of us could ever imagine or expect on ABC. A giant leap in representations of both straight Black women and gay men (lesbians, transfolks and queers), who are usually pitted against one another. This is something C. Riley Snorton reminds us of in the opening pages of Nobody is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Downlow. In the Introduction, Snorton takes us back to a moment in 2004, when Oprah Winfrey opened her show on "living on the downlow" with the statement, "I am an African American woman," she positions herself in opposition not with the presumed and forever marked "lying, cheating" straight Black men who have girlfriends and wives but sleep with men, "secretly"; but with any African American who deviates from an established norm, including the Black LGBTQ community. As Cookie's character demonstrates, this division is not "hard and fast," but it is one, and it's not insignificant that Oprah was one of the pushers, that we come up against and must continually challenge. 

So, I'll say it again, Cookie is a saving grace in this moment of television and "Black" television in particular (Kick Rocks boo boo!).

And, as you know, I'm all about Cookie

But, there was an aspect of last week's episode that left me a little cold. While Cookie's portrayal is complicated and messy as a Black, heterosexual woman and mother, the portrayal of Lucious, in relationship to his gay son is inflexible. It's outrageous and unbelievable, at times, as we saw with last night's episode when he hedged on signing DeAnna, Estelle's character, a popular singer who praised Jamal's coming out.  While Jamal checked him on "his played out homophobia," I'm troubled by the discourse about Black, straight men/fathers. I noticed it last week, when Jamal's new love interest,
Ryan, another African American man said, "the joys of being raised by a Black father." Implying that there's a static, always negative, even brutal response on the part of Black straight fathers--and Black, straight men period--to their gay sons. Clearly, Lee Daniels is working something out from his own childhood and, it may resonate with an entire generation of gay Black men and their Black fathers and I'm not a gay man raised with a father, so work it out. Still, I'm troubled by the juxtaposition of unwavering, "Strong," supportive Black mother on the one hand and disappointing, weak, and expendable Black father on the other. Lucious is a villain, I get it. We expect him to be "evil," wrong, and ultimately, stupid as said villain. Lucious can be and is homophobic, tell that story. But, to have every Black gay male character confirm that being raised by a Black father is the worst thing ever is dangerous on its own, but more so when coupled with ongoing discourse about Black men: as criminals, sexual predators, an expendable group.  There are no "good" Black men and "bad" Black men in the rigid visibility of Blackness in popular culture. Black gay men don't get left out of that equation because they're pretty and, you know, we like gay people right now [A quick aside, one my favorite parts of calling my own Black father on his birthday this week was his geeked out fandom of Cookie and Empire, when, after I wished him a happy birthday he said "thank you. did you see Jamal come out to his dad at the white party?" Love.]

The thin veneer of our acceptance of LGBT folks is demonstrated in just about every other representation of queer sexuality on mainstream television--including our beloved Shonda Rhimes produced series. For instance, the writers on How to Get Away with Murder seem to be dancing around the dichotomy of good/bad gay men with the murderous, sexually promiscuous and narcissistic character, Connor (a well-established, gay character in popular television). Last week, in the season finale, Connor's on again/off again good-at-math-that's-why-he's-a-hacker-cause-we-can't-portray-Asians-any-other-way-non-promiscuous boyfriend who has been pleading for monogamy all season, finds out that he's HIV positive. A clincher. Look, all of the characters and actors aside from Annalise Keating/Viola Davis are pretty much throw away characters, but this particular storyline stands out in conversation with Jamal's. First, we rarely, if ever see a gay male character in popular culture who isn't sexually promiscuous unless they're sexless because they're 'good' and committed to heterosexuality in some way (i.e. Will, who provided the contrast to Jack on Will and Grace). Second, we can never really have a gay male character who doesn't have to "pay" for gay sex in some way: in this case, HIV, something which, although we're almost four decades into the HIV/AIDS crisis, we continue to treat as the worst thing that could ever happen to someone. Payment, as in, "you will pay for this." 

So, while I'm still. all. about. Cookie (and really, I'm not trying to rain on that at. all. It's impossible to), these storylines confirm that the representations of Black sexuality and humanity are still limited--gay or straight. And, I don't look to popular culture for redemption, I'd like a little more both/and in my watching. Stakes is high.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why I'll Always be #HereforCookie

It didn't take much. I'd seen the previews leading up to the pilot, even though I'm not a big fan of Terrence Howard (I dig his conk, respect his acting, but he's always felt creepy to me). In many respects. I sat through the first, campy 5 minutes where the main characters were introduced: Lucious, his girlfriend, his sons Hakeem, Jamal, and Andre and his wife. Just about everyone but...


And then...

Cookie (Cookie's coming home...)

Her orange-jumpsuit-then-leopard-print-dress-with belt-wrapped around-white-fur swagger was all it took.

Plus she has a gay son. Whose first memory, as you know, was

"Listen to me. You different, ok?"


"I got you."

That was it. I was in. All the way.

I mean, come on. It doesn't take that much with Taraji Henson and her embodiment of Cookie--tight pants, hats, swagger, pink fur/faux stoles--It ain't hard.

And, honestly, at first I thought that Jamal was a throw away queer character: introduce the gay boy in the first 5 minutes--his boyfriend, establish the plot of him "choosing" to be gay and the Black community being too homophobic. A familiar trope. But, the first episode and the storyline ever since takes that tired trope to another level. Yes, the Black community is homophobic, has been homophobic and, is like any other community.

And, yes, Cookie took Jamal on as part of a scheme to take back the company with Andre. But, in every iteration and interaction with him she stands up for her son--literally pulls him out the trash--and lets him be who he is. And that's a story of Black motherhood, of straight Black allies that we rarely see. Yes, she's his mother and so there's a motherly love and affection--one she doesn't exhibit for her other two sons. But, there's something else, and maybe that's part of it, she doesn't show that love for her other sons, she not an all encompassing 'show all my children love in the same way' kind of mother.

She'll use a broom on you.

And that's what I love. Don't get me wrong, I love Shonda Rhymes and the way she demands a space for Black women to be, as Viola Davis said in her SAG awards speech for Best Actress, "a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman who could be a 49-year-old dark skinned African American woman who looks like me." All kinds of room for this. It's difficult to summarize the importance of Rhymes' place and impact on popular culture here. But, and I tread lightly because my intent is not to pit one against the other (and I am all. in. with Viol--Annalise Keating), but, there's something about Olivia Pope and even Keating that feels empty to me at times: the white lovers/husbands, for instance. The fantastical storylines. The fabulous, but always perfectly styled, clothing. Ultimately, the middle-class ness of their gendered and racialized presentations trips me up. But, I'm here for it every Thursday, for real, because I want to continue to see it. every Thursday.

But, there's something about the over-the-top, completely soap opera and working class-ness of Cookie that I'm here for. And will always be. I'm here for working class representations of Black women on television anytime (having been raised on Florida and Wilona), but I also know a lot of "Cookies." Literally, I had an auntie we called Cookie--my cousin Angie's mother. And, like Henson's Cookie, and a lot of my aunties, she was messy, loud, 'hood (if you can call small city MO hood), and very protective of her children. Especially the ones who were "different." And that's the piece of this representation that I find so important in this moment. Cookie, protecting her son in the ways she does, which was so beautifully captured in the first episode through that familiar narrative: homophobic, (hyper)masculine father can't accept his son's non-normative gender presentation in heels/his mother's clothing (also and forever beautifully captured here). In this scene--see below--Lucious angrily takes a young Jamal outside and tosses him, literally, in the garbage. Although it was a familiar trope, the way that Cookie/Henson reacts to Lucious' actions took my breath away. Not only does she pull Jamal out of the trash can immediately, but fights Lucious, hard, clarifying her allegiance to Jamal with a hard shove, a kick (I love this) and an "I wish you would" before she carries her son back up the stairs, leaving Lucious alone, on the street. I love this scene and have rarely seen this kind of representation with Black straight women and their queer children, which is beyond a mother/child relationship. One in which a mother actually chooses her queer son over her husband. Maybe it hits some primal place for me as a child who was "different" and who wanted that kind of allyship for that kind of allegiance from an adult.  But, it's also such an important representation of and interruption in the narratives about Black folks and LGBTQ oppression. And while all of these characters are underdeveloped in this, the fifth week of Season 1, there's something about this story of "the Black community" and LGBTQ lives as told through a Black, straight, working-class mother that I dig.

And, she's messy.

Beyond the broom beating of Hakeem, she does things in Jamal's direction that go against the normative, understanding parent. For instance, in the second episode she tells Lucious that she's going to show him that even a "faggot" can run a hip-hop record label. She's complicated. Our feelings about queer sexuality are complicated. Parents' feelings about their children's sexuality are complicated. As is the Black community's "homophobia." So, I'm all here for this representation. But, mostly, I'm just here for Cookie.

I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Wrestling With Ghosts: On Loss, Leadership and Black Struggle

I have not yet seen Selma, but am excited to--Black woman director, stellar performances by David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo, a timely discussion--what's not to like?

There is something about it, though, that makes me step lightly. And, I don't know that it has to do with the film itself. I have no doubt that Duvernay is a skilled director, that the story being told is one that hasn't been before. Still, for me, it fits somewhat into the discourse of Civil Rights activism and Post-Civil Rights activism. One might even say civil rights activism/activists vs. post-civil rights activism/activists. While I don't believe that this dichotomy is so cut and dry, the conversation has been highlighted most recently in the ill-timed and uninformed comments by Oprah Winfrey, the "backlash" against Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson's assumed leadership of the current organizing around the killing of young Black men, and, perhaps even, the much deserved failing/decline of the (not the only one) accused sexual predator/icon Cliff Hux--Bill Cosby. 

In general, Oprah's comments sum up a feeling by, sometimes self-appointed, civil rights leaders in her comments about Ferguson and the current protests happening throughout the country: 
"I think it's wonderful to march and to protest and it's wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it," Winfrey told PEOPLE exclusively in an interview in the magazine's new issue. "But it's not enough to march, said Winfrey..."What I'm looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, 'This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we're willing to do to get it.'" 

To no one's surprised in this accelerated social media moment, she was swiftly and categorically dismissed by the "lacking leadership" protesters themselves, their supporters, and anyone who understands the particular moment we are in in the 21st century.  Still, Winfrey's comments are part of an ongoing discourse about leadership, strategies, movements, and generational divides, which, slowly, seem to be part of a dying breed. While qualified as a "snub" against self-appointed, but not taken seriously Black leader Al Sharpton, her comments, for me, represent an ongoing fissure between the Civil Rights generation and the post-civil rights generation and leadership. The Civil Rights model being one that I have written about before as, often, dominating and/or erasing any recognition of movements or activism outside of this model, particularly those organized by folks born after 1965. We can’t even talk about contemporary activism without contextualizing it within a framework of the civil rights movement, i.e., the “new civil rights movement.". And, that's fine, it may be a question of semantics, but I think it also speaks to a lack of understanding or recognizing Black social movements or Black liberation outside of charismatic Black (male) leadership.  Or, as Erica Edwards reminds us in her book, Charisma and the Fiction of Black Leadership, it's an understanding that rests on believing that “freedom is best achieved under the direction of a single charismatic leader…[a] charisma as history [that] ignores its limits as a model for social movements while showing us just how powerful a narrative force it is it’s ultimately a structuring fiction of liberatory politics that reduces a heterogeneous black freedom struggle to a top-down narrative of Great Man leadership." 

That top down narrative, the constant search for "the" leader that Oprah speaks to, namely, one that fits a particular (King) profile speaks to a loss in Black social movements, Black struggle and Black politics that is both individual and collective. I've been thinking about loss in academic settings, particularly as it relates to Blackness, organizing, and community. What has been lost over time and between generations. How that manifests in this moment. For instance, even the name "Black Lives Matter" the brilliant organizing call by Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi represents a loss related to Blackness in the last 50 years. The fact that one of the basic premises of the 1950s/1960s (30s, 40s) Black Civil Rights Movement was that Black people were human, were equal, that Black folks mattered  has been forgotten in the larger cultural imagination and that in the 50 years since, the discourse has shifted back around to Black folks are not human, social problems, and expendable is a loss. That kind of loss and grief. That kind of back and forth. That kind of wrestling with history and time, a wrestling, for me, with ghosts. The ghosts of previous social movement discourse, with discussions of racism then and now and sometimes with the very leaders themselves.

But it can also be personal.

I've been wrestling with my own ghosts, as we all have, in this discussion.  It's taken me several rewrites of this post/several weeks to finish this discussion. As we are collectively kicked in the gut by the non-indictments of anyone or any structure--police, white supremacy, the media--for the violence enacted upon Black bodies by police officers in cities across the country. It started for me, not with the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for murder, but with the killing of Micheal Brown itself. The nuances of race, racism and anti-Blackness that permeates Missouri and other parts of the Midwest. I grew up in Missouri. Spent half of my life there, some three hours south of St. Louis, where Ferguson is located. As a teenager, I spent many summers in St. Louis, running the streets of Ferguson, Florissant, Normandy and other Black neighborhoods. The racism that informed the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent response is something I know intimately. The specific kind of racism between white people and Black people that remains in my bones even though I haven't lived in Missouri in almost 20 years. And it reminds me of another "ghost" that resonated when I first read and re-read "On Becomin Successful," a poem by Ntozake Shange. There she recounts her experience growing up in St. Louis in the 1950s. I was struck by her story of going to a summer camp in the Ozarks, the area that I grew up in, and emerging from a Jesse James cave (Missouri is known for its caverns/travel destinations) and having her white "friends" waiting to see the whites of her eyes.

be a blk girl in 1954/ who's not blk enuf to lovingly ignore/ not beautiful enuf to leave alone/ not smart enuf to move outta the way/ not bitter enuf to die at a early age/

That's what Missouri is like. Was like for me. And, it's the reason I left Missouri. But it hasn't been something that I could shake, which I'm reminded of in this moment and in every visit to the Midwest. And that's heartbreakingly similar to ways that racism and the current movements around racism are being discussed. Wrestling. Something we can't shake. The expectation was that I as a post-Civil Rights child would never have experienced the racism that Shange experience in '54. And certainly that no one born after me would have either. But, I did. We have. We do. Even with a promise that it would get better and with the continued assurance, as President Obama recently stated, that it has gotten better.

And so we will continue to wrestle and see what comes out of this loss. How community can create from a space of loss, and revel in what has already been created.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Revolutionary Communism. Or, A Love Letter to Leslie Feinberg

I woke up this morning mourning Leslie Feinberg. It's the same way I went to bed last night. Mourning. Feeling an unexpected heaviness and loss that I still have as I type.

"Remember Me as a Revolutionary Communist"

Those were your last words.

Ok, I think. Of course. I will. You were.

But it's not the way that I am pulled to remember you. The first thing I remember about you is sitting, reading your words in what felt like a space only you and I had created. The way that reading 'fiction' often does. As others have testified, it was so much more than that. I get chills now, as I write. Very few books move me in the way that your novel did. Where I feel it all these years later: remember where I was when I read it---Kindred is one, Zami another.  When I read Stone Butch Blues, I was transformed. In that moment and, forever. And not necessarily because I had recently come out and was drawn to your story/a story of butch 'blues' that I would later cherish in the women--the woman--I made home with. But, I was transformed because of the integrity with which you wrote, the love that you communicated, and the beauty that emanated from your words. It left me wanting in ways I couldn't articulate then, still cannot now, but carry with me, weighted.

It's true, at the time, that I was trying to figure out something about my identity, my desires for lesbians, Butch lesbians, who I love, so your words resonated in that way. Those words always do and will. But it was something more. Something I'm trying to figure out now, even as I type. Something about being working class, celebrating that, documenting what felt and feels so misrepresented, left out and grossly caricatured. I read Stone Butch Blues as I was coming out of college, a site that both liberated me and ripped me apart. I was liberated by figuring out, after sitting in a Black feminist professor's classroom, what I wanted to do with with my life--feeling seen and heard for the first time. Ripped apart because that experience moved me so far away from my working poor/working class roots. From my working class family, a family of railroad workers, transcriptionists, nurses, and factory workers. Most of whom were or have been ripped apart by a 'globalized economy' that has so little regard for (working) people.

All throughout college, I pushed myself further and further away from my family, from my "past." I couldn't reconcile working class, poor, and college. It didn't make sense to me. I was the first to finish college in my family, the first to really go and stay. I often think back and remember how few  Black people were on my college campus, a small group of us, but they were from St. Louis and Kansas City, often, not from the small city I came from. But, I had enough connection and contact with Black folks that that wasn't what I longed for or wanted. And, I couldn't articulate it then because I wasn't supposed to. I wasn't supposed to want or remember my working class-ness. There wasn't a space for that in the upwardly mobile-become-middle-class-space that is college.

Your words brought me back to that. As soon as I read the opening pages. The letter to Theresa--I knew how I was supposed to read it and, how I did: a love letter to the woman you could tell everything to, and did. About the everyday violence and brutality, the heartbreak, the longing for her, the love between you and her. The beauty in the way you told us about this 'Butch/Femme' relationship. Love, I read that and understood it. But, I also picked up on every detail, every line about working class life. The things I missed. The things that haunted me. That comforted me. The things I longed for but couldn't communicate, couldn't discuss because there was no solidarity, no interest in blue collar life. But I missed it: the blandness of doing someone else's laundry (ring around the collar), of working as a steel worker or a waitress, the attention to clothing: boots, denim, jockeys. Maybe an outline for "Butch," but, also, such a beautiful rendition and honoring of working class people. Warriors, all.

And that's what I loved about you: how much love and integrity you had for working class people. And the love and integrity you had for all your people: your partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Transgender folks, lesbians, Jewish folks, females. I love how you loved your people, how you loved us all. That love. Or, as you once said, "exchange value of love, is love."

Is. Love.

That's revolutionary communism. You are a revolutionary communist. You are love.

RIP Leslie Feinberg. May you be remembered as you wish.

I include this photo because I. just. love. it.
photo: Estate of Robert Giard

Saturday, September 27, 2014

'We Were Never Meant to Survive' (what's been on my mind lately)

 When I heard about the death of Michael Brown who was murdered in Ferguson, MO on August 9th 2014, I felt nothing. Or, more appropriately, I felt numb. A numbness that is always accompanied by a sharp, yet dull pain related to the story, the reality that we’ve become all too familiar with:  Michael Brown, eighteen, African American and male.  Michael Brown: high school graduate, on his way to college, walking with a friend to visit his grandmother, in a neighborhood, on a street not far from his home. Michael Brown: shot six times by police officer Darren Wilson--a man we know little about other than what we may already know/assume; white, armed, inaccessible. Protected by his own call to serve and protect.  

I felt numb.

When I heard the news. Just the dull, sharp, familiar pain. It was the same feeling I had several days before with the murder of John Crawford, III, another African American man, a son and brother shot by police for “wielding a toy gun” in a Wal-Mart in Ohio[A 1] . Nor did I cry three days later, when Ezell Ford was fatally shot across the country in Los Angeles, CA. Ford, shot while, according to witnesses, he was lying face down on the ground, complying with police. I cried at none of these instances. Ached. But, I didn’t cry. My mind and body too numb, the pain/the ache too familiar. Too settled in my bones. 

Perhaps a week or so after Michael Brown was murdered, I finally cried. 

The pain, it seemed, hit closer to "home." Then, I found out that, the day after Michael Brown was murdered, a man only only identified as “John Doe,” was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where he lay, unconscious, after being assaulted in Duboce Triangle, steps away from his home. His picture was posted in the paper and he was later identified as Bryan Higgins, or as many in his radical faerie community knew him, Feather. Feather was a husband and like Brown, a son.  Unlike Brown, he was gay, white and in his thirties. He had moved—like many of us—to San Francisco from the Midwest, married and made a home for himself in his community, in the city/the area that so many of us queers—at one point or another—call home.

Several days after he was identified by a neighbor and after those who could say goodbye did, his husband and family released him from life support. His murderer, the motive has yet been found.

Finally, I cried.

I cried for days it seemed. A deep, deep cry. More than I cried for Brown, Crawford or Ford—which was none—and more than when I heard about Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson—two Black lesbians, a couple raising Jackson’s son, who were murdered, several months earlier while on a short, weekend vacation in Galveston, TX, close to where they lived.  I couldn’t cry then. Couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe.

But, I cried for Bryan Higgins. I cried for Feather.

Maybe I was crying the tears that couldn’t come when Michael Brown—who grew up and lived in a neighborhood that I spent my summers in as a teenager, a fellow Missourian, running the same streets he did as a young, Black girl. Maybe I cried for him and others as I cried for Feather, who I currently share streets, neighborhoods, “community” with. Both Brown and Higgins were someone’s sons. Both of their lives were worthy of tears, were valuable. Both of their deaths were ruthless and cold—left on streets that they knew as home.

As a queer, black woman, I connect with them both.

So, what was it about Feather’s death? The death of a young, white gay man that allowed me to feel the pain, the fear and terror of living in what I consider increasingly dangerous times? Queer times, as it were. Queer in the sense that both Blackness and queerness are highly visible, sometimes-fetishized identities in the public sphere. Ones that have been accepted, celebrated and loved in different ways, but also, clearly reviled.

These questions remind me of Audre Lorde who, in her poem “a litany for survival”--whose words I used for the title of this talk—reminds us that:

“when we are loved we are afraid love will vanish, when we are alone we are afraid love will never return and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent, we are still afraid. So, it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.”

So, I speak today, in an attempt to examine the linkages, the intersections of violence enacted on Black bodies and queer bodies—often, those are the same bodies--but also thinking and speaking about the intersections around community and organizing; around a shared experience of violence and violation.  Physical violence, murder in the specificity of the examples of Brown and Higgins (Cosby, Jackson, Crawford, and Ford), but also the physical and social death of everyday life. The physical and social death of community. Particularly, in this time of celebration, visibility, and safety.

 [A 1]Just an update, a Grand Jury just found that the police officers were not at fault, this despite protests and a video, also released yesterday that showed Crawford clearly holding a toy gun and, still shot in the back