Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer is set in the future. It is a time where differentiating qualities are not valued. If you are “dirty” you get stripped off your memories of the past and become “clean”.
There are many themes from history present in this futuristic setting. American history has had many instances where people have been stripped of their culture and forced to assimilate into American culture- which assumes being white as the norm. Historically, slaves were forcefully brought to America from Africa and they had to stay on this land for centuries. The theme of being stripped off your culture forcibly can be seen here. Africans were brought to a foreign land where the language is completely different and forced to work for people that abuse them. Then, centuries later it created descendants of the African diaspora in America. Black culture was created due to Africans having to forcefully leave behind they culture, their language, their past to get by in America. Blackness was created since people did not know where they came from, it was erased, forgotten forcibly. Dirty Computer illustrates this idea in a futuristic setting where the erasure happens much quicker than centuries. The past phenomenon of Africans being stripped of their history and traditions to assimilate to the white people’s lifestyle is recreated in this emotion picture.