I would love to properly explain how banal a violent protest by a group of white supremacists feels to me. I’m not sure I will ever be able to though. What follows is today's attempt in this ongoing conversation (one more link for good measure).
- Nothing New: Once, before I was conceived, my biological father pranked (?) my mother by pretending his car broke down in the backwoods of Tennessee when they were on a date. His punchline (?) and her fear were rooted in the possibility that somebody would pull up and “want to see what’s going on here”. If that quote seems benign then yeah, I suppose today would shock you. My biological father’s intent and impact aside, he knew what reaction his action would cause without having to ask because he was a black person living in America. That was within our lifetimes.
- Disruption Part 1: This piece is not here to educate you. We live in a time where education is nearly free, ever-present and available in every accessible fashion, you just need to put forth the work. And what you can do right now will require work. It will require some sort of sacrifice or effort on your part. It will be uncomfortable by design and if you happened to be the great, oft fabled, never-been-racist-ever-in-life ally everyone claims to be online, it will feel unfair to you. But you aren’t, so don’t worry about that last part*.
- I find it interesting that we all talking about this at honestly. I shared two articles about this long announced demonstration with no comment, one before and one after, and then moved on to watching long form Buzzfeed videos. I am also tickled by this theme of “what have we become” floating through white and some non-black spaces. As if this is a recent development.
On the other side of that dismay and confusion is the saccharine, overly-emotional declaration of admiration for black “strength” in the face of this kind of hatred that just happened to flare up today. It’s gross. Stop that. We aren’t otherworldly beings and this capacity for living in this heightened state of awareness and fear isn’t outside of your grasp. It is all throughout the popular fiction: heroes -white, straight, usually male- standing against a corrupt system the public has become apathetic to. So you can dream of it, fantasize about it, and pretend to be in it when you know the tale is finite. But outside of that? Outside of that is reality, harsh and cold and what would be great is if we could skip the guilt stage and move right along to the dismantling stage.
Complexity: The advantage to attacking marginalized groups is that they aren’t centered enough by the country to be their top concern. The threats to them aren't threats to the entire populace, aren't threats to you, so you can afford to turn away. And if you feel conflicted about it, there are marginalized people willing to validate their attackers in exchange for the comfort of the center compounding the issue. You can find safety there and not exert yourself. Then extend that idea further to people who want to believe true enlightenment is found in the faux moderate position. As if moderate means finding a middle ground in all arguments. As if there is some reward for not committing to a side on this. A middle ground is possible when the ground is level. There are several resources available to you that will explain why that’s not the case here.
It’s not 9/11. It’s not Pearl Harbor or Oklahoma City. Fire and mass death are easy to dismantle. This is insidious in a different fashion. It’s the long con, subtle and particular. It’s the damage a dripping leak causes to steel. And because of that, it’s easier to ignore and dismiss. Place a cloth down under the leak if you need to.
- Disruption Part 2: It’s a rather nice Saturday here in Cleveland. The weather is warm but mild with a light breeze. The sky is clear. It’s the kind of day where you want to go out and do something. It’s the kind of day where the ever-present voice of our moms encourages you to turn off the TV, go outside and play. The pull to do so is incredibly strong.
That desire for peace is one I know all too well. I spent last year in the darkest bout of depression I have ever faced and even today, eight months later, I’m still not sure what exactly sparked it. I do know that I long for these days where I can not only just manage it, but thrive above it. To forget, if for only a moment, that it’s something I deal with. Days like this is what I live for. Love may be out there for me, certainly friendship and growth and opportunity. Days like this are what I want to protect. I have no desire to fight. I don’t want to protest. I don’t want to confront. I only want to rest and be free.
I don’t blame your apathy or your fear or your apprehension. The difference between people like you and people like me is that I, we, don’t have a real choice. We have at best the false hope people like Omarosa, David Clarke Jr and pre-double homicide OJ Simpson wrap themselves in. But that can only keep you safe if you move in very specific circles for the rest of your life. I don’t want that and couldn’t afford it emotionally even if I could. Also, it’s not real. I’m sure my biological father would have loved to prove that to them on a back road in Tennessee as well.
I don’t blame your apathy or your fear or your apprehension because it is mine to wrestle with as well. Others will though and I don’t fault them for it. I’m also not going to end this bit with a call to action. I no longer believe it’s that simple, that somehow if I just write the correct words, the best words, in just the right order it will unlock some emphatic room that was once buried down deep. I write to communicate for myself and to comfort those that need it.
There are bills to pay and personal crises to solve and grocery shopping to do and repairs to the roof or the car or to those favorite pair of pants. The dog needs walking and the kids need back to school supplies and you should call your mom and reply back to all those emails and figure out what to do for dinner and this is true of literally all of us. That’s the key. All these things are true for all of us and, on top of that, for us there is also a sizable part of the population that actively wants us dead. That sees a modicum of success after centuries of abuse, violence, broken promises and systemic oppression as an encroachment on their existence. That is the reality. That's the truth of it, heavy and ever-present.
- Next verse, same as the first: When I started writing this CNN et al were just mentioning what is happening in Charlottesville. Now they are reporting live from there, streaming on Facebook and asking the same few questions to their mirrors ad nausem. It's officially a thing now. It only took one dead counter-protester and several more injured. It didn't take tear gas or tanks or the national guard, like it did with with various Black Lives Matter protests. I live in the crux of that disparity, day in, day out.
I'm tired, but I am in no way surprised.
* If that statement throws you into a tizzy, I'll do you this favor. As a straight cis woman, I have never not been homophobic or transphobic, all of us have been misogynist or internalized misogyny blah blah blah puts the track on repeat. Google “implicit bias” or more directly “why are we all racist” if you don't get it yet.
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