Ever since the massacre in Charleston, I have been unable to sleep undisturbed through the night.
I’ve felt acute stress-induced pain in my head and my heart.
I’ve been at a loss for words and generally unable to write.
Some of the brightest people to whom I look up have expressed a similar sense of loss.
Yesterday, I found myself saying to a close friend, “The next time this happens…” without even skipping a beat. As if I’m already certain there will be a next time a Black or Brown child is murdered while walking home with a pack of skittles and ice tea, or for listening to loud music, or for being 12 and playing with a toy in a playground, or for being 7 and sleeping at home, or will be strangled to death on a street corner for selling loose cigarettes, or will have his spine severed in the back of a police car, or will be murdered just for accepting a stranger into her midst while praying in a house of worship. As if this is normal.
And it is. This is what normal looks like. This is what normal has always looked like. And maybe I could not find words because so often we conflate “normal” with “inevitable” and so hope was impossible to locate. But normal is not the same as essential, and this normal needs to be destroyed by any means necessary. There is no more time to waste.
I keep finding myself being pressured to cater conversations to white people who don’t get the seriousness of now as if the revolution relies on them. As if the only way forward is by being led by white allies so we have to make sure their importance is reinforced as often as possible. I’ve had conversations constantly derailed to re-center the perspectives of white people out of some sort of reverence not afforded to the perspectives of Black and Brown people. I’ve been chastised for not agreeing with the idea that we needed Jon Stewart’s Charleston monologue and that we need Tim Wise.
I could write a million reasons why Jon Stewart and Tim Wise fall short, but I won’t. I know neither they nor any white person committed to doing the work of an ally need to be perfect nor will they be. But centering their perspectives is customary. Applauding their every move when they are not saying anything new or profound is privilege at its worst. And white privilege is normal. And normal is lethal.
I keep finding myself in conversations about pieces of cloth that we put on poles to fly in the wind. I keep finding myself in conversations about the N word. But the debates about the symbolism of the confederate flag and conversations about who can and cannot say this word are routine. They are normal, and normal is murderous.
I keep finding myself feeling like I should be doing something but not being able to find the strength. I keep wanting to give up and not think about it anymore. But doing nothing is normal. Normal is silence. Silence is death.
Toni Morrison said, “The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend twenty years proving that you do.” We are being tricked by the use of sociopathic, mentally-abusive techniques to be in a constant state of questioning our reality.
No more questioning. No more answering.
The same arguments cannot be had over and over. Black and Brown people can’t keep dying. Honoring the confederacy is not about heritage, taking down a flag won’t change systemic racism existent throughout the state and country, white allies need to follow in conversations about race, not lead, and whether or not Black people say nigger/a will not change the presence of anti-Black racism. There are deeper issues here and we can’t spend all of our time on the surface.
We don’t need “a start”. We’ve been hearing, “It’s not perfect, but it’s a start” for centuries, as if our choices are between only a beginning and an end. As if constantly choosing a beginning when given that choice is a good thing.
No more starts.
I understand every person is on a journey and no one knows everything. I am on a journey and do not know everything. It is no one’s responsibility to walk me through my journey and it is not my responsibility to walk anyone else through theirs. I’m grateful for help and insight, but not when all of the energy is focused on helping me find it and none is given toward amplifying the voices of the people my actions help to oppress. If a person wants to find knowledge, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. No more centering journeys at the expense of everyone trod over during the trek.
We cannot keep walking on egg shells while this country walks on the backs of stolen and discarded Black and Brown bodies. We cannot keep defending the fragility of Whiteness or holding our allies’ hands and coddling the status quo. No longer is anything short of radical love of Black and Brown people acceptable.
Someone asked me recently, “What does revolution look like?” my response was that revolution is Black and Brown people loving each other more than we fear white supremacy. White supremacy is a dangerous, murderous beast, but our love has to be stronger. Our love is stronger. We can’t fear white supremacy so much that mere symbols of it demand and receive our undivided attention. That we must respond to every little thing it produces. That it is always centered.
Our love has to center us. And not just us, but the most marginal within our communities. It needs to center Indigenous people and Black people and disabled people and queer and trans People of Color. White supremacy knows the power of this love and works tirelessly to impede it. We have to resist with every fiber of our being.
No more excuses. No more not loving each other.
Today I won’t be silent. Later I will sleep through the night. Tomorrow I will keep fighting. And I will no longer accept what is normal just because it is.