by Maurice Tracy
To be young, gifted and Black/ Oh what a lovely precious dream/to be young, gifted and Black
The scariest moment for a Black person living in this country is when you realize that there is no space in this world where you are safe and, in general, welcomed.
Trayvon Martin, on a sidewalk in a Floridian middle class community, 2012. Shot.
Eric Garner, on a sidewalk in New York, 2014. Strangled.
Mike Brown, on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. Shot.
Tamir Rice, on a playground, in front of a school, Cleveland, Ohio, 2014. Shot.
Rekia Boyd, on the sidewalk, Chicago, 2012. Shot.
Tarika Wilson, her home, Lima, Ohio, 2008. Shot.
Yazmin Vash Payne, in her kitchen, Los Angeles, 2015. Stabbed
Senator Clementa Pinckney, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Cynthia Hurd, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Tywenza Sanders, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Myra Thompson, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Susie Jackson, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Ethel Lance, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Massacred.
Anonymous 1492- tomorrow, killed.
All we wanna do is take the chains off/all we wanna do is break the chains off/All wanna do is be free/ Can you tell me why every time I step outside I see my niggas die?
My friends and I have joked about leaving this country, which seems more and more each day to resemble a massive graveyard, but lately, suddenly the laughter stops and the joke becomes a very real wish. The desire, which isn’t to flee but rather to be free, begins to gnaw at the soul and suddenly it becomes a question needing to become – trying to become a plan, but the plan can never form because you must ask: Where will I go? Where can I go? The answer you find is that the only place where a dark child can be free is in their mind–and even there, not all of us.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck/for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck/ for the sun to rot, for the trees to drop/here is a strange and bitter crop.
One of the most consistent problems the majority of white folks have is that they buy into Whiteness, or as Lipsitz would put it, they invest in it.
It is this investment in Whiteness that allows a gunman or a bomber to become a “lone” aberration.
It is this investment in Whiteness that allows cops to aggressively police certain bodies, choke them, slam them to the ground, and kill them, only for that “one bad cop” to be considered an aberration.
It is this investment in Whiteness that allows white men in hoods to exist as aberrations.
It is this investment in Whiteness that allows for aberrations.
Rather than understand these things, and many others things, as the natural inevitable product and violent manifestation of a four hundred year long investment in Whiteness, white people–and many Black and Brown people–the media, the moms, the dads, the bosses, the janitors, the professors, the politicians, hell even the junkie on the street will more readily and easily understand these things to be aberrations.
Because they have to in order to keep what rewards–however meager or large–Whiteness and their proximity to it, the ability to perform it, their investment in it, affords them.
(And I wonder, what words I can write–that any person can write–that can combat that American lullaby (lullalie) that white is right, especially when no one ever stops singing it?)
My skin is brown/my manner is tough/I’ll kill the first mother I see!/ My life has been rough/I’m awfully bitter these days/because my parents were slaves/What do they call me?/My name is Peaches!
Last week, a video of John Stewart went viral. In the video he lamented that more Black lives have been lost to anti-Black hatred and that essentially nothing will change.
And I blinked because…
He’s right: The media will do their stories that will sound like the same stories from last month and last year. The same pundits will come on TV. The same conservative white pundits will pivot around the issue of racism, and the same conservative Black folks will back them up, which will reinforce for them the lie that they must tell themselves, “see I am objective; I am not racist.”—nevermind that the need to deny the centrality of race in so many American issues is itself an example of racism. The same liberal white pundits will either wallow in white guilt or be plagued by “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-isms,” which I suppose is better than the “there is nothing I can do” camp or the “I want to see your actions even though I can’t show you my own receipts,” white liberal camp. The same liberal Black guys and gals will show up onscreen weary because, here we go again. Yes, here we go again. And we will go again. And again. And again. And a new video, with a new white guy, saying something vaguely angry while appearing tired, will go viral.
And again, I will blink because…
Black folk have been saying shit for years, and mostly crickets, but white guy says the same shit and it goes viral. And we wonder why things rarely change.
This is a cold war/do you know what you’re fighting for?/This is a cold war/You better know what you’re fighting for
Today, one the family members of the slain offered the terrorist forgiveness. The media is hailing this as a sign of something wonderful and miraculous. I can’t help but feel disgusted. I know that I am not supposed to judge how someone heals, but how do you forgive someone for slaughtering your family member less than 48 hours after it happened? How do you forgive when the body hasn’t even been put to rest?
Black blood centuries old but never dried is screaming
Black bodies burnt and still swinging are screaming
Black dead yet to be born are crying
Black me, not dead, if killed screams: Don’t Forgive!
I’m not surprised that some family members have already forgiven that white boy for the massacre; Black people have been conditioned to forgive white people any and everything. Make no mistake, there were former slaves who forgave their masters for owning them and rationalized that it was not he who whipped them but the overseer. We have been conditioned to believe that this ability to forgive our oppressors makes us morally and spiritually superior to our oppressors. This ignores that what is important here isn’t white people’s need for forgiveness, what is needed is (1) the eradication of Whiteness, (2) systemic change, (3) justice.
Alice Walker wrote it best:
“Some colored people so scared of white folks they claim to love the cotton gin.”
Y’all need to get justice and change now and worry about forgiveness later.
If I could, I would take away the sadness in your eyes/give you a world with no compromise…If I could/I’d shield your innocence from time…
My brother and I had a conversation, the same one we had months before; the same one we will have again weeks from now: “There is nowhere safe for us; not even in our heads. You know, you think, am I speeding? Please don’t let this cop pull me over, and if he does, let him be cool. Shit. You sit down and think, I need a job. Do I check the box that says I’m Black? Then weeks later you wonder, why the fuck didn’t I get an interview. You know you’re qualified, but you don’t get a single call. Like I fucking wish I wasn’t qualified. And, seriously, there isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t hear about some shit, and the white folks in my neighborhood they look at you, trying to figure out if you live here or are just passing through. And I just am like, fuck ‘em. You know? The other day some white person told me they thought I was being anti-white and I wanted to shrug and say, so? But I didn’t; I took the time to tell them why they were wrong but I’m sure nothing in them has changed and I won’t get that time back, and I am still out here walking to my car thinking about preparing myself for today because I know something is going to happen, someone is going to try and show me that being Black ain’t shit, and I just gotta hope that I run into another Black person who will help me with a nod or something, you know, that is like, fuck this, being Black is totally the shit. I know, I know I’m rambling. I’ll let you go. I love you lil’ bro.”
And I hang up. I fall onto the bed and roll over and look out the window and I don’t want to move because nine people are dead, and they are Black, and they are dead because they are Black – were Black – are Black in a country that hates us and loves us and wants us and hates us for wanting us. And I know, I have a dissertation to write, a job to look for, and exercise to do, but every move seems like a betrayal because the world is turning but has not changed. So, I can’t seem to move.
But eventually I do.
Later I had a conversation with my mom. We were preparing father’s day dinner. She stood by the stove chopping potatoes for the pot roast, while I stood at the island and worked on making a crumb topping for a cherry pie. In between chops my mother said to me: “You don’t know how scared I am sometimes, Maurice; people will kill you anywhere now. I keep you and your brothers in prayer. Y’all are my heart and I couldn’t handle it if anything happened to y’all.” I wanted to hug this woman, my mother. I thought of the many Black mothers for whom this fear became reality, and I wonder what makes my mother different. Deep down I know, despite our economic situation – despite all the preparations and lectures my parents, like many good Black parents, gave my brothers and me, it is only because of luck, chance, that she still has all three. I want to hug this woman, my mother, because I know that even voicing your fear for a moment stretches that moment and makes it too real, and you envision, however fleetingly, your son on the ground with a cop above him or nearby, and this paralyzes you.
My world it moved so fast today/the past it seems so far away/and life squeezes so tight that I can’t breathe…
It is a new day and I am alive. Pride is this weekend and I really don’t want to go. My Facebook feed is already being flooded with posts about the pending court decision on same-sex marriage. I wish I were excited. But, how can I be? How can I be excited for the formal absorption of my community into normativity? How can I celebrate love in a country that has no love for me, in a community where love is so fleeting unless you are white and body tight? What about this community makes me proud?
I roll out of bed and pop some pills and push my face around as I look in the mirror searching for a new sign that I am in my thirties, and I slap my cheek, hard, for being a cynic so early in the morning. Walking to kitchen, I contemplate what to eat for breakfast. An omelet seems good, sausage and mushrooms and onions suspended in egg. My omelet becomes a frittata. A sausage, mushroom, and onion frittata topped with spinach dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, and on the side, two cantaloupe slices. I take a bite and think about all I have to do: find a job, pay a bills with money I don’t have, turn a chapter into a journal article so that I can get a different job a year from now, finish a dissertation chapter, convince my school to allow me to finish my dissertation… my stomach feels sour.
But, it is a new day and I am alive.
I am alive.
I am alive.
I am alive.
Why do I feel so fortunate for something that should be a right?
Maurice Tracy is relatively young Blaqueer boi, a doctoral candidate at Saint Louis University, a son, a brother, and a friend. He has written for The Huffington Post, Mused Magazine Online, The Good Men Project, and XO Jane. He can be reached on Twitter and on Facebook.