I started this on FaceBook this morning, but it needs to go outside and play.
I am beyond angry. I am beyond rage. Killing a 16-year old girl because she was in a rage, fighting with other teen-agers, like teen-agers have always done. Having the Speaker of the House say that George Floyd “sacrificed” his life. He didn’t sacrifice sh*t – he was murdered. His life was taken from him, without his consent.
Going through life numb is not the answer, and that’s why people of color have conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes in record numbers, the result of stuffing all of this and telling your body it’s not seeing what it’s seeing, It’s not experiencing what it’s experiencing, and that life has only bitterness to offer you.
This is mass murder in slow motion, this is genocide on a slow scale, but the results are still the same – dead Black bodies in driveways, on streets, in their bedrooms. I don’t have an answer that doesn’t depend on massive psychic change in the dominant culture, which means…I don’t have an answer. Dammit.
There are only so many times in a given day when one can have a cognitive disconnect and refrain from a reaction. Only so many times you can throw your hands up and say “fuck it”. Only so many times you can think “it’s gonna get better, there’s hope” and have that hint of an upturned lip be smacked from your face so hard you can hear it.
WTF, America? People have been saying this for centuries, and still, you want to defend lower life expectancy in PoC communities as their own fault, the result of poor lifestyle choices and refusal to listen to medical advice. Once again, compliance is all we need to do – if we would just follow the rules, everything would be fine. If we could just conform, we’d have fewer problems…with you. We’d have fewer problems with dominant culture, not with each other, not with our bodies, not with our socio-economic status, but with people who occupy the dominant culture, the higher steps on the caste.
If I suddenly realize the error of my ways and start eating like a teen-aged white girl, I would lose all of the excess weight that charts say is shortening my life span. So, if I did that and was 100 pounds lighter by tomorrow, will that get me all of the societal acceptance and a fair shake at everything I might want? I think not. Will that mitigate the grief I feel everytime I read or watch the news of yet another unarmed Black person being shot by the police? As though no other solution could possibly exist for a 16-year old girl acting out in a rage but to put her down like a dog who has bitten someone? Just put ’em down, they can’t be fixed, so…just put ’em down. They won’t feel a thing.
That’s the problem, though. They won’t feel a thing because they already CAN’T feel a thing. Numbness is maddening. It’s an itch you can’t scratch. I have said that so many times I’m tired of hearing myself say it. When you are numb, you still feel the pain, it’s just not the sharp, pointy thing you’re accustomed to when all of your nerves are alive. It’s a dull, muted ache that nags at you, insistently, unceasingly, like background noise that irritates but becomes so integrated into the fabric of your being you can’t differentiate between that and a scream. So you scream, scream at everything you encounter, scream at everything you want to encounter but can’t. Only when that dull, fuzzy ache stops can you discern that it’s been the source of your irritability all along.
What kind of life is this to offer to a kid? What kind of life is this to offer to ourselves? I could have been Ma’Khia Bryant. With all the crap I pulled back in the day, I have been convinced I have survivor’s guilt. People I know did much of the same lunatic stuff I did but they had consequences I somehow managed to escape. But when I saw that girl in the body-cam video, knife and everything, I saw myself. I saw the rage and despair that is the life of a 16-year old Black girl. The police officer could have screamed at her to drop the knife until the cows come home, but it wouldn’t have mattered – she couldn’t hear him. Rage drowns out everything.
So, when I hear “angry Black woman” tossed around as a pejorative, I want to stand up and scream “THIS is an angry Black woman!” and let it rip. Is nobody else supposed to express anger but petite white women, or virile white men, who do it “appropriately”? Give me a break. There’s no such thing as “appropriate” when you’re having emotional response, and sometimes the appropriate emotion is anger. Why is it not OK for people of color to express that?
Oh, I forgot – there are rules, and decorum, and professionalism…and keeping your cool. Don’t let them see you sweat. If you show emotion, they’ll know they’ve got you – don’t give them that power.
Well, you know what? I am giving them power by considering them in my emotional response in the first place. By considering whether or not it will be received well, in the spirit intended, whether my emotions will offend, or frighten, or be entirely misunderstood. Will I be heard, or judged for being overly sentimental, for making excuses for bad behavior? Will I be seen as having a right to whatever feelings I am having?
I am angry, and just because I don’t choose, or feel compelled, to pick up a knife or a gun doesn’t mean that I am any less angry than those who do. I am angry because those who do harm to other people are always the ones who get the attention, one way or another. I am angry because collectively, we have all brought this into fruition – those of us who believe ourselves to be superior to the rest of us, and those of us who believe ourselves to be inferior to the rest of us. Neither extreme is helpful, productive, or real. Neither is relevant in trying to survive.
A virus, a volcano, an earthquake, global warming…none of these know skin color, or culture, or intention. I am tired of hearing the whining about being intentional about stopping climate change. You can’t stop it. We’re not that powerful. Perhaps we’re better off trying to figure out ways to cope with it, compensate for it, and not make it any worse. But let’s not delude ourselves – we can’t stop it.
We can, however, stop generating the kinds of esoteric heat that I believe fuel the climate change and will knock this planet right off its axis eventually. The hatred and the greed and the dependence on knowledge. Facts are useful, but they do not make us wise. Wisdom is what is needed to design solutions and feel – literally feel – our way through all of this. If we cannot feel, we may as well be talking heads that should be kept in a jar.
I’m so tired of trying to make my emotions right for everybody else. Right now, I just don’t have the energy. I’m tired of being slightly afraid to wake up in the morning because I want to shield myself from the inevitable onslaught of tragic news, with accompanying video. Tragic news has come before, but not this steady flow of devastating inhumanity.
And so. What can we do? Short of everyone being issued a firearm, lining up, and shooting the person next to you until we’re all dead…I don’t know. Is this simply a part of human nature, where everyone has become so desensitized and we are so assured of species efficacy that collateral damage is acceptable? Is this how our species will end, with humanity being a lost attribute entirely? We may remain homo sapiens, but the emotional characteristics that set us apart from other life forms has retreated. Perhaps this is what the trend toward artificial intelligence will eventually lead us to?
If humanity is worth fighting for, I suppose we’ll have to do it. That started with our recent understanding that truth is not relative, and that some amongst us feel that it is. Truth is reality…not what you feel about reality, but what is actually there. I don’t know if what I call the color blue is the exact same thing you see, but we can both agree there’s an object with a color that we each label as blue. Some of us don’t believe there’s anything there to begin with. That’s a problem.
For me, truth begins somewhere inside me, and I usually call it honesty. I know damned good and well when I am bullshitting myself, and so do most people. As a kid, I could lie with impunity, but I knew the difference between a lie and the truth. Did you steal that candy bar? No, I absolutely did NOT! But of course I knew that I had stolen it, and how dare you even think I did. I might have won that battle, but I had lost the war, because I always had a conscience. Dammit. Wrestling with my conscience over the years is what helped cement my impression of myself as a loser, and a worthless person. That long ago battle over a candy bar was forgotten, but the war had raged on.
I continue to believe that all of this police drama is just a crack in the mountain side, where the lava leaks out. The mountain is a portal to the core, where molten rock is straining upward and ready to blow sky high. For us, right now, it’s a societal core, and it is racism. That rock, that status quo, has been heating up for centuries and has become molten, and it’s starting to leak out. Slavery was a fault line, where rocky plates shift. The Civil War was another fault, and there have been after shocks for another couple of centuries – the Civil Rights Era being one of the most recent. And now, we’re here, in this new millennium, hurtling toward destinations unknown, and we’re scared. We should be scared.
Can we stop this eruption? Maybe. Maybe it’s exactly what needs to happen, that forces we’ve unwittingly marshalled destroy everything we’ve know, everything we’ve built, and we are forced to begin again. Not rebuild. Not repair. Start over. I don’t want to see us fixing broken things, or getting back to “normal”. This was never “normal”. There’s no such thing as “normal”. There is routine, there is ordinary, there is expected. But “normal” is what we have taken to naming the comfortable. When we’re comfortable, we have no need of innovation, or creativity, or anything new. We just…go to sleep in the sun.
Until the sun becomes too hot, and we find it uncomfortable, then we need to do something different. Find shade. Build awnings and roofs. Invent power distribution methods. Invent fans, then refrigeration and air-conditioning. We’ve got to figure out how to air-condition this raging fire of bias and literal distemper, the ever simmering quest for power. We’re getting the sinking feeling that we’ve built on a flood plain, or a swamp, and the ground is shaky. We’re being thrown out of Eden yet again, because…that’s just how it goes. Nothing is truly permanent.
Once I learned that everything is impermanent, it occurred to me that i have no entitlement to any of it. I am annoyingly human, though, so letting go of things I have come to enjoy and love is difficult. What I also know, though, is that when I fight hard to maintain my comfort level, there’s a fear underneath that. When I am fighting to keep a job that i don’t even like, where I am treated badly, what am I afraid of? In my case, it was afraid to lose the comfort of a pay check, benefits, a fragment of status that I was gainfully employed and had some “security”. Underneath that fear, however, was the whole issue of self-confidence, self-worth, self-esteem. I didn’t need to work on changing that heartless company, which I was never going to accomplish, I needed to work on changing my beliefs about myself.
And so here I am, trying to believe that i have something to offer no matter what those morons believe. I was saying earlier today that while I’m still not particularly enamored of how the whole layoff thing went down, I do not miss that job in the least. I’m no longer wrapped up in how much I hate them, about how it wasn’t fair, about how I was mistreated. I don’t like them, and would not go back to work for them. Ever. But I have gained a great deal in figuring out what I am supposed to be doing in this world, and who I really am. Those are questions that have plagued me for so long, and now there is a fair measure of peace in having some direction on those fronts.
Because I am having that experience now, I can see how people can become so bitter when things aren’t quite working out as they expected. If I don’t deal with the fear, I will never get to where I’m supposed to be. Where I’m supposed to be will never depend on anybody else doing something for me, or against me. Nobody is that important in my life, unless I allow them to be. I was told this over and over during my life, but until you are ready to understand that, on some deep and nonintellectual level, it will make no sense. Hopefully, that will come sooner rather than later, but some of us (like me) are late bloomers.
Blooming is a real deal, I suppose, although I really don’t want to descend into the mire of Hallmark cards or something. But, revisiting that whole inherent worth and dignity piece once more, I suppose everyone has something to contribute to the world. Some contributions seem counter-productive, even destructive. I would say that even those are necessary, albeit uncomfortable and often inducing great suffering. But, where there is darkness…light, where there is conflict…peace, blah blah blah. I will leave it at where there is yin, there is yang. Opposites attract. There is matter and anti-matter, Captain, and ye’d do well to keep them separated.
So, for today, I will rest uneasily in the knowing that a 16-year old girl in Ohio, and a 20-something year old guy in Brooklyn Center MN, and a 40-something year old man in Minneapolis, and a bunch of other people, too many to name, have contributed to reality as it exists right this second. I hate that it took that for me to be sitting here, in this mindset at this moment, because how those people moved through – and out of – this world was painful. Painful for them, and for those they touched, and for all of us who witnessed them. I am told suffering is inevitable by many Buddhists. I am told pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional by many recovery folks. I don’t know which is which, but I suppose what I do know is that I am not entitled to joy all the time, and nothing lasts forever in its current form. Dammit.
I started this on FaceBook this morning, but it needs to go outside and play.