If I am ever taken in to police custody know that…
I will not kill myself.
I will not resist.
I will not reach for a weapon.
I will not fight.
I will comply.
I will fight in court
with all of the resources at my disposal.
I will have only one thought
during the course of the entire interaction
“Make it home to Nia”
I WILL be
that docile Negro
that they want me to be.
I will yas suh and yas maam them to death.
My child is my life.
She is the future.
She is everything.
And I will choke on the shame of being a good slave
just so I can make it home to her.
Never let THEM write my narrative.
I am a MOTHER.
Nothing else matters.
Pride can take a flying leap.
I want to survive.
I will make myself small
I will choke on my rage.
I will comply.
And even having made this declaration
I know these actions can’t save me.
They can hashtag me
some desk duty
for my blood on their hands.
There are no safe quarters for me
If I am ever taken in to police custody
RAGE for me.
the, “official story.”
My only thought
I promise you
was making it home
to my baby.
This weekend I spent some time talking with a fellow artist/activist at a show. He shared with me that recent events have him depressed and that he doesn’t know what to do about it. In my set I had done pieces for Eric Garner and Mike Brown, then I finished with a piece I wrote for Sean Bell. He lamented that all of those pieces were relevant today. “I feel like I’ve been working so hard. We’ve been marching so long and we just aren’t getting anywhere. The work feels so pointless.” His words broke my heart in to a million little pieces because of their truth. It does feel pointless. I purposely chose to present my pieces in the order that I presented them so that people would FEEL what I am feeling.
I am weary. I am frightened. I feel impotent. I feel powerless to effect change. I have engaged in every avenue of protest available to me over the years. I have called prosecutors. I have marched. I have sat in. I have written to senators and chiefs of police. I have called elected officials. I have boycotted. I have spoken until I am hoarse. I have written enough poetry to fill volumes. I have reached across the racial aisle. I have sought to teach and to explain and to be relate-able. I have tried so hard. I have watched my friends try so hard.
And still…Mike Brown laid dead in the street for over FOUR hours.
And, as if that outrage wasn’t enough when the people raged they sent in tanks. They trained machine guns on civilians. They tear gassed peaceful protesters. They provoked people who were hurting and angry and just fed the fuck up. Then they hid their hands and laughed when those people rioted. “Look at those animals,” they snickered. People I know. People I respected. People who are the same color as me as well as people who aren’t said, “Those people make us look bad.” I ask you if the murder of an innocent isn’t a rage worthy occasion please tell me what is?
I watched the media pack up their bags and leave. I watched them and I knew the world would turn the channel as soon as CNN left. But I knew Ferguson wasn’t giving up. Leaving Mike Mike’s body in the street, shooting him down like a dog was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I watch Mike’s mother and father on T.V. and I literally FEEL their pain. His Mom can barely stand straight because the pain is so heavy on her. His father’s grief captured graveside is an image that will stay with me until I close my eyes for the very last time.
Something has to give. Something has to change.
We are hurting. Justice minded people are hurting so badly. My very talented friend is hurting so badly. His words have been stolen from him because the pain is so deep.
I recently had a conversation with someone I know. She asked me if the relationship between police and my community was really as bad as they were saying on TV or if it was only like that in bad neighborhoods? I respected her for asking. I tried to explain. I gave her examples. I told of friends who attended Ivy League schools and were still stopped by cops. I said, “I had a friend who used to keep his Princeton I.d. in front of his license so that when he was stopped by the police he could show he was a good nigger and maybe get out of the interaction alive.” She visibly recoiled at my use of the word Nigger. “Why would you say that word? Why would you use that word? I have never used that word.” I laughed. Because as much as she really did want to understand the word had more impact on her than Mike Brown’s dead body in the street. I used the word on purpose in the conversation. Why hide behind polite words when discussing the ugliness of our society? Why? It is EXACTLY what my friend thought when he slid that ivy league identification card over his license. It is exactly what those cops thought each time they pulled him over. It is exactly what I feel when I’m followed in a store or asked to prove that I can afford something. It is exactly the message sent when my entire community is hurting and the white world around me doesn’t even seem to register that pain. Nigger. Less than. Unimportant. Nigger.
It seems to me that some people think they aren’t racist if they have never used the word. I would rather they use it every moment of every day if it would foster HONEST conversation and change. These conversations should shock.
There is a HUGE segment of our population hurting and living in absolute fear. Why would nigger be more shocking than that?
Today was a good day. No a great day. It wasn’t busy at work. Bieber got arrested. The internet was hilarious all day long. I was able to read and laugh and post and carry on with laughter in my soul.
Then it happened.
Someone posted THIS link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/20/claudius-smith-shoots-burglar_n_4631639.html showed up in my newsfeed.
All the air went out of me. I deflated. Because I remembered the weight of the skin I’m in and all that it represents.
And now I have to spend the rest of my evening writing or I will explode.
Rest in Peace Ricardo Sanes
I’m still reeling from the verdict.
I’m still trying to figure out how to raise a hope-filled, loving, sweet, smart little brown girl in the wake of the verdict. I’m still trying to figure out what I teach her about her country and her place in it. I’m grateful she’s so little. I’m grateful that I have some time to heal and think. I have found myself, more than once, thanking God that I don’t have a son.
Sit with that.
I am grateful that I don’t have a little black boy to raise.
This is my truth.
It makes me uncomfortable
but my discomfort makes it no less true.
I live an integrated life. I always have. My family and friends span the entire spectrum of skin tones. I don’t, “hate whitey” or think that all white people can’t be trusted. That’s silly. My life has not borne that out. But I’m hurting. I’m hurting so badly and all I want is for people to TRY and understand and then TRY and make it better.
Racism won’t be legislated away. Yes we need laws to strike down the systems set in place to hold all non-white people back. Yes we need level playing fields. But racism won’t be eradicated by laws. Racism can only be totally and finally conquered by love. It can only end when we all make REAL connections with each other. Racism ends with boots on the ground loving. It ends with us SEEING each other, and LISTENING to each other, and LOVING each other. It ends when the non-black people who love me can hear my pain, not as an indictment of them but as MY truth. It ends when they can hear my pain and see ME, as a person who is hurting. Because THAT is what makes people stand up the next time someone makes a joke that isn’t funny. That is what makes a person outraged when someone makes a false generalization about another race.
Those interactions…those intra-racial conversations are what will change things.
I’m hurting because I want to believe in my country. I was born here. My parents were born here. This is my land. This is my home. I am proud to be American. I know we aren’t perfect but I also know that opportunity abounds here. I know that possibility is nourished here. I know that freedom is here. Even if it’s just the freedom to talk about what IS wrong here. I love America.
But this country hurts me, it wounds me, deeply and then refuses to acknowledge my heartbreak. I keep believing in our justice system because I am American and I believe that we can get it right. We can’t get it right until we can admit it’s failures. The justice system failed the family of Trayvon Martin and all of us who hunger for justice and equality.
We held our collective breaths waiting for a verdict that would equal justice. We held our breaths because we knew that Trayvon could have been our father, son, brother or friend. We held our breaths because we know too many people who have been profiled. We held our breaths because we know too many Black men who have been murdered simply because their skin tone made them scary to someone else. We held our breaths and some of us….we are still holding it. We are still waiting for someone to recognize the humanity of our Black boys and men. We are still waiting for justice from a country that we love no matter how much it disappoints us.