These last few, what has it been? days? weeks? is it a month yet? I’ve been wide awake, even when I don’t want to be. It’s been hard to relax, hard to lay down and keep my eyes closed. Because someone’s living it, someone’s talking about it, and someone’s denying the world that imposes on me exists.
We think that strength comes from not caring what other people think. I don’t see how that’s true. We were created to be relational beings, even if we don’t all execute that in the same way. I’m not sure what the stoicism that says I’m not upset or I don’t mind what other people say or think would gain me. What kind of person would it make me, if that were true? More than that, why is the expectation that it could be true?
I am a socialized being (albeit an intentionally re-educated one, by the grace of God which I mean quite literally). I’m an American, and I’m Black. I’ve gotten messages all my life as to the value system of the culture into which I was born. I don’t say this to absolve any other country of their scarred history, but to say that because of ours, the answer to our questions and our issues and our homegrown terror must take them into account. If I’ve been told all my life – on every conscious level and whether I agree with it or not – that the White American voice is required for all manner of validation, shall I be held wholly responsible then for dismantling all of the privilege that is therein implied, denying its destructive impact and cultural capital, by simply denying that a single voice does harm when it’s declaring injustice to be a lie, accusing us of “attacking western civilization”, saying that “white people are being demonized” (because there is no way for someone to be wrong without being undone entirely…) or any of the willfully blind and unapologetic other things being said? On my own, I should just be the bigger person when someone tries to rewrite the definition of racism, which – if I can be – somehow means it won’t feel the least bit deflating? I won’t be discouraged or disappointed or further disillusioned, not ever or least only by admission long after the fact?
But if these are your countrymen, and that means anything, why wouldn’t I be? It *isn’t* enough for *me* to know the truth. People who look like me were the enslaved and then the segregated and then the scorned and mocked and antagonized and still the oppressed, but I should today in 2014 because ostensibly time heals all wounds brush off that so many people still refuse to acknowledge the truth? Why would I want to do that? How would that not grieve me?
I don’t *want* to live in a world where everyone looks like me or sounds like me or only knows the things that I know. I don’t want to go our separate ways, stick to our “own” kind, because where and when did that ever work? And, because it matters to me, how does that please God?
It does bothers me that you don’t get it. It just doesn’t change my mind. It doesn’t make me think maybe I’ve got it wrong. It doesn’t mean I’ll let myself be shut up, even when I don’t want to have this conversation all over again, even when I’m tired of having my heart race waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to be completely disregarded. I’ll never stop knowing what I know about you, about me, about us, about respectability politics and the fact that anyone would find murder justified whether a boy had stolen cigars or not. I’ll never stop knowing that criminalization and oppression and self-loathing and crime are related, even if you don’t know. I’ll never stop knowing how – before I can show my talents – I must first disprove a prejudice.
I just know it should bother you, too.