Blackness: A post in fits and starts. Because pain, rage, sorrow.

Every time I hear the crack of a whip, my blood runs cold. I remember on the slave ships how they brutalize my very soul.

On Sunday, May 31st I blew up. Just had enough. Shared a few thoughts on my Facebook page:

12:41 pm I want all of the people quoting Dr. King about peaceful protest and resistance, to look at his work in its entirety, not just a few selected quotes. AND remember how he died – it wasn’t quietly while he slept ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾.

12:51 pm I am so sick and angry! This country was built on the slaughter of Native Americans, African Americans and other minorities, though people whose blood and bodies built a country should never be referred to as ‘minorities’. The slaughter of African Americans didn’t end with the abolition of slavery, it continues to this day.

So don’t talk to me about peace and love. Not today. I find peace in my garden and in nature, but I can’t today because the tears in my eyes blur my vision and my normally vibrant colours appear dull and dismal. Not today when my eyes are swollen again from crying tears for another stranger because the people that are supposed to protect life don’t give two shits about our lives.

Talk to me about love when white people seriously put their lives on the line and the rest of us can take a rest. When they all take up arms for Black lives like mine and demolish this system that makes it okay for an OFFICER OF THE LAW to calmly kneel on the neck of a Black man with his hand in his pocket, like he has no care in the world, while his victim begs and pleads for his life. While his fellow officers assist him with the murder. While they also kneel on that Black man, hold him in place and ward off those who would assist. Talk to me about peace and love when you dismantle, not reform, this system that was built to subjugate us, because under this system we still aren’t considered human.

Quote Dr. King to me when I can step out of the house that I paid for, and walk around in my neighbourhood without wondering why people look at me. Quote Dr. King’s words about love when the day comes that I don’t wonder whether the American flags waving in my neighbourhood mean my neighbours believe in an America for all and not just for people whose skin looks like theirs and not like mine.

Talk to me about peace and love when Black Lives Matter to all. That day is not today.

6:27 pm Not. Today.

Maybe I’m blinded by rage. When people say “it’s not about race” do they actually mean it’s not about race because race as a concept shouldn’t exist? Surely they can’t mean that the evils perpetrated against Black people would also happen to white people. They cannot mean that.

I don’t recall a story of a white male jogger who was chased by two Black men in a truck who blocked his path and shot him to death.

I don’t remember a story of a white boy playing with a toy gun who was shot by a Black cop.

I don’t remember a story of a white man being pulled over by a Black cop and shot while his hands were in the air, his girlfriend beside him and his child in the back seat.

I do not recall an incident in which a Black cop had his knee on the neck of a white man for 8 minutes with 2 other Black cops helping to hold him in place while that white man begged for his life.

I do not recall the story of a 60 something year old white woman who used her body to shield her white grandson from a Black cop pointing a gun at him.

Would the ‘it’s not about race’ believers ever wonder why the white sheriff keeping pace with me as I drove within the speed limit didn’t notice the white man pull out from behind and speed ahead while breaking the speed limit?

I do not see white shoppers being followed in stores the same way that I am because somehow I look like I can’t afford to buy a cheap t-shirt.

However, I do remember several stories of white, terrorist, mass murderers being arrested without one shot being fired.

Of a white woman cop who ‘accidentally’ murdered a Black man in his home because she thought he was in her apartment and was hugged by the judge presiding over her trial.

Of the white rapists who are too affluent for jail.

Of the white rapists whose prospects are too good for them to be sent to jail. Because Harvard and Yale and Princeton.

Of the Black people who judges sentence to 3 times the years in jail as white people, for the same crime.

It’s not about race?! What the hell is it about?! Any invocations about God or Jesus will push me over the edge. Don’t. Do. It. Not. Today.

On May 31st in addition to the Facebook posts, I started writing this blog post but couldn’t finish it in one go

How desperate, afraid, angry, hurt, heartbroken, frustrated, pushed to the limit must people be to gather en masse to protest in the midst of a pandemic like COVID-19. Indeed, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder COVID-19 seems to be a threat of the distant past. The murder of a Black man at the hands of a police officer is not new, but the casualness and callousness with which the act was perpetrated, was a shock to my system and continues to haunt my soul.

Some weeks ago I agreed to write an article on COVID-19 and its impact on tourism, hospitality and recreation. I outlined the article and researched the content, but then end of semester activities intruded and I put it aside with the intent to get back to it. At the beginning of the week of May 24th I determined that I would get it done and submitted by the Friday, but then George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minnesota and I was very quickly reminded that COVID-19 though a threat was not the biggest one too many of us face on a day to day basis. I was mentally paralyzed. Every time I tried to work on the COVID-19 article, I thought about George Floyd and the other victims who had come before him, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor being the more recent ones. How could I write about threats to tourism and jobs when the ongoing threats to life, life chances, and livelihoods continue to batter Black people in this country every day?

June 5

💚🌏 Since 1974, we have celebrated June 5th as World Environment Day. Normally I would say ‘Happy World Environment Day’, but today I’m not feeling very happy. I have long argued that people are a part of the natural environment and we should not see ourselves as better than or above any other species that exists. On this World Environment Day, I emphasize that within the human species none of us are better than another, yet people of colour and Black people especially, are consistently treated as if they are less than everyone else – less human, less smart, less beautiful, less creative, less innovative … – just less.

The environmental movement in Europe and North America has often been criticized as white-centric and developed country-centric; criticisms that are soundly deserved. In the US this is abundantly clear. There is a long-term, ongoing pandemic of anti-Blackness that is glaring, yet the full force of those who advocate for the natural environment is notably absent from or minimally present in activism to uplift the lives of Black people in this country.

Today, I challenge all who advocate for the protection of biodiversity, who protest against the destruction of forests and other habitats, who remind us daily that climate change is a real and existential threat to the earth and humankind, and who advocate for- and are stewards of the natural environment, to bring their weight to bear against the real and existential threat of anti-Blackness. To advocate for and protect the George Floyds, Breonna Taylors, Ahmaud Arberys, Tamir Rices, Sandra Blands, Botham Jeans, Stephon Clarks, Pamela Turners, Philando Castiles, Alton Sterlings, Eric Garners, Antwon Rose IIs, Michael Browns, Natasha McKennas, Jamar Clarks, Atatiana Jeffersons, and Walter Scotts who are also a part of our natural environment.

To the white people reading this post

Has anyone ever looked at the Black person standing next to you and assumed that that person is the professor, the person in charge, the mover, the shaker, the thought leader, the innovator? Unlikely right? The opposite happens to me more often than I can count. Has nothing to do with how intelligent I am, how qualified I am, or how well I do my job, but everything to do with my melanated skin. I don’t characterize these slights as ‘micro-aggressions’, they are aggressions. Period. After I speak my first few words it doesn’t usually take long for them to recognize their error, but are they smart enough not to judge the next Black person they meet in the same way? Do they take the time to educate themselves? Unlikely.

My reaction is my reaction and depends on the moment

On May 31st after I shared my Facebook post, a friend said to me “you and I are now on the same page. I felt that through the time I’ve known you you always have the benefit of the doubt to some systems of oppression of this racist country.” Yes, I give the benefit of the doubt. Who would I be if I didn’t? I would be just like those people who label Black people as dangerous, lazy, uneducated, rapists, thugs, and murderers. So yes in some instances I don’t rush to judgement, but look first for evidence.

Some overt and covert acts of racism are easily and immediately recognized; other instances may be more nuanced. In some cases, an individual may benefit from the privilege of being white rather than being racists themselves. So those nuances should be identified and called out. That is what I try to do.

Additionally, depending on the situation I may not blast how I feel. I may share my feelings with my family. I may share them with my Black friends who are better equipped to understand. Or I may simply internalize and reflect. My reaction is my reaction and depends on the moment.

I am not African American and I was neither born nor raised in the US. These facts also influence my perspective. Thus, there are times when my conversations about a given incident are with my Black Caribbean friends, because our context is different. My reaction is my reaction and depends on the moment.

These thoughts are a lot to process and deal with … writing in fits and starts

It seems like every day when I wake up there is another new murder of a Black person by a white police officer or by a white person who thinks he has the right to be the law; or a report of another Karen who is the self-appointed neighbourhood watch leader or park ranger assigned to police and punish Black people for simply living their lives. Yesterday it was Rayshard Brooks. Every new story is a fresh lash of the whip and as Bob said “every time I hear the crack of a whip, my blood runs cold.”

Whenever I hear/read these stories, watch the videos, or have a conversation about them, I marvel at my people. How brave and strong we are. How broad our shoulders. How deep our family ties. How strong our souls. How resilient our minds and bodies. What survivors we are. We are called thugs, murderers, aggressors … Our children are seen and treated as adults before they’re even teenagers. Yet we don’t throat punch white people for every slight or aggression thrown our way. We don’t shoot them. We don’t beat them to a bloody pulp. We don’t spit on them. We don’t harass them or their children. How are we the thugs, the aggressors?

We do the heavy lifting. We bear the lash of the whip to improve this world that we live in and don’t benefit sufficiently from. And we’ve been shouldering that burden for more than 400 years. We don’t passively accept the injustices. We fight back. We strategize. We protest. We riot. We explode when pushed to the brink. Yet we don’t throat punch white people for every slight or aggression thrown our way. We don’t shoot them. We don’t beat them to a bloody pulp. We don’t spit on them. We don’t harass them or their children …

Even some of the most educated and/or seemingly enlightened white people don’t get it. I can appreciate that they can never know what it is like to wake up Black. I cannot appreciate that they don’t know what it is like to wake up human. A case in point – at the beginning of June I changed my cover photo on Facebook to:

Someone I’d considered a friend responded “I would say, all lives matter.” My initial response: what de rasshole is this? That was the mildest of the expletives that I dropped. But my response on FB: “that is certainly an ideal. I’m yet to see the evidence.” I didn’t need to label that comment for the fuckery it was, my friends stepped to the plate and did the schooling for me. Hopefully that person received and absorbed the knowledge. At a minimum, I hope she and others know never to utter that mess in my presence again.

I woke up this morning with Bob and Peter on my mind –

400 years and it’s the same, the same philosophy 
400 years look how long and the people still can’t see … 
So won’t you come with me, 
I’ll take you to a land of liberty, 
Where we can live, live a good, good life and be free. 

So here I am on another Sunday, not sitting outside yet, but I will be soon. Listening to Bob with the volume loud enough for my neighbours to hear and be nourished, enlightened, anguished, resolved, or feel like “bombing a church” … take their pick. Waiting for my Black Lives Matter flag to arrive so I can finally use the flagpole on my garage. Looking for an appropriate sign to put on the grass. Thinking about my life and the path ahead. We each have a role to play in this fight because as Coretta Scott King said “struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”

Other than the jabs of my pen-sword and my money, how else can I contribute in a meaningful way?

6 thoughts on “Blackness: A post in fits and starts. Because pain, rage, sorrow.

  1. Girl!!!!!!, I could just hug you the tightest way right now, you said it well for us all who left our homes and came here to live, either by choice or by chance.
    Love you, keep up the good work and stay strong.

    Liked by 1 person

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