Where Do You Stand?
As the death of more Black lives continues by the hands of white oppression, you must now ask yourself the question: Where do I stand?
There is so much history of this racist violence, that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice. — Dr Angela Davis
The rules of participation have changed. As we sit here in June of the year 2020, my community grieves, emphatically. After the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, along with the names of those we do not yet know, my community now vigorously demands the recognition of what has happened and continues to happen by the hands of the authority within this country. Now feels different, for a number of reasons. This unequivocal anger and pain mirror a collective grieving space we have not seen in nearly half a century. It might be COVID-19, which is killing our people at a disproportionate level. It might be the fact that 30 million people are without jobs, 100,000 people are dead, due to a global pandemic, but Brown and Black folks are still doing work on the frontlines. It might be the four years of living under a fascist who cares little about the lives of American citizens, especially those which are Black and Brown. It might just be the fact that Black people have had enough, for too long. Whatever the variables may be, the President has taken notice as well. As the President invokes his debated authority surrounding the insurrection act, he has changed the rules of engagement. With this escalation, there are now only two sides: the side of the oppressor, which continues its degradation, exploitation, and destruction of our Black lives, or the side of the oppressed, which seeks nothing but liberation from said oppression.
Many who read this, will reject this notion, but nevertheless, it remains true. It’s been four years since many in this country excused themselves, by voting for a xenophobic bigot. It was their privilege that allowed these same people to dismiss our Black lives, falsely and arrogantly proclaiming to us “it won’t be that bad”. Its been four years of this same community consistently moving as many goalposts as possible to nonsensically rationalize their decision(s). They remained silent as he banned our Black and Brown Muslim brothers and sisters, they remained silent as his administration continued to rig the systems of education, free speech, health care, and Wall Street, uninhibited, with an arrogance that only could be fueled by a privilege of whiteness my community will never sniff. There has never been an expectation for these white folks, who gleefully reap the rewards of their whiteness, but to do anything except enjoy the spoils of their gluttony, even as it asphyxiates my community. That notion has never changed. As our community grieves the seemingly unending oppression which has brought our community death, fear, and collective, generational trauma, a large population of the white community now remains mostly silent. If they do speak, they now ask us to protest peacefully, as if it was not just three years ago, they co-signed dragging that “son of a bitch off the field” for taking a knee for what our people still demand now: justice. Now, there is white silence. A blaring silence which tells us what we always knew: the excuses have always been an unimaginative attempt at white comfort for their complicity in a system that chokeholds our Black lives into strangulation.
As this fascist regime now escalates the rules of engagement, it is beyond the time to excuse said silence. White silence has become deafening beyond a capacity of reasoning. Let me be clear, this same “white silence” can be practiced by those who are not white. The racially ambiguous, the communities which pride themselves being called “communities of color” but practice anti-blackness, all have a stake in upholding the institution of whiteness, which was purposely built in this country to keep its perennial knee pressed our collective carotid artery. I have seen it, and see it now, while I currently reside in San Diego, California. The silence of those who are in my “community” surroundings, who love the idea of me, the idea of Blackness. The ones who love and appropriate our culture, but do not “love” us enough to stand up for my people. Those who do not love me enough to have the empathy to understand our pain, and whose white fragility gives them a false sense of paralysis. This country has seen and continues to watch the dismissal of Black people at the hands of a system which disregards people who look like me. Newly with this, comes the white liberal who is new to figuring out the sky is falling and now look for our comfort with their self-deprecation. The same systems of whiteness have allowed these white liberals to reap the same rewards, in the same ways as their conservative counterparts. It is these same participants in whiteness that call on our communities to grieve peacefully, trying to disqualify the validity of our anger, sorrow, and pain. We are not the same. We do not suffer the same. We cannot grieve in the same ways. These participants of whiteness are the same participants that try to bastardize the words of our saints, whom THEY turned into martyrs. They continue to move the goals posts, misusing the words of the prophets who look like us. They plagiarize our forefathers, falsely proclaiming “darkness cannot drive out darkness” without relaying the empathy of the same man who rejected, but understood what riots meant. These same participants now look to disqualify our message because it does not adhere to their “terms of agreement”, which they do not even participate in themselves.
For years, I did not understand Stokely Carmichael’s quote about the rules of nonviolence. “In order for nonviolence to work your opponent must have a conscience…the United States has none”. The assumption about nonviolence is that there is a mutuality from our opponent, that they adhere to the same rules of nonviolent practice. That mutuality will never be met, especially under this fascist regime, which continues to abuse its powers. Nonviolent protestors are being shot with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, and beaten, because of a lack of mutuality from the opponent in front of us. That same opponent will gun us down and then spit in our face to tell us they gunned us down because we didn’t participate in protesting the way they wanted us to. This by no means is an endorsement of violent protests, although I am more than empathetic of these fires which have been ready to burn for over 200 years. What I am stating is, there is an assumption that those who uphold the institutions of oppression care about whether our community is violent or not…it is a lie. They only continue to recreate a reality which allows them to oppress us. It was James Baldwin who understood this precisely when he stated:
“Any white man in the world says, ‘give me liberty or give me death’ the white world applauds. When a Black man says the EXACT same thing…word for word…he is judged a criminal, and treated like one, and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.”
There is no conscience for the oppressor, in the ways in which we expect them to have, in order for nonviolence to be a plausible response to our condition of oppression. This does not mean they are irredeemable. This also does not mean those that uphold whiteness are inherently evil. They are a product of a system, which works its oppressive knee on their throats, conditioning them to produce antibodies to defend anything that may combat that same system of whiteness. I believe both to be true, the defenders of whiteness are inherently dangerous, but also products of a system more powerful than they even know.
“People in general cannot bear too much reality…people have quite enough reality to bear, by simply getting through their lives, raising their children, dealing with the eternal conundrum of birth, taxes and death” (Baldwin — I Am Not Your Negro ).
It is not my job to save people from a system that brings them comfort at the cost of the lives of my brothers and sisters. That is the job of the community members which hold power and privilege in ways I do not. I will fight for the oppressed because we share more than they even understand, but I will especially fight for my people, in a country which has built a system specifically on us and against us.
It will not be history that rewrites about those who now choose to passively sit on the sidelines, it will be us, here and now, who will carry this moment for the rest of our lives. We will remember those who love the idea of our Blackness, but not our lives. It is in our job spaces, networks, integrated/multiracial families, and social communities, which we will remember the complicity you showed in the deaths of our people. To those in these same white communities, who have confusion in where to begin, fix what you digest, and consume. Black people are tired, and do not hold the responsibility of explaining to the oppressor, of how your whiteness continues to kill us. Listen to Black voices, read Black voices, men, women, and our family within the Black LGBTQIA community. Have enough empathy NOT to speak. Have enough empathy to understand your participation in racism and not defend it. The tension you hold is the fragility of your whiteness breaking. Do something positive with the breaking of that tension. Stand with us, because the moment is now, and it comes with an ineffable urgency. It is with love, I ask you to question what you are prepared to do. What are you prepared to do in order to defend and stand on behalf of us? What are you willing to do fight for the liberation of all people, but especially Black people at this moment? May you submerse yourself in the words of James Baldwin, who called on the country to examine itself, and the systems they uphold.
“I can’t be a pessimist…because I am alive. To be a pessimist means you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe we can survive, whatever we must survive, but…the Negro in this country, the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives…it is entirely up to the American people, whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace the stranger whom they have maligned so long. What white people have to do is try to find out, in their own hearts, why it was necessary to have a “nigger” in the first place, because I am not a nigger, I am a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need him. The question you have to ask yourself, the white population of this country has got to ask itself, North and South, because it’s one country, and for the Negro there is no difference between the North and the South…it’s just a difference in the way they castrate you, but the fact of the castration is the American fact. If I’m not the nigger here, and you invented him, you the white people invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”
Credit: ABC News, CBS News, NPR, The Intercept, CDC, Market Watch, Business Insider, ACLU, The Guardian, The Verge, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, YouTube, UPI, CBS8, “I Am Not Your Negro”