Noted social justice educator Laci Green brings us this short introduction to systemic racism in America.
When I opened my Facebook today, one of my close friends had posted this on my wall:
“Wake up, it’s Christmas!”
It made me laugh, and a little teary, because really it did feel like that – that exquisite breath of hope and desire hovering over the day. My darling queer nephew woke us up this morning, poking his head in to whisper “Did you hear!?” We grabbed our phones to see, excited….I had visions of tiptoeing down the hall, hoping to catch a glimpse of Queer Saint Nick, and as we peeked around the corner of our virtual living room, we found this:
I’m not gonna lie, there’ve been a lot of tears. I’ve been obsessed with scrolling through my feed today, seeing all the pictures and posts, all the kisses and rings and declarations of love. It’s a heady thing, to have a feed literally filled with nothing but sunshine. It’s a big deal.
I’ve vacillated mightily today. I’ve cried tears of joy and rage. I’ve imagined a thousand weddings and mentally designed two thousand rhinestoned gowns, all while cursing the proprietary and historically oppressive institution. I’ve been excited, then furious with myself for being excited about something so freaking stupid.
It’s stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The government denied civil contracts based on assigned sex, and then after decades of sweat, tears, blood, and lives, the government finally decided that maybe sex is not a legitimate reason to grant or deny the associated benefits of that contract. I’m furious that it took so much and so long to get something accomplished that’s not even close to the biggest issue in my community. What kind of idiot am I to jump up and down for this? You don’t get cookies for doing what you’re supposed to do.
And how can I cry tears of joy when there’s so much suffering? How can I throw sunshine to Obama after he shut down Jennicet Gutiérrez’s cry for help earlier this week? How can I be excited about the increasingly widespread acceptance of trans representation in pop culture, when there’s little activity in areas that actually impact the lived experiences of trans folks themselves?
How can I not be excited? How can I not feel a little victorious, a little hopeful? How can I not cry when I think about Chloe’s little niece, who’ll be present at her (other) aunt’s now-legally-sanctioned wedding next Friday, never knowing a world where that wouldn’t be a thing? (I admit, I also cried when I imagine that baby showing her grandkids pictures in 60 years…”your aunts got married a week after the laws changed!”)
It’s a foothold, though. I think it can mean more than just marriage. Having SCOTUS-sanctioned legal protection in one area will make it easier to get it in other areas. Marriage equality can be another tool in the toolbox, but we can’t be fooled into thinking that marriage was the battle. It wasn’t. If we could spend the amount of money, time, energy, and meme-making on these other issues as we did on marriage equality, maybe we could make some progress that would feel more meaningful for the people in our community who are suffering.
So I guess I’m gonna accept that this day and this issue will always bring mixed feelings. It’s paradoxical, but not untrue, to be excited and angry. I can be jubilant, and still heartbroken. So I guess I cry, and let the tears mean what they mean.
So now that it’s done, here’s a new To-Do list (it’s actually the same to-do list, but now we’re less distracted):
Be a pen-pal for LGBQ and Trans people who are incarcerated.
Learn about and get involved with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
If you’re in a caregiving or legal profession, read this about how to write about transfolks in a respectful way.
Remember when Obama won, and there were a ton of asshats who went around proclaiming racism dead in America? This is the same thing. Don’t be fooled into believing marriage equality means heterosexism is dead in America. It’s not.
Today my heart is (still) broken for the Charleston community, and for our greater national community. My heart is broken that so many of our American people are still marginalized and oppressed, even after all the work we’ve done. I’m devastated that this happened, and even more devastated that it just keeps happening. I don’t want to feel like this.
I don’t want to see the picture of that young man whose path took him to the doors of that church. I don’t want to read his terrible manifesto. I don’t want to imagine how this man sat with those good people for a full hour before he killed them. I don’t want to know he even exists.
I don’t want to see the posts and comments from people I know who are minimizing or ignoring the role that racism plays in this incident, and in so many other similar incidents. I don’t want to witness more of this willful ignorance about racism and violence in America. I don’t want to hear about how he’s a “lone wolf;” how he is one bad apple in a sea of yummy ones (he isn’t).
I don’t want to read this article in which Felicia Sanders, who lost three family members in the shooting, describes her dead son as a hero. I don’t want to read the names of the people who died; I don’t want to know about who they were. I want them to be alive and well and to be comfortable knowing our paths might never cross. I don’t want to imagine the ripples of their loss, the sheer number of people suffering because of this.
I don’t want to read about the stupid confederate flag. I don’t want to read about how big businesses are having to use their influence to bring attention to the indefensible problems with government agencies displaying the flag. I don’t want to know that so many people are willing to look the other way, that there is still a vocal minority of conservatives that maintain power over this issue. I don’t want to feel this rage at the sudden media attention on this problem, after generations of activists have fought and died begging for someone in power to pay attention.
And let’s be real. I don’t have to. I could take those posts out of my feed. I could pretend it didn’t happen. I could scroll past, I could delete, I could skim and move on to the newest kitten gifs. There are so many people who can’t turn it off, who can’t escape the brutal daily reality of racism in America, and the fact that I can is a disgusting example of my own privilege as a white person. And that makes me sick too.
So what do I do with this?
I choose to bear witness.
To witness is passive. To bear witness is active. I walk toward my own discomfort and pain because I know it is nothing compared to others’. I willingly keep my eyes and ears open, even though I hate it, because these injustices deserve and demand to be witnessed – especially by white people. It is our moral obligation to witness and respond to this.
So I will bear witness. I will read the articles. I will look at the pictures. I will be sad every day. I will talk about it. I will write about it. I will listen. I will do my best to help others bear witness too. I will work to amplify the voices that are so often silenced.
The hashtag #saytheirnames has brought me to tears today, multiple times. So I cried. And said their names, out loud. Will you say them with me? It’s okay if you cry too.
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Bear witness, and share what you witness.
Acknowledging racial injustice exists is only the first step in developing allyship skills. You are aware that racism is a real part of lived, daily experiences for People of Color. You share #BlackLivesMatter memes, support affirmative action, and actively oppose the use of racial slurs. You’re an ally right? Not necessarily. Being an ally Continue reading “White against White Supremacy”