“i am like a survivor/ of the flood/ walking through the streets/drenched with
God/ surprised that all of the/ drowned victims/ are still walking and talking”- Saul Williams …said the shotgun to the head
Why does peace seem so elusive during the most peaceful time in human history?
When I was 6 I came to America, not of my own volition, but no matter. We lived in a smallish town in North Carolina. The first year of my life in America, I would occasionally hide under structures at the perceived sound of gunfire. I would yell “duck and cover”, panicked until the sound would subside or someone would talk me out of it. There were no words for what I was experiencing at that time, now we call it post-traumatic stress, but at six, war was always around me.
I left North Carolina and that smallish town a veteran of some sorts. Moved to other smallish towns where I was sordid, sad, and black- a new experience and an alienating one. Constantly surrounded by white people, I was an outsider, but my affinity for the morbid, science fiction/fantasy, and nu metal made me an anomaly. Folks would actively say that they had never seen anyone like me before (before there were tumblr support groups for weirdo black kids…).
For many years, I existed; followed all the roads through the motions. I checked all the boxes, never really knowing when it would stop- that sinking feeling, the hopelessness, the deep self-loathing that no one ever really noticed.
At some point in my very short life something clicked; maybe it was leaving my moms house, or coagulating my real lived anger towards my family for a traumatic life, or realizing I had a choice in what happened to me, but I stopped existing and started living. I started planning for a future that felt tangible, I had dreams, and mad plans (PhD’s, maybe a house one day). And then in 2012 Trayvon Martin was murdered and I crumbled. It wasn’t as though I was unaware of the history of racism in this country, hell, someone called me a nigger while I waited for the bus on Huntington Ave one sunny day. It was the knowledge that his choices were taken away that in the new Millennium a black child could be basically lynched by a vigilante and the media in one fell swoop.
The night I read about Trayvon, I cried looking up at the ceiling in bed next to my white boyfriend at the time and said “I’m terrified”. And in the years since then, each murder of an unarmed black or brown person at the hands of the police or state official is a challenge on this new found love of life.
I didn’t know Philando Castile or Alton Sterling personally and yet their deaths like the death of Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd, and all the victims of police violence are as real to me as the death of a cousin.
When you’ve been at war your whole existence, peace feels elusive, it feels like an exclusive privilege. No peace was given to me as a black woman, I have had to make piece for myself, with myself. And even then, it is not enough to keep the forces of the state, and other institutions from chipping away at it, leaving me to question why I fight so hard for a world that doesn’t want me to exist at all; a world that actively tries to destroy my body, my spirit, my soul.
Everyone wants to quote MLK and hold hands and sing songs. We all want to say “just love one another”, but love isn’t enough. You can love a person and still hurt them, you can love a country and be oppressed by it, you can love your life and still want to do immeasurably more with it. Love isn’t the answer, action is. Decisions must be made by all of us about what kind of world we would like to live in. Do we live in a world where the affirmation of black lives is so threatening that you must shout “all lives”?
Does the affirmation of my life, my hope my dreams, crush yours? Does my existence negate yours? NO!
Since 2012 I’ve had to look at my white partner and say “wait til you have brown kids”. But the truth is, we shouldn’t have to be directly impacted by the issue of police violence to demand better. Just because you’re not being killed by the state doesn’t mean you are not responsible, and doesn’t mean you aren’t next.
Someone once said “black people don’t kill themselves”, yeah, cuz we don’t have to. This world kills us slowly every day. We don’t always have to decide to end our lives, cuz for a lot of us, we are already dead.