Deal with it, or don’t; I’m giving myself permission to feel everything.
I have started this post about six times. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything at all, here. Mostly, because I never know who I’m reaching and I hate speaking into the Void. But, screw it, here goes:
Tuesday morning, I watched a video of a black man slowly dying. And, now my city- Minneapolis- is on fire. And, this weekend, is the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. And I am mad as Hell.
There is this burning in my chest when I think on it too hard. I am angry that the wheels of justice are so rigged, black people have to beg and riot to get it to turn at all. It makes me sick to think that looting Target was the only way some of my people got food that night.
But allowing this anger to fuel me is lending energy and a sense of urgency I haven’t felt in months. Giving myself permission to be this honest is freeing. And it, release and catharsis, may be the key to my people’s freedom as well.
Also, I’m incredibly sad.
Ninety-nine years ago, the Greenwood District of Tulsa was the stage of a massacre. It still has the distinction of being “the worst incident of racial violence in this country.” And it went up in flames, too.
Against the backdrop of what’s happening around me in Minneapolis, I can’t help but think about the morning destruction came to Greenwood. Imagine the pride of living the actual American dream in a house you built, in a neighborhood filled with people who not only knew you; they understood you. Living a life freer than your grandparents’ wildest dreams, just one or two generations removed from slavery. Living a fully, richly human life.
Then, in a day, fire rains down from the sky. Your neighbors are taken down in a hail of gunfire right in front of you. A plane drops a bomb on the business you built that served your community proudly for a number of years.
If you survived that day, you never got it back. If you were lucky enough to live, as a black person, your existence was scaled back to survival mode. And, if you died, you joined the nameless one to three hundred nameless black bodies thrown into a mass grave. Your death unavenged. The destructive force of whiteness restored the “balance” in their eyes. Our people never recovered from that time.
As a product of the American public school system, I only learned this later in life and I mourn the deprivation of that knowledge. The wealth that my people built there that was stolen away and we have been laboring under the illusion of inferiority ever since.
And, I’m mourning a person I have never known.
I feel kinship to him because of the circumstances we inherited with our skin color. A coincidence of phenotype that marks us as “black” as opposed to “white.” The way some people have blue eyes and some have brown, but it’s different with skin because humans made it that way.
On Tuesday, May 26th 2020, I watched George Floyd’s life force slip away. I thought the short brutality of Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching was jarring. But I can’t shake the slow burn of Mr. Floyd’s extrajudicial murder. The glib expressions on the officers faces as the assembled crowd pleaded for George’s life. I mourn the indignity of George Floyd’s death.
Lastly, I’m all over the place. (In case you haven’t noticed.)
2020 turned into a game of extinction level Whack-A-Mole that has me scared of what comes next.
Unnecessary military action in Iran? Whack. Democrats fumbling the election late in the game? Whack. Parts of Australia burnt to ashes; precious life lost in its wake? Whack. Whack. Coronavirus putting the lie to America being the “greatest country on Earth” because it caught our fragile system with it’s pants down? Whack. Whack. Whack.
Black people burning the house down after watching yet another black man die for the world to see? Whack- Game Over.
I am angry and sad and in mourning and so are my people. My city is exploding and I am, also, afraid.
We are allowed and we are owed our expression of pain.