We Can’t Bring Our Children to Water We Don’t Thirst For; On Wanting Racial Justice for our children without wanting it for ourselves
The Sunday before Amy Cooper became a household name,
I had published a blog on dangerous white ladies.
I was visited by those words this week as I spoke the names — Christian Cooper, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Yassin Mahomed, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, and George Floyd.
I felt the memory of Erik and Erika Gardner…refrains of I can’t breathe.
I felt the false promise of good police and military.
I compiled incomplete resource lists, and workshops on white supremacy for children and caregivers.
I heard over and over a child calling out for his mother as he’s dying,
knowing incarnate tragedy unfolding, moment to moment for 480 impossibly long seconds.
I remembered last year’s Pride Pentecost, and threats of violence that accompanied parades.
I remembered the shooting of Pulse Night Club.
I remembered the Charleston 9, and the illusion of safer, excluded places.
Ideas of sanctuary we carry and project in the face of our experiences.
I remembered an unyielding background of violence, and inconsistent responses of white attention.
A scene from Scandal came over me, and I couldn’t separate the association my brain wanted to make.
I have at least a thousand threats of rape here. Just on this one site from guys who are mad that I had the audacity to be born female and Black.
Olivia turn off the computer.
Do you think if I told them I own a gun and that I’ve shot someone they’d threaten to rape me? Do you think if I told them I’ve survived being kidnapped and tortured they would get that their weak little misspellings barely make me blink, that I would welcome the chance to take out a little PTSD on the next man who put his hands on me? You think they’d still want…
Turn off the computer now or I will come over there walk through all the reporters outside your building and turn it off for you.
Deep sigh, crying.
I’m fine, I’m just, I’m losing it, but only a little bit.
We witness how a Black woman’s safety is sacrificed to protect a white male leader’s position of power.
Physical separation meaning nothing, and distinctions of physical safety similarly meaningless.
We watch Olivia read through comments of online harassment while on the phone.
I hear two competing refrains.
Make what is just.
Imagine and build abolition.
Make me safe.
Admit to me my safety is not through you.
Make things fair.
Lose everything for fairness.
Give me the words.
Make the words enough.
This is unbearable.
We’ll be here again.
Get me through this.
Don’t kill me.
There’s a poignance in the overhanging message — this animus is more and less than it appears.
This mouth my head is in wants to chew me to pieces before it will swallow me whole.
This moment is every moment’s accumulation, and every non empty threat made and witnessed now.
This is not the blog I imagined writing, not the emotion I knew I’d have fueling my fingers today.
But I hear myself answering the question not directly asked — I can’t teach your children that racism is less violent than this.
I can’t separate the death threats, the rape threats, the sacrificed examples, the teachable moments not reviewed as traumatic enough, or traumatic at all.
I can’t disconnect from what has to go together, and I can’t hold in place what is trying to fall apart.
This is part one, the part where I name what is true enough, and only that.
This isn’t the part where I offer solutions, or background points as evidence.
This is the step where we emote, and we clarify with emotion as a necessary step to anything trusted.
Later blogs will open more steps as we get to them.
Part 2: Confronting Our Motivation Problem
Part 3: Investing in Consistency
I offer in closing this start of a prayer litany…
These prayers are for this injury, but not just this injury.
These prayers are for this knowing, but not for everything known.
These prayers are for bodies that are also homes, but not only happy ones.
These prayers are for you, when you feel what I mean, and when you don’t right now.
These prayers are offered to a God that grasps and shushes and let’s go of my hand when I ask.
These prayers aren’t everything,
these prayers can’t hold me or tell me how it feels.
Not our moments or what they bring forward.
These prayers came forward, and I am holding my own hand.
I pray for the sanctuaries…
the ones older than me, and the ones I made.
Technicolored glass reflecting color,
allowing emotions to flow. From me to you to the wall to the chandelier.
Cold tile on bathroom floors.
Chilled white wine containing liquid levers to bring you somewhere else.
Liquid calories and reflexes to purge what isn’t pure enough.
Quivering sighs that transmit meaning perfectly.
Hands that find pens and crayons and pencils before they find words for God.
I pray for the cemeteries…
the ones that buried us, or would have once.
The ones that cascaded over us when our feet touched their soil.
For beauties’ companion tragedy and their refineries.
For the spirits who encircle us before we realize our need to honor them.
For grass blades that grow back between being cut down, bringing us into our bodies through our nostrils.
For what smells like life.