Two Weeks After The Presidential Election of Men Who Want Me Dead

Two Weeks After The Presidential Election of Men Who Want Me Dead

1.

I pause
to sit quietly and gather myself back
together, after all of the coming undone.
I’ve been running around with all of my parts
in the wrong places.

My heart in my hands, my guts in my mouth,
my eyes stretched out over my skin
so I can see in all directions –
a panoramic view of potential violence.

Yesterday, I sat next to another
Black woman on the train,
because statistically speaking,
according to the election results,
there is no safer demographic
of people – or more sane.

My brain pounds through my arteries and veins
pressuring my feet to run, to run, to run, to run, to run.
My feet flee without waiting for the rest of me,
to take up residence in another country,
one I pretend will love and shelter me,
but there is no home,
there is no sanctuary.

All of my internal architecture
is shattered and smashed.
I’d patched it back together hastily
with lots of rolls of duct tape and a staple gun
and several gallons of krazy glue.
It held up well for a week or two
while I kept alive the traumatized,
the desperate, the targets of hate crimes,
the ones they want to put on a registry for death.

But, traumatized myself
and with a bullseye on my back,
who will keep me alive
as my insides begin to buckle,
to tremble, to crack?

2.

I sit by the lake
where birds come to take
breadcrumbs from little ones
and dazzle them with their freedom.

A little brown child
in a bright pink bicycle helmet
runs to the edge
of the water, squeaking at birds
and stomping with giggles.
This is still possible, I think.
When will it end?

The geese honk at me.
“They’re coming for you, too,”
I say, seditiously.

Clouds billow and gather all the pink from the sunset.
They make an offering of softness and empathy.
I drink it in. My lungs are where my ears used to be.

3.

I sit in the grass and dismantle myself,
unpeeling the duct tape, prying out the staples,
spreading out the wood and memories,
the broken foundation of faith and hope,
the flesh and all its tenderness,
sharp shards of heart and glass,
the bone and bricks that I am made of.

Blood and bile and fear and panic,
dread and devastation and grief and gastric acid
splash out and drench the grass,
the crickets and ants, the loam.

I give up any hope of putting myself back together.
I surrender to gravity,
the grasp of the earth holding me close
clasping me between her solidity and the spaciousness
of the sky, infinite, and expanding
full of patience and possibility.
I drink in all that vastness with what is left of me:

Flesh, ear, tongue,
Skin, eyes, nose,
Heart, hands, lungs,
brain, brick, bone.

I become all that I behold.

4.

When my feet have been found and returned to me,
I stand and feel the enormity of the earth inside of me
and the vastness of the infinite sky
and everything they know
about patience and persistence
spaciousness and solidity.

Relentlessly resilient, the earth
who has seen several mass extinctions already
and is unperturbed by the possibility of another,
determined to make life emerge again and again,
drinks my tears and drains me of my desperation,
tells me, “Anywhere you go, you are always home.”

Anywhere you go,
you are always home.

In this moment,
I am here and I am whole,
relentless in my resilience.

If my days are numbered,
I will cherish every minute.
If I am imprisoned,
I will cherish every breath.

The birds and the little brown children
dazzle me with their freedom
and draw me on.

11/20/16 – 12/01/16

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When You Can’t Call The Police Because They Might Kill Somebody

Here is a link to a resource for: What to Do Instead of Calling The Police, compiled by Aaron Jones

*

The police exist to protect white people and respond to white fear. That is their core function. That is what white supremacy means in practical terms. So until white people say “We don’t need you, we don’t want you killing for us anymore, we are going to stop paying you to kill for us, you’re fired.” Then the killing will likely continue and escalate.

–Taj James

*

I sat by my window and I watched. Across the street, a party had turned ugly. The windows had no blinds. It was nighttime and all of the lights were on. I could see into the kitchen. There were too many people in that too small space and each one seemed belligerent and trying to hurt somebody or trying to keep somebody belligerent from hurting somebody. Everyone was shouting. Loud enough to raise the dead.

Their kids had been playing in the street. Before the shouting started. Little black kids running around, racing on their scooters like I used to be.

The fighting was getting intensely physical. People were clearly real, real intoxicated. They knocked the refrigerator down and kept on going.

My heart raced. What should I do?

I knew I wasn’t going to call the police; that’s for damn sure. I knew that these people had a better chance of surviving their own drunk or drugged violent impulses than they did of surviving the police’s sober violent impulses.

I didn’t notice any kids in the rooms with the violent adults. Some were crying outside. Some were in cars waiting for their parents to take them home.

Everyone in the block could hear the shouting. The fighting was loud and public and chaotic.

I was so afraid for them. I was mostly afraid that some neighbor would call the cops. It’s the kind of situation that would inspire that kind of response. I wanted to go over there and try to deescalate it, but I didn’t know how and I was afraid. And if all of those people who were already trying to get the fighting parties to calm down weren’t helping at all, what on earth could I do, but add stress to the situation? I could go over there and warn them that someone might call the police on them and that I didn’t want them to be subject to that, because I wanted them to survive this night, but I knew that no one would hear me. No one could hear anybody over there. The cacophony of angry human voices was incredible. It seemed to go on forever.

I thought to myself, I wish I knew who to call. I wish there were someone safe to call. Someone who could help support them in this moment, make sure the kids were okay, help deescalate the situation and make sure nobody got hurt – or, well, more hurt than they already were, treating everyone with respect the whole time. Mobile mediators for angry intoxicated people. I imagine that even now, most people in the United States think of the police that way. Most white people, that is, of a certain class level.

But there have been too many people who were killed by the police for calling for help. Too many people who were victims of crime being killed because the police thought they were suspects of crime. Too many people who called for the police’s help with a mentally ill, disabled, or distressed family member – someone they loved – only to have the police kill them.

That’ll solve the problem, won’t it? When in doubt, just kill the black person.

Too many, too many, too many. Their stories ran in front of my eyes. Their images. Their names.

I seemed to recall that there had been a workshop that went by too fast for me to catch on that very topic: “What to do instead of calling the police.” I wanted that knowledge so badly just then, transfixed as I was by the human drama playing out in the street below my windowpane.

The only thing I knew clearly was that if anybody called the police, everybody would be in more danger. Everybody on the street and spilling out of the house was black. I thought to myself: “Any of them could be killed by the police tonight.”

I do not pray, but I hoped desperately that they would find a way to calm themselves down before someone called the cops.

After a very, very, very long time, they did.

I was proud of my little neighborhood for having enough care for their lives to let them hurt each other rather than calling the police and putting them in greater danger of death.

For the love of black people, please don’t call the police on black people. Please do anything you can to avoid it. The police cannot be trusted to serve or protect us. They put us in greater danger.

If you are white, please help other white people understand this.

This link contains a list of resources regarding how to understand the function of the police and what to do instead of calling the police. It is provisional and incomplete and growing. If you have additional resources, please post them in the comments and send them to Aaron Jones, the curator of this resource, at the address he provides. If there’s a better resource for this, let me know and I will update this post accordingly.

Many thanks.

*

#AlfredOlango  #TawonBoyd #Terence Crutcher #Gregory Frazier

 

I Paused To Watch Terence Crutcher Die

I was going to do work when I got home tonight. I was going to eat dinner and do some work. I was going to reduce my stress by dealing with my neglected to-do list and tidy up my bedroom. After salmon and salad greens and maybe some quinoa. But, I paused to watch Terence Crutcher die.

I paused to watch him walking with his hands up in the air. I paused to watch him be tazered and fall to the ground. I paused to witness him be shot on the ground, after being tazered, after having his hands up, after being no threat to anyone at all, after his vehicle stalled in the road.

After he needed help because his vehicle had stalled in the road.

A crowd of cops standing around with their guns out like their pants down. A crowd of cops, guns drawn, backing away from what they did. Their murderous fear.

The dash-cam video. Then the helicopter view.

The amused commentary of the helicopter pilots. The grave commentary of the lawyers representing the family. The measured commentary of the family, mastering their grief to call for peace.

I have no commentary. I have not had dinner. I have not done work. I have stalled on the road.

My eyes are fixed. My heart rate is high. My breathing is shallow. My belly is tight. I have been stuck to my seat. I have been arrested in my movement.

Another snuff film, courtesy of the Tulsa Police Department.

This is what lynching looks like in 2016.

This is the sort of thing that gives me pause.

Before This Week, I Have Never Felt Afraid for My Life as a Queer Person the Way I Have Routinely as a Woman and as a Black Person

I highly recommend Staceyann Chin’s powerful, poetic response to the Orlando Massacre.

Staceyann speaks from her perspective as a black, lesbian immigrant, about the experience of coming to this country to evade persecution as a lesbian twenty years ago and being lulled into the false sense of security that so many of us have that things are getting better for queer people – and about what happened when we wake up and see how unsafe we are – and what to do about it – to wave our rainbow flags – to love and celebrate and take action to make change, because, as she says:

“After 20 years of safety, my lesbian body is awake to the terror of what black body, my woman body, my immigrant body, has always known. These barbaric ideologies are only getting bolder and bolder by the proverbial hour, as a whole.

As a whole person I have never been more aware of how race and class and religion and sexuality and hate can converge into some bizarre concoction of violence and rage and prejudice and the vulnerable target of an unsuspecting crowd.

These young men in a dance club, in a dance club in Orlando, were simply looking for a space to love and live and be safe and be celebrated inside the borders of a country whose history whispers the tradition: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” ”

In that first sentence I quoted, she essentializes the truth that has so upended me for the past week. For 22 years, I have been aware of myself as a queer person and for 22 years, I have had the great good fortune and the extraordinary privilege to feel safe in my body as a queer person.

I spent most of those 22 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, so surrounded by queer community that I have had the privilege to feel safe walking down any street holding hands with my lovers, making out at intersections or across the table at restaurants or in airports or in front of kids or cops. As a queer woman, I have not felt afraid that to do so would garner anything more violent than a surprised or rude look or comment.

I have known discrimination as a queer person and I have feared discrimination as a queer person. I have experienced overt and covert homophobia. But, before this week, I have never felt afraid for my life as a queer person the way I have routinely as a woman and as a black person.

I am conscious of my blackness and of my femaleness as sites of past, future, and potential life-threatening violence almost daily.

What must it be like to go through life unlikely to be raped, shot by the cops, or massacred by racists or homophobes? What must it be like to walk down the street, entirely unconscious of your embodiment & what you are wearing & whose hand you are holding, because it is entirely unlikely to be a factor in your assault or your untimely death?

No wonder I and so many of the strong, brilliant, beautiful queer people I know and love have been losing our minds with grief and fear and anger over what has happened in Orlando. It didn’t just kill those 49 people and harm 53 others and those who knew and loved them. I hazard to say that it impacted almost every queer person in this country in a fundamental way. It obliterated our illusion of safety.

Taking away someone’s sense of safety impacts a person on a bodily level, as well as an emotional level. It impacts the physiology of the human being. It isn’t just a theoretical thing that happened; it isn’t just mental or emotional. How many of us are dealing with some kind of trauma based in the realization that our bodies are not safe and have never been safe and may never be safe again?

It is no wonder that queer people all over the country are losing our fucking shit over this. Something happened to each and every one of us, not just to the people who had the horrific misfortune to go dancing at Pulse on the night of the massacre.

I want to acknowledge that not all of us have felt safe. Many of us – maybe even the majority – have known very keenly that we might die for being queer or trans or gender nonconforming. Many of us have lived with that daily fear – the same daily consciousness that hatefulness might result in murder or assault – that I have known as a woman and as a black person. For the very many that have always known fear as queer or trans people, this event may have confirmed and validated the fear that has always been there.

But for many (especially those of us who are younger and cis – perhaps especially cis female – and living in liberal cities) it has been a horrible waking up out of an illusion of safety, a dream that things have been getting better and safer for queer people over the years. I want that to be true so badly that when the worst shooting on American soil in my lifetime targeted brown queer people, I almost lost my mind with the cognitive dissonance of it all.

I am in the center of a bullseye that too many different systemic forms of hatred are taking shots at.

A year ago, almost to the day, I was shaken and unsettled by a massacre that targeted black people. My embodied sense of vulnerability as a black person was renewed. Now it is my vulnerability as a queer person that is getting burned into my nervous system.

This is what intersectionality feels like in my black, queer, female body.

Today, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a white male stranger on the street hailed me and asked, “Do these pants make me look gay? She thinks these shorts make me look gay.” The “she” in question confirmed that she thinks he looks gay in those bicycle shorts and should get rid of them. I reeled. This is a question that a stranger might casually toss out to a person on the street? How socially sanctioned is casual, microaggressive homophobia in this town that you can enlist a stranger to participate in it, less than a week after a queer massacre? I felt sick to my stomach and my heart started pounding and my eyes lost their ability to focus as my fight flight reaction engaged. While I wished I had said, “Well, as a gay person…” and then launched into some succinct and powerful retort that helped wake them up to the impact of their casual homophobia, that is not what I did, because I am newly in fear for my life. Because I am more aware than I have ever been that homophobia is potentially life-threatening, my amygdala took over and I could barely think. I stammered something inarticulate and vaguely gay-friendly and I fled.

Tomorrow, I will figure out how to be brave. Today, I am still integrating the reality of just how unsafe I am.

An Open Letter to My Straight Friend N. In the Wake of the Orlando Massacre of Queer Brown People Like Me

An open letter to my straight friend N., who wrote: “You matter to me. Sending you love from across this country and am mourning with you.”

N., thank you. That means all the world to me. You’re the only straight person who has actually reached out to me directly to make contact with me around this. The grief is so enormous that I barely know how to hold myself together.

I was on a plane yesterday, flying from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, going from my community full of people I love who are as impacted by these events as I am to a place where I don’t have any queer community or anybody who routinely holds me when I cry. It was the loneliest feeling.

IMG_9388

I was so so sad. I cried in every airport and in every airplane. I was full of grief about the loss and the death and the hatred and the homophobia and xenophobia and racism and Islamophobia and I was also profoundly shaken and scared about what it means for queer people and brown people and brown queer people everywhere.

I feel afraid. This thing that has happened reminds me of how vulnerable my body is, how vulnerable my communities are, how impossible it is to stay safe as a brown queer person. My mother keeps telling me things like, if I go dancing make sure to know where the exits are. She’s so scared for me. I keep telling her it is impossible to be safe. Those beautiful innocent people who died didn’t die because they didn’t know where the exits are. They died because this country breeds hatefulness and intolerance and violence. There is no set of rules I can follow to ensure my safety from the violence that comes with hatred.

I will be marching in the San Francisco Pride parade in two weeks. Who knows when and how my life will end? Maybe it will be then.

I have felt so isolated from community – it is scary to come home to the place I left literally because it was too homophobic for me to stay and to be here when I’m dealing with this kind of colossal tragedy. I want to be with all of my people and we are all scattered to the wind, in our separate places. As I talk to some of my queer friends, I notice that that is when we become most distressed, most grief-stricken, most afraid: when we are separated from the people we feel the safest with, when we can’t hold onto each other’s bodies for comfort or for confirmation of their continued existence.

Why isn’t everybody, everywhere in mourning? Crying with me in the streets, on the airplanes, in restaurants?

It feels relieving to hear from my queer friends and to know how they are coping with all of this, to share contact and comfort and to reflect back to them that they are not crazy and that all of their feelings make sense and whatever they need is the right thing to do – and it also feels relieving to hear from my straight friends who care, who get it.

The world is full of straight people. I need to know that you care and that you get it and that you feel it and that you are with us and that the most horrible thing in the universe to me isn’t trivial to you. That I’m not trivial to you. That our lives matter, not just to ourselves.

That helps me feel safer. Less invisible, less like the colossal impact of this horrific nightmare of a situation on queer brown people everywhere will go unnoticed. It helps me feel like there are people, maybe even here in Doylestown, Pennsylvania who might be feeling these things, too, and who might be safe haven or ally.

Feeling reckless, but needing to be in solidarity with my people even when isolated and far from home (especially when isolated and far from home), I put a big button that says “Queer” on the bag I carry everywhere. I couldn’t stand to be invisible as a queer person here, even though I feel more afraid, more aware that my outness as a black, queer woman could cost me my life.

I have been having trouble making words about this situation. I mostly make tears and snot and gasps and gulps of air and racking sobs. Thank you, N., for writing to me and helping me make some sentences, even though many tears were shed in the making of them.

I hope that straight people everywhere will reach out to queer friends and family and co-workers and neighbors to check in. (It is not too late for this. It will never be too late for this. It cannot be done enough.) Let them know that they are seen and cared about and valued, that their lives matter to you. Offer them support and safety and sanctuary. Affirm that whatever they need right now is okay, that their feelings are valid and make sense. Mourn with them and stand with them and activate your resources (of heart, of mind, of time, and/or money) to help make change in this situation. Love is needed and thoughtfulness and education and effort and activism and financial contribution to a wide variety of places. It’s going to take a lot of work to care for all of the people who have been impacted by this situation and it’s going to take even more work to make the changes necessary to transform the culture and change the laws so that things like this (homophobic/racist gun violence) don’t happen in the future.

Please let us know you’ve got our backs. We need you.

Recite it the Way Black People Can Recite White People’s Stories Like The Back of Our Hands

Please read: Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman, by Dominique Matti

I am sharing this powerful article by Dominique Matti with you, because I could have written it myself. Because I share so many of these experiences. Because instead of the parts about having a child, I could tell you similar stories about not having a child. Because I feel grateful that I don’t have to figure out how to raise a beautiful black child within conditions of white supremacy. Because I feel grateful that I don’t have to worry every day that my beautiful black child might be killed or abused by the police or have freedom taken away or suffer the same daily indignities and invisibilities we black people do. Because this is my story and our story and because it needs to be told over and over and over and over again until people who never lived it can recite it the way black people can recite white people’s stories like the back of our hands, stories about freedom, about democracy, about opportunity, about liberty, about justice, about happily-ever-after, stories that were never, ever for us.

This is a Snuff Film, Courtesy of Your Local Police Department

I just watched the police body cam video of the shooting of Sam DuBose. I am not posting it here. You can google it.

Do as you will, but my recommendation is: If you’re black or brown and you already know in your bones that this is what life in our country is like, you might want to sit this one out. Not because it is extra graphic, but because watching our people be killed violently in real life every day can provoke feelings of fear, anxiety, and agitation that make it hard to go about the business of living. Obviously, I watched it. Maybe we all need to. I don’t know. But take care with your hearts, my people.

Do as you will but my recommendation is: If you’re white, I encourage you to google it. I need you to understand that this is happening. It is too easy for white people to look away or disbelieve the daily realities of racism as they are played out on the bodies of black and brown people. Because it is not happening to them and because it is often happening out of their sight, it is hard to really believe in it.

We must confront this reality and if we are horrified, we must not seek for excuses, but instead seek for justice, seek for the cessation of state sponsored violence against people of color, seek for the end of white supremacy.

As for me…

It is disturbing for me to watch black people (myself, a black person) be killed over and over again. It is horrifying and it is frightening.

Watching the murder of this man, my heart pounds and my breathing gets quicker. My body turns on its fight flight reaction, as if it is me who is in danger.

I am in danger and every part of me knows it.

Who hasn’t left the house without their drivers’ license? Who hasn’t done something the police might pull you over for? Who hasn’t done something you’d rather not have the police know about?

I watch this video and am aware that so many of us have watched thousands of people die violent deaths. We have watched in graphic detail as the hero apprehended the bad guy, as our favorite 007 character does whatever it takes to get out of a jam, as Quentin Tarantino conducts the bloody killing of whole movies full of people. I believe that we are becoming inured to the reality of violence.

It is easy to dissociate from violence we witness on a video screen – or to identify with the one doing the killing. There’s a way that we have been trained to believe it isn’t real. Because so much of what we see isn’t. There’s a way we’ve been trained to identify with the one holding the gun, because that must be the good guy, the hero in the story.

This isn’t television. It isn’t the movies. This is a snuff film, courtesy of your local police department. This is people like me being gunned down in the street in real life. In real death. This isn’t good cop versus evil criminal. This is racism and white supremacy acting on the bodies of the murderer and the victim. They act in different ways, because one of those bodies is white and one of those bodies is black. One of them is alive and one of them is dead.

I know that tomorrow, it could be me.

#tomorrowitcouldbeme