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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I Advocate for Hope, Because Hopelessness Does the Oppressors’ Work For Them

A few days ago, I came back from a meditation retreat for People of Color. Today, with all that has happened, I am feeling so much gratitude for the socially engaged Buddhist community at the East Bay Meditation Center and for my meditation practices and the ways that these practices help deepen some sense of groundedness and some sense of spaciousness where these horrific things can happen and can land in a more balanced place in me, somehow.

Today, I have witnessed horrible things that I cannot now unsee. The killing of Alton Sterling. The aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile. And, while there is more equanimity present for it all to land in, I have also been feeling sorrow, I’ve been feeling grief, and I’ve been feeling the physical impact of what I have been exposed to. I have felt the clamping down of my body, the hollow in my chest, the tightening in my belly, the stiffening of my jaw and the tug in the direction of despair and the tug in the direction of hopelessness.

But, there’s some way that it feels more possible, having spent four days meditating really solidly, to turn my intention towards hope and towards faith and towards optimism in this horrific situation when the circumstances are not inspiring hope or faith or optimism. It feels really important to practice the discipline of hope and to find the ways to cultivate and nurture it, even if that is not what the circumstances are inspiring, because the cost of hopelessness on one’s personal being and on our community and our energy and on our effort and on our dedication to the work of making change is too great.

I believe that hopelessness is internalized oppression. It does the oppressors’ work for them. It exhausts, it demoralizes, it overwhelms, it paralyzes. It dissipates energy. It leads to despair. It also leads to depression, to stress-related illnesses, to addictive behaviors, and to suicidal ideation. Hopelessness is one of the precursors to suicide. Not everyone who feels hopeless will commit suicide; but everyone who commits suicide has lost hope. And if I know anything for sure, I know that if White Supremacy or Homophobia or Misogyny wants me dead, somebody’s going to have to do the work of killing me themselves. I am not going to do the oppressors’ work for them.

I will not shoot myself
In the head, and I will not shoot myself
In the back, and I will not hang myself
With a trashbag, and if I do,
I promise you, I will not do it
In a police car while handcuffed
Or in the jail cell of a town
I only know the name of
Because I have to drive through it
To get home.

–Jericho Brown, from “Bullet Points

Hopelessness also halts resistance. The powers that be would like for us to believe that there is no hope. That our actions do not matter. That change is impossible. When we believe that change is impossible, it is hard to throw our energy into the monumental work required to change systems of oppression, to educate, to donate, to demonstrate, to activate, to organize, to agitate, to protest, to heal, to inspire, to vision, to nourish, to care, to create, to shape sustainable systems, to change hearts and minds and laws and culture and values. When we are hopeless, it is hard to put one foot in front of another, let alone to launch a revolution.

I do not advocate for hope because I believe that our current situations inspire hope. I advocate for hope because our current situations require hope.

If we give in to hopelessness, we stop fighting and we damage ourselves, instead, and everyone with a secret wish for our annihilation gets their way.

If we give in to hopelessness, we will not do what hope would do to transform the world we live in.

Even if it will take hundreds or thousands of years, Hope says, “Keep going. Don’t stop. We’ll get there, in the end. No matter what it looks like right now, we’ll get there. Keep going. Don’t stop. What you’re doing to help is useful and important. Your small part in this colossal movement matters. Keep going. Don’t stop. Connect with some other people, because change requires us to work together. Keep going. Don’t stop. Do a little more, if you healthily can. Take care of yourself, take care of the world, take care of yourself, take care of the world, take care of yourself, take care of the world. Don’t stop. Keep going. You’re doing great. Thank you. I love you. Keep going.”

Thank you. I love you. Keep going.

2016-06-02 Oakland-2

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

 

Forgiveness is Not for the Forgiven, but for the Forgiver

http://the-toast.net/2015/06/23/misunderstanding-black-forgiveness/

I really liked Mallory Ortberg and Carvell Wallace’s commentary “You’re Not Off The Hook: The White Myth of Black Forgiveness.”

I really appreciated someone speaking about this right now. As we read about the ways in which families of the Charleston massacre victims are forgiving the white supremacist murderer who took their loved ones’ lives, it seems to me that there is some confusion of forgiveness with absolution. In this humorous interview, the differences between those concepts are spelled out and the pernicious re-interpretation of the concept of forgiveness as absolution are called out. Forgiveness is not absolution. Forgiveness doesn’t make this whole thing nice. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we stop fighting with all our might to stop this from ever happening again. Forgiveness is not for the forgiven, but for the forgiver.

Forgiveness is for the soul of the person doing the forgiving. It is not an absolution of the person who has done you wrong, by, for example, massacring people you love. Forgiveness is an act that allows a person to free their heart from some degree of rancor towards the one that did them harm so that they can set about focusing on the grief and the healing that is necessary and do whatever work they may want to do to make sure that this never happens again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean, ‘That’s okay. You can even do it again. I don’t mind.’ It more means, ‘I’m going to choose not to hate you, because I have to carry my hating you around inside myself and my hating you hurts me more than it hurts you and I don’t want to have to hurt like that inside myself while I’m dealing with the carnage you have created.’

As they say here, we must “forgive and fight at the same time.”

For the Love of Black People, Stop Posting Confederate Flags on Articles Appealing to Remove Confederate Flags From Public Places

So, now, my social media feeds are full of confederate flags. This is happening ostensibly because people are trying to get other people to see that the confederate flag is a problem and shouldn’t be flying about where people like me might be terrorized by it and where it might incite other people to racial violence.

I am a Black person. I do not live in a state that was part of the confederacy. Suddenly, in the privacy of my own home, I am surrounded by confederate flags. I imagine it might be something akin to a Jewish person suddenly having a newsfeed full of swastikas (for days).

This is a problem.

For the love of black people, stop posting confederate flags on articles appealing to remove confederate flags from public places.