The Tamir Rice verdict left me stunned. I tried to just cry at home, that morning. But, I couldn’t help a few tears on the bus. Some of my friends don’t get why I’ve embraced the Black Lives Matter Movement so completely.
I tried to explain to Tyler, one of my close friends, why I was so upset; he just looked puzzled, giving me a “girls have so many feelings” eyeroll. I didn’t feel like wading through a days worth of those reactions while I was feeling so sad. And vulnerable. So, I stopped explaining myself to other people. And retreated to my Facebook feed, reposting all of the Black Lives Matter posts I could find for weeks. Supporting the amazing black writers I could find.
Some of it is because Nikki Giovanni’s poetry saved me in high school. I was scared. And hurt. And she understood that. And she showed me that life is not always just one thing. And helped me to let my life be scary and abusive, but still full of possibility. She helped me see the in-between-ness of life. She taught me that kindness and words can fix things.
And Alice Walker kept me from killing myself in my 20’s. Feminism pulled me out of the depression that my abusive childhood had shoved me into. And the more I read feminist essays, stories and poetry, the less lonely and unlovable I felt.
Yet, there were some pieces missing. Why were all the feminists I met white? Why were the strong black women I knew not interested in a movement, a philosophy which had given me self-worth and equal rights? Why did they roll the
Alice Walker’s essays made me see the racial component of sexism. She helped me understand compassion. She taught me to love myself. She helped me understand how royally white feminists had fucked over the black community in the first and second wave. She showed me how to work on fixing, saying, healing, horrible things that have happened, and will happen, and then to put it down, when you need a nap. Because your batteries still need to be re-charged. And your work will continue tomorrow.
For 25 years, Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant have kept me even-keeled when I felt scared and desperate. Hell, without Shonda Rhimes, the last 12 years of my life would have been bleak. Black Lives have mattered to me.
And the reason I get so emotional over Tamir Rice, is because he could have been my kid. In 2001, I was in love with a black man. I lived in fear of his cop run-ins, which happened regularly. And when I think of what those cops said and did to him, I still have a hard time breathing. I remember when one of them broke his arm. I yelled at him for mouthing off to the cop. It was wrong, but I was so scared they’d do more, next time, then run over him with their car. And I didn’t have anywhere else to put that, than trying to make it his fault. Or something he could prevent. Something he could control. And none of it was.
We were in love and we had a lot of sex. If my birth control had slipped then, I might have kept his baby.
I could go on and on. Leon Tucker was the first person in my life who showed me compassion, and taught me how to be funny. Ejeris Dixon was my high school bff. And now, she’s my role model for how to take care of yourself/better yourself/become a shooting star. Jonelle was my first, and only friend in Portland for that first two years. Tim taught me to love again. (Tim also taught me that dating assholes is a bad idea, for the final time). Pia was strong, and on my side and wanted me to succeed. I don’t “have black friends” Black people and other People of Color are part of my family, my history and my future.
The fucked up things that have happened to black people haven’t happened to me. My skin has protected me from violence. I know that. I am grateful for my privilege. And I’m hoping to use it for good.
But my white skin hasn’t kept me from loving and worrying about black bodies.
And, I’m in this fight until being black doesn’t put you at a higher risk for being jailed, shot, raped, attacked, insulted, not hired/not promoted/not paid.
So, that’s why I keep writing about this stuff.
I love my art. And I love writing about my feelings.
Putting my art; my paintings and my voice, to this movement feels like the best possible use of my talent. It’s work that could make my family safer. And it’s not as hard as living in black skin.
To quote Absurdist Words, one of the most brilliant writers today: “As allies. We have nothing to be proud of. We are doing the bare minimum.”