Systemic Means Everywhere, and Radical Means from the Root

Good afternoon.

I am writing this short post in sadness and solidarity, and with regard and resolve.

Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 edited collection of essays, The Fire This Time. A New Generation Speaks About Race, is dedicated to Trayvon Martin and includes pieces by Ward, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young, among many others.  It is no accident that many of the authors who contribute essays “say their names”—the names of black people killed by white people, and in too many cases, by white police officers in the United States.  Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Atatiana Jefferson, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and a frighteningly long etcetera. The authors recognize the flare of anger, the Black Lives Matter chants and protests, the all-too-quick calming, or forgetting, of the public, and the repetition of this violent, racist, never-ending cycle.  When I read the collection (for the 50 Ways Rockbridge Racial Justice book group), I was not surprised by the general physical, intellectual, and spiritual exhaustion that sighed between and behind the lines of each essay, but I was taken by how each author expressed with such patience and humanity their deep frustration and sadness surrounding white power structures in United States institutions. When I write about sexism, misogyny, and intersectional struggles, I rarely manage such grace and eloquence.  And now, in these racist United States, I think that grace and eloquence are fine, and so are impatience and radical change.

Radical, etymologically telling us to foment change from the root.  Radical, meaning in the streets.  Radical, meaning in intimate settings in which you don’t put up with friends’ and colleagues’ racist bullshit.  Radical, meaning in the textbooks and at your school.  Radical, meaning broad racial representation at every level of every organization. Radical, meaning at the ballot box.  Radical, meaning black power. Radical, meaning no more police departments made into white war machines. Radical, meaning we also remember the violence enacted against black women. Radical, meaning it is more than a century and a half past the time when white people were supposed to radically account for and reckon with colonialism and colonial legacies that continue to insist upon white supremacy and the dehumanization of other races. Radical, meaning from the root.

Since 50 Ways Rockbridge’s slogan is “Research, Educate, Act,” I will share here some of the resources people have so generously posted on social media and/or that we have used for programming in our area.  I am deeply grateful to my friends and colleagues who are people of color who somehow continue this fight against white supremacy and this reckoning with white privilege. Thank you for your time, your activism, and your humanity. I thank many white people who have joined this fight as well (in my world, mostly white women; we must change this). For us white people, it is way past time to donate, if you can, read, learn, and act.

Related Gender Shrapnel posts:

Shame, in Five Acts

(Just your typical sign at the checkout counter of Dick’s Sporting Goods)

Act One: The Dream

Brown people are not stealing
the jobs of white people.
Brown people are not stealing.
White people steal in the dead of night—
borders, jobs, lands, people, words, paintings, ideas, bodies.
This is empire; this is colony.
Stealing it all and blaming those who lose it all.

Brown people are dreaming
dreams already made reality for the white people
who complain of brown people wanting too much,
living above their station, taking jobs meant for others,
articulating a desire to be treated as human beings.
Brown people are dreaming of a time when brown means
Work, labor, vida, amor—, and not having to see brown.

Act Two: One Lid at a Time

The alarm rings.
One eyelid opens.
Is he still president?
The other eyelid shudders,
can’t open, can’t greet the day.

The other eyelid opens,
burdened, heavy,
willing the eye not to see.
Do I still live in the United States?
Both eyelids close, shuttered.

The alarm insists.
Both eyes regard, en garde.
The body resists this existence
in a regime made in USA,
built to deny, hurt, annihilate.

Eyes open; heart resists.
Beat, come on, beat, heart,
start the day.  Beat, come on,
heart, beat the regime of the USA.
Beat, heart.  Beaten down.

The heart opens, starts the day.
Extends the glass, filled half-way.
Exists, resists, insists, has its say.
Buhm, buhm.  Buhm, buhm.
Buhm.  The regime seems here to stay.

 

Act Three: The Public Square

Charlottesville lies awake,
wide awake to the vultures
circling overhead, and to the
creatures in the swamp below,
as yet undrained.

Tiki torches take the public square,
telling a tale of who gets to spew
hate and rage and whose protest
must be put down, gunned down,
carred down, charred, laid to rest.

Both sides, they say?
One side was armed to the teeth,
Opening the mouth, speaking in
tongues that lie in wait, lie and hate–
a surefire way to create two sides.

The other side, you ask?
Where were they?
Told to stay away for their own safety,
told to be quiet for their own protection,
unable to be and breathe in the public square.

 

Act Four: Praise Be

Praise be, Roy Moore!
Rise and shine and give God your glory!
You are a good Christian man.
You are an elected official.
You are the best Republican
the State of Alabama has to offer.
You (allegedly) raped young girls.
You are to be defended, supported, paid for
by the Grand Old Party and its Groping Old President,
whose support for you confirms all we knew.

Praise be, Roy Moore!
Rise and shine and give God your glory!
You believe women should not hold office
but girls should hold you.
Your abnegating wife stands by your side
because the State of Alabama needs a landslide.
You cast shame; you cast blame,
but you feel none of your own, for
the Grand Old Party needs its tea
in the figure of Christian rapist Roy Moore.

 

Act 5: U.S. on the U.S. State Department Warning List

The State Department Warning List should include a lengthy bit on the United States and the dangers of traveling here.

Los Angeles, Ferguson, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, and a long etcetera: Beware police violence

Charlottesville, Lexington, Richmond, and a long etcetera:  Beware Nazi and KKK violence on the streets

Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charleston, Newtown, Blacksburg, and a long etcetera: Beware mass shootings

Hollywood, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Alabama, New York, everywhere: Beware sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and rape

The United States: Beware the devastation of land and water

The Unites States airports and points of entry: Beware border violence against non-whites and non-Christians

The message? Beware, beware, beware.  No one welcome here.

(We’ve got a long road ahead.)