Southern trees bear a strange fruit–I have been intentional about not posting about the current events nor my feelings in relation to them. Partly because I did not wish to feel it, and partly because I do not want to release anymore negative energy into an already woeful America. However, when I woke up this morning I knew I had to. I woke up with Kanye’s Blood on the leaves on my mind and I tipped my hat to his timely genius. Those magnolias and poplars might be free of the bodies, but there is still blood on the leaves.
I have always thought that anger was a surface emotion; and yet so many people were and are full of it. Boiling to the brim with hot destructive anger, I asked myself what was behind it, what was underneath it? Fear…fear that, as my friend Demetric (a Black man) said, “I hate the fact that the subconscious paranoia that I’ve walked around with for years has been validated…” My own fear that one day I will have to raise a Black man and explain to him why his passionate bold temperament may make others uncomfortable yet his calm articulate agreeability may disguise him as less than a man. Disappointment…disappointment that nearly 150 years after the emancipation proclamation and nearly 60 years after the civil rights movement we (Black people) are still living in Jim Crow America and feeling as insignificant as the 3/5ths. Shame…shame that any of us believed that this had changed; waking up the day after the verdict to a message from our President who looked eerily like Mr. Bojangles.
What I can take away from the weekend that I had in the human relations conference, and the volatile, racing pulse of social media is that we are holding on to a lot of pain. The muscle memory of this nation has stored whippings, lynchings, fire hoses, and german shepards as if it were yesterday. We have not forgotten, and we certainly have not forgiven. White America stands in one of a few places but namely one deeply apologetic and unsure how to move forward, or deeply resentful and unwilling to acknowledge one’s own part in racism and discrimination vehemently separating self from ancestor. And I think in times like now, Black America despite how learned or educated we are feel like that old Ye lyric, “…even if you in a Benz you still a nigga in a coupe.” And self included. As much as I tried to remain calm and at piece, a large part of me felt that by remaining silent I was, in a sense, turning my back to my race. Something I learned this weekend was the power of silence and how in saying nothing, it can often be construed as agreement or even worse, apathy.
While one piece of me says “YES! let us wake up right now in this moment and see something bigger!” She reaches for my John Swails poem: …because that freedom you/think is dressed in all that money/ain’t nothin’ but a bigger cage/and you never even left the plantation! A larger part, a part that was really emergent because of the conference wonders what are we as a people not acknowledging so that we can heal? What are we missing? Why are we letting fear of what was keep us from the potential of what could be? And more pressing, how do we begin to own it so that we can grow together?
I understand we have a past. I know that past every time I walk down the street in this white washed city with white noise of Spanish drowned out by the hum of BMWs. People fighting not to see my dark skin and kinky hair, assuring me that they don’t see race and everybody is human like that is supposed to take away the discomfort of being followed around stores or being called “exotic” because that feels better on the tongue than Black. I am not willing to forget it, but God how can I, how can we begin to forgive it? This is bigger than Trayvon or Emmit or Martin or Malcolm, this is the pregnant precipice of our possibility as a race and as a country; how and if not us, then who?