These times are troubling, they're radical, they're monumental, and grave. Black people and our white comrades are mobilizing in masses and fighting for change. This is powerful and impactful, but lately, I have been grappling with what that means. Our lives matter beyond Black death; that includes dismantling systems that have been impacting and hurting us during COVID-19 and well before.
Backstory: I'm a queer Black transmasculine person living in the U.S. South with my wife and two cats. My work and life are spent trying to revolutionize the South. I aim to amplify the work, narratives of Black folks, queer folks, and the voices of people who have been historically marginalized in this region and nation. While these are my words, thoughts, and story, it is rooted in their existence and my love for them.
to be BLACK is the most beautiful death i know
for every day i am chipped away until i become numb to
my power and my insecurities.
I wrote this piece in 2015 after I was devastated by the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, the Emanuel Nine, and Sandra Bland. No amount of organizing we did in Charleston mobilized or influenced people to do anything; people wanted to deny, forgive, pray, and forget. I remember my wife in dialogue hearing a Black person state that we couldn't resist as they had in Ferguson or Baltimore because "we couldn't upset the master." Knowing that systematic white supremacy had such a hold on the South was too much to grapple with. And while I cannot speak for my comrades, 2015 and 2016 left me feeling drained, tired, and numb.
But five years have passed, and we are in a different time. People have continued to fight, resist, and organize for justice for Black people and queer/trans folks who have died at the hands of police or white vigilantism. And now, all around us, folks are rallying and seeking justice for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Maurice Gordon Jr, and so many folks who have gone unnamed. Their lives historically showed and displayed the beauty and reflections of existing as a Black person in the United States. Unfortunately, their untimely deaths showcased the historical tragedy and trauma of living as a Black person in the United States.
And as much as I want to mobilize with my people, I am terrified because the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Black people.
There is so much we still don't know about coronavirus, but I do know that it is hitting Black communities the hardest. With the history of the food we eat, the places we live, and the roles and jobs we have as essential workers, Black people are the most at risk of COVID-19. This fear has distanced me from my family, friends, and loved ones. As a person who grew up in the South eating fatback and butter beans, I have high cholesterol. While I don't have a high level of risk, let's be clear:
Coronavirus is scary A.F.
The medical-industrial complex has been harming and killing Indigenous people and Black people since colonization. From Henrietta Lacks to Serena Williams, Black people, especially Black folks assigned female at birth, are often unheard and mistreated by nurses and doctors. Due to the historical gravity of this, many Black people avoid medical intervention and healthcare institutions altogether.
As things begin to reopen, I cannot help but reflect on what it means to be safe. The few times I have left my house I have seen folks not wearing masks. Refusing to wear a mask in public is a simple act to show that you care about Black people and others who have been disproportionally impacted by coronavirus.
To my white allies organizing alongside Black folks for justice, ensure that people are being safe with their health. When you chant Black Lives Matter, know that our health matters, our bodies matter, and let's try to develop these systems of safety.
I'm mad. Because I want to organize and I want to share physical space with my people to strategize. Yet, I feel everything that I felt after 2016, and the clearest pandemic scares me: Charlottesville and white supremacy. I sat back and realized I have not been willing or wanting to use my first amendment rights since then. Since I saw the violence that white supremacists display and how that violence led to the death of Heather Heyer and injuries of so many other folks. For real, we have yet to contain, eradicate, develop a vaccine for the longest-lasting pandemic- white supremacy and patriarchy.
As an academic, I took on the role of working with my students to inform them that the issues they witness now are of historical trauma and memories of the United States' past. As I see folks displaying acts of righteous anger, I can't help but see Nat Turner's rebellion and the L.A. Riots come alive. Now what I think we are witnessing is a resurgence of the Red Summer of 1919 unfurling into decades of repression to the "Red Summer 2020." The cities will burn, businesses built on white supremacy must go, and Black people can be enraged, angry, grieving, sad, and yes, even numb.
I have felt paralyzed at this moment, wanting to display my anger, but the fear of COVID, of the healthcare system, and of white masters here in the U.S. South wanting to retaliate. Once the smoke clears, the work that is pressing and necessary to me is to figure out how are we engaging with young people about this? Because in all seriousness, who the hell else wants to have Charlie Kirk continue to brainwash our students. I am exploring how we erase and eradicate white supremacy from systems and spaces we navigate in. For once, most white people who haven't gotten it get it. As much as that pisses me off, we have their attention, and it is clear that we need to create some radical structural change to get things done. Otherwise, we will continue to build and perpetuate these issues.
Here's what we know to be true, Black people are powerful, beautiful, angry, and we also are holding a lot right now. Personally, I'm not texting folks back if I don't have the energy. I'm not on social media as much, and I'm playing Sims 4 because I can create and craft a world of Black Joy and have control to make that happen. If you're white, talk to other white people about your feelings and stop telling me how to feel or exclaim that you finally get what I was trying to do five years ago.
To my non-black friends: try to do that work beyond this moment and understand, yes, how you are showing up for Black people in this time (with protests and the pandemic). But most importantly, how are you modeling anti-racism in your workplace, in your friend circles, with your racist and problematic family members, and all of your internalized BS?
To my people: Black folks, I see you always and love y'all. It's okay to rally and be angry, and it's also okay to be too scared to leave your home. For folks moving work in the streets or at home, whether you are resisting or resting, it is important to work because we need to exist.
And remember Black Lives, Health, and Rage Matters.