I haven’t said a goddamn thing about Mike Brown. For those of you not in the States (it’s hard for me to imagine anyone in the States not knowing all this, but I suppose my quickie summary will work for you, too), Mike Brown was an unarmed eighteen year old shot by police in Missouri.
Do you need more information than that? Kid didn’t have a gun. Police had guns. I’m not really sure what would justify the shooting of an eighteen year old who hadn’t committed a crime (or, no, excuse me, maybe he stole something, maybe). Nothing, I suppose.
Except, in this case, the cop’s not being indicted. And let’s just be fucking crystal goddamn clear about this: the cop’s not being indicted because he’s a white man who shot a black child. End of fucking sentence.
Listen up, m’ducks, because I can’t stop thinking about this and you lot are my decidedly-not-captive audience. You can click away at any time. (This, by the way, is what people who sell things are not supposed to do. We are not supposed to invite controversy. I’m supposed to only post happy things about naked men and have done. But I don’t actually like naked men that much, and I believe in the power of don’t read it if you don’t like it.)
Also, fuck, I’m so goddamn angry.
I don’t read the news. My Twitter and Tumblr streams have been exploding with #Ferguson updates since the shooting. But I don’t read the news. I stay the fuck away from the news. You know why? Because my life’s not fucking enriched, at all, by the news that a man in power took down someone who did not have power. I know it’s happening. It’s happening right now, all over the world. I try not to take up space in my head with it, though, because it’s fucking hard enough to maintain a positive outlook on life already, and I can’t afford to stumble into shit like this on a daily basis.
But this? Fuck me.
Part of the reason I’ve said nothing is because I studiously avoided the facts. I didn’t need them. There is no good reason to shoot Mike Brown, no reason I’m gonna accept. I don’t care if he’s eight feet tall and charging–get back in your damn cop car and radio for help. You don’t shoot the kid. I also don’t care what his high school attendance records say, what his grade point average is, or what his mom remembers about the day she gave birth. None of that shit is relevant.
(Oh god, I don’t go anywhere near the shit about his mom. I can’t. It’s so easy for me to feel that, so easy for me to find the place in myself that cyclones deep into loss. My kid’s asleep six feet away and I have to wall off all the doors in my head that lead to ways I could lose her.)
You know what’s relevant? A long goddamn history of black people’s lives being worth less than white people’s lives. You know how I can state that shit like it’s fact? Because this: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” –The U.S. Constitution, yo.
Black people–well, excuse me, black slaves–were equal to three fucking fifths of a white person, when it came to calculating population. (Yeah, sure, there was nuance, but it was minuscule, and perhaps more importantly, the grade school history books didn’t touch on it. I’m pretty sure me, Mike Brown, and the cop who shot him all got pretty much the same damn story in school. You know what a common theme in American history is? Black lives are worth less than white lives.)
One of the things I studied in college was collective action in America. I loved history, but I wanted to know real history, the stuff that barely made the history books, or didn’t make them at all. Like Harriet Tubman was fucking badass and a master of disguise, which I learned when I discovered that she’d been a motherfucking spy. That’s right, a fucking spy. And Rosa Parks? Wasn’t a tired lady whose feet hurt too badly for her to move to the back of the bus. Fuck no! (That was always kind of a weird story, anyway. Like, was she standing up for herself, or was she tired? Cause I’ve been tired, but I’ve never been would-rather-get-my-ass-kicked-then-move-to-the-back-of-the-bus-tired, unless we’re talking metaphorical exhaustion, in which case actually that could hold water.)
Rosa fucking Parks was a badass. She wasn’t a nice little old lady who incidentally happened to trigger the Mongomery bus boycott, she was a a fucking local chapter secretary of the NAACP trained in civil disobedience. It wasn’t random chance she just so happened to be tired one day, dammit! It was intentional, and brave as shit, and she wasn’t the only one doing it, either, and every fucking one of those women should get their faces on stamps.
Those two stories inspired the hell out of me when I was a scared little queer child, trying to find myself in the history books. And I’m white, three and four generations off the boat from Ireland, landed on the coasts and stayed there. I’ve never been to the South. (But I’d love to go because I have this total fantasy Harriet Tubman book I want to write one day, some kind of crazy sci fi time travel thing, I think because when I was in second grade I had a huge superhero crush on her, and everything I learned about her later just cemented the superhero image. She could be fucking cutthroat. Like seriously. Don’t fuck with her. She will cut you.)
So in school, I studied collective action, but I specifically studied the people marginalized within collective action movements, because those were the stories that destroyed me, ate me up inside.
Fuck. Anyway. That’s all just rambling, sorry, rambling’s one of the purposes blogging’s always served for me. Then I’ll go write super tight fiction and restrain myself.
So one of the reasons I kept my mouth shut about Ferguson was I didn’t have any information, and didn’t want it. I don’t want to know young Mr Brown’s mom’s name. I don’t want to see her face when I close my eyes. I have a little white daughter, and I think every single day about the ways in which she’s vulnerable in this culture, specifically because she’s female. Every day. Young black men are vulnerable and it’s still okay to claim you were scared, because black men are boogeymen in America, and you don’t even have to read To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes: almost everyone will believe you if you say a black man attacked you.
In this case, using deadly force against an eighteen year old black kid (god, I hate to keep saying “kid” except I’ve seen those pictures, and I don’t see a big scary black man, I see an eighteen year old who still had his puppy fat in his goddamn graduation picture, fuck, stop crying, dammit)–you can use deadly force against an eighteen year old who scares you, just as long as he’s black. He doesn’t even have to be guilty of anything (not that that’s an acceptable justification for murder). He just has to be fucking standing there.
The other reason I’ve kept my mouth shut is cause I’m white. Yeah. You knew that was coming.
I’ll retweet or reblog, sure, but I’m wary of the trap of privilege. I’m wary of only hearing white women’s voices in discussions about feminism, seeing only white queer couples in photos of marriage equality. God, white people are everywhere, don’t you ever get fucking tired of white voices? I do. I get tired of male voices and white voices and straight voices. I’m sick of those narratives. I’m sick of those stories. I am hungry to hear what other people have to say.
And so often when the speaker is white, the words are granted more weight than if the speaker is a person of color. I say “so often” because it’s true, but I think what’s really true–and I don’t believe it’s a real stretch to say it out loud–is “always.” I think white people are always taken more seriously. I don’t mean it in a fallacy sense, I mean it in a practical sense. Sure, you put Cornel West next to Pauley Shore, maybe most people will take West more seriously, but in a very real sense, white people’s opinions are more valuable than black people’s opinions.
Which I suppose goes to figure, but fuck, do you ever just want to give up? Because I can’t figure out how to solve this fucking thing so my kid–and yours–grows up better than this. I’m not worried about my kid being a racist, because we can talk about this shit. But every time you open that door with a kid, you’re met with questions. She doesn’t get why Mike Brown’s life is so disposable the guy who shot him won’t go to prison. That makes no sense to her. Which is good, yes, obviously I want it to make no sense to her, but I’m cognizant that I’m introducing her to a world that will only make her tear her hair out someday, when she sees what it’s all about.
I stayed silent because I didn’t know what the fuck to say. I still don’t. All this yammering on and on and I have nothing to offer except my voice raised in a chorus with all the others. I believe that silence equals death, and I believe that remaining silent because you have the privilege to pretend something doesn’t affect you is a big pile of steaming bullshit. But Jesus, what the hell else is there to say that hasn’t already been said, this time, the time before, the time before that? What can I say, sitting here, that hasn’t already been said by a black woman or a brown man, and ten times more eloquently? Fucking nothing.
All I’ve got is rage and despair tonight. Rage, despair, and Audre Lorde.
And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
“A Litany for Survival”