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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Fire This Time and Today, We're Just Going to Listen

I threatened to do this two weeks ago, this time I'm going to do it. I really love to write, you guys. That's why I do this. I like to hear myself talk and by that I mean read what I've written. I genuinely go back and read old posts and sometimes I laugh and I say dang, kid. That was good. I can't do that today, though. And it's not because I'm lazy. I'd love to write some jokes and anecdotes and pal around with you all before laying down some hot social justice warrior riffing from the rad electric guitar that is my keyboard. I'll do that next week, I bet. Today, though, we're just going to listen.

These are all quotes from The Fire This Time, a New Generation Speaks about Race. The book is a series of essays edited by Jesmyn Ward. In 2 Corinthians 13:1, it says "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." In The Fire This Time, we have witness after witness of what it's like to be Black in America. Not in the 1800s, not in the 1920s, or even '60s. This is right now. This is the world I'm a part of and you're a part of and to some extent we are all responsible for by our votes, our actions, and the way we defend the institutions responsible for this fear. Please just read this and think about it. See you next week!

Most of the essays quoted are available on the internet and links are provided.

Please know that there will be times when some people might be hostile or even violent to you for reasons that have nothing to do with your beauty, your humor, or you grace, but only your race and the color of your skin. Please don't let this restrict your freedom, break your spirit, or kill your joy. And if possible do everything you can to change the world so that your generation of brown and black men, women, and children will be the last to experience all of this. And please do live your best lives and achieve your full potential. Love deeply. Be joyful. In Jubilee, Mom. - Edwidge Danticat (link goes to my book reviews)

"The world is before you," I want to tell my daughters, "and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." Edwidge Danticat

A friend recently told me that when she gave birth to her son, before naming him, before even nursing him, her first thought was I have to get him out of this country.
I asked another friend what it's like being the mother of a black son. "The condition of black life is one of mourning," she said bluntly. For her, mourning lived in real time inside her son's reality. At any moment she might lose her reason for living. - Claudia Rankine

When I started riding the city bus to high school, I observed that a muffled radio message from an annoyed bus driver--about someone talking too loud or having the right fare--was all it took to make the police rush in, drag a young man off the bus, and beat him into submission on the sidewalk. There were no cell phone cameras back then to record such abuse, and most of us were too terrified to demand a badge number. 
Besides, many of us had fled our countries as exiles, migrants, and refugees just to escape this kind of military or police aggression; we knew how deadly a confrontation with an armed and uniformed authoritarian figure could be. Still, every now and then a fellow traveler would summon his or her courage and, dodging the swaying baton, or screaming from the distance, would yell some variation of "Stop it! This is a child! A child!" - Edwidge Danticat

"Somebody loves you enough to try to keep you safe by informing you of your rights." - Emily Raboteau

The boy was in a rotten mood. He demanded a drink then rejected the water we'd packed. He whined that the walk was too long, then challenged our authority in a dozen other hectoring ways until we at last arrived at Highbridge Park. There he refused to descend the hundred stairs to the bridge by flinging himself onto the asphalt with his arms and legs bent in the style of a swastika, not five feet from a dead rat. The kid's defiance bothered us for all the usual reasons a parent should find it irksome, but also because if allowed to incubate in the ghetto where we live, that defiance could get him killed. - Emily Raboteau

When we first learn to walk, the world around us threatens to crash into us. Every step is risky. We train ourselves to walk without crashing by being attentive to our movements, and extra-attentive to the world around us. As adults we walk without thinking, really. But as a black adult I am often returned to that moment in childhood when I'm just learning to walk. I am once again on high alert, vigilant. - Garnette Cadogen

A city was waiting to be discovered, and I wouldn't let inconvenient facts get in the way. These American criminals are nothing on Kingston's I thought. They're no real threat to me.
     What no one had told me was that I was the one who would be considered a threat. - Garnette Cadogen

I remembered that people of color from my region of the United States can choose to embrace all aspects of their ancestry, in the food they eat, in the music they listen to, in the stories they tell, while also choosing to war in one armor, that of black Americans, when they fight for racial equality. - Jesmyn Ward

"There was a lynching every four days in the early decades of the twentieth century. It's been estimated that an African American is now killed by police every two or three days." - Isabel Wilkerson

...we cannot talk about black lives mattering or police brutality without reckoning with the very foundation of this country. We must acknowledge the plantation, must unfold white sheets, must recall the black diaspora to understand what is happening now. Second, it reveals a certain exhaustion, I think. We're tired. We're tired of having to figure out how to talk to our kids and teach them that America sees them as less, and that she just might kill them. - Jesmyn Ward

I remembered how easy it was for me to ignore what was already obvious, so I wrote down some details to remind myself of what I shouldn't forget: people were carried like chattel on ships to America; they were sold to other people; they were stripped of their names, spiritual practices, and culture; they worked their entire lives without just compensation; they were beaten into submission and terrorized or killed if they chose not to submit; when they died they were buried in the ground at the far edge of town; and as the town grew; roads and houses were built on top of them as if they had never existed. - Wendy S. Walters