Last week when the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened up, one of the accounts I follow on Instagram posted some heart-wrenching photos of statues in one of the exhibits. The statues were of men and women standing in a circle, shackled, looks of anguish, confusion, and despair frozen on their faces. One of the forms crouched huddled over a baby, her face twisted into sobs. Another seemed to be aloof, staring into the middle-distance, appearing unsure of where he was or what was happening. I commented on the post: “I want to go to this museum but then I don’t because I know I’ll cry the whole time and then want to fight the first white person I see afterwards.” I knew it was going to be harsh, I knew it was going to make some people — especially white people — ESPECIALLY liberal white people — angry and defensive, but I also knew it was true. That’s what I felt. At this point in history it seems that while the uncomfortable understanding that racism still virulently exists is starting to dawn on some, the idea that black people might still be mad — violently mad — about slavery’s lasting legacy is just *too much* to bear. But let me tell you something, if you’ve done some brief introspection just now and found that that description fits, you’re probably gonna want to buckle the fuck up.
About an hour after posting the comment, I noticed I’d gotten two replies to it, one of them at least a paragraph long and with the appearance of sarcasm (I didn’t read either in full). Instead of engaging, I decided to delete my original comment; I didn’t wish to get into a back-and-forth on an Instagram post, no good is ever won there. But in the minutes that followed a whole slew of fear and panic floated up — what if this person finds my account and starts harassing me? What if they start telling people I’m “anti-white” and it harms my business? what if What If WHAT IF. I started to drown in it but finally stopped myself and was like (me @ me:), “You know what, NO. You wrote those words for a reason Fem! You meant them!” And though I didn’t want to engage in the petty arena of Instagram comments, I did want to address the situation, so I’m doing so here.
It’s true that if I went to that museum, I’d come out wanting to fight the first white person I saw. Hell, even just seeing pictures and reading articles about it online made my fist clench into the Arthur meme variety. You know why?
BECAUSE THAT’S THE RESPONSE RACISM INSPIRES.
(if I could insert clapping emojis between those words I would)
ESPECIALLY in a society where white people are STILL *clap* PROFITING *clap* off the backs of blacks, both alive and dead. ESPECIALLY in a society where many of the aforementioned white people REFUSE to even acknowledge the wild imbalance of power they experience, let alone do a damned thing about it. ESPECIALLY WHEN A WHITE MAN CAN WALK INTO A RESTAURANT AND KILL 4 PEOPLE OF COLOR AND BE ARRESTED BY THE POLICE UNHARMED AFTER A BLACK MAN IS KILLED IN HIS OWN YARD FOR HOLDING A CELL PHONE AND OUR PRESIDENT STAYS SILENT ABOUT THE (BLACK) HERO WHO STOPPED SAID GUNMAN FROM TAKING MORE LIVES.
Yeah I’m fucking pissed. I am VIOLENTLY ANGRY. Am I acting out on it? No. Because I have a job to keep and friends to keep and a very fragile freedom to keep. But I don’t think we at all give enough respect to the wells, the IMMENSE wells and capacity for grace that exist in the human heart as evidenced by America’s black community. Like that one quote goes, “If black people were HALF as violent as white people think we are, we would have burned this country down a long time ago.” We have EVERY. *clap* RIGHT. *clap*. WE HAVE EVERY GODDAMN FUCKING RIGHT TO RIOT, TO YELL, TO SCREAM, TO BE MAKE-YOUR-ASS-UNCOMFORTABLE ANGRY. But our ability to be productively in society at all speaks to the incredible grace of the human spirit — and to be clear, I believe all people groups have this capacity for grace. It’s not that we are special because we’re black, it’s that being black in a racist society that demonizes blackness has provided the opportunity to show our capacity for special-ness. You get it.
So yeah, in case you didn’t know, in case you thought I was like only a little bit mad at racism sometimes, or that it was the kind of thing that made me on occasion a teensy bit frustrated and only ever at an amorphous, unidentifiable hegemony, here’s your wake up call. I’m always mad, it just only sometimes gets louder. Sorry not sorry.
And let me tell you another thing: unless you are a white person jumping LEAPS AND BOUNDS to reverse racism, to undo this great injustice, to enact true healing with every power you possess... Don’t @ me bro. I’m not having it.