The fatigue. The friction. The fights. The fatalities.
While I recognize the need for black liberation, I also recognize that my fellow BIPOC and POC counterparts are battling fearlessly in the many faces of injustice. I was not born this way; white supremacy groomed me to hate myself and others as well as to not only accept but praise all things European and anti-black. Shit, I would even say white supremacy taught me to not only (re)produce, praise but also police those who challenge whiteness. And believe me, I am very familiar with the terms and conditions of “policing.” The United States of America taught me well...how to patrol, police, and put down.
The knee has always been on our necks, the crosshairs our confines, the jail ready for our black and brown bodies to work and rot, and the military “standing back and standing by” to commit another Wounded Knee Massacre if we step out of line or cross the line—the line that whiteness has drawn in the sand, in our blood….that's the bloodline.
White America had to strip us, vet us, and essentially put us through the proverbial meat grinder for sale and consumption. Some of us were labeled, packaged, and handled like “savages”, “slaves”, “super predators”, “aliens”, “terrorists” …all terms used for propaganda and vilification of groups of people whose existence, whose native languages, whose self-love, and whose group pride were seen by whiteness as a challenge to whiteness, thus a threat to whiteness and so, basis for belligerence. The funny part is that whiteness was and still is “savage” “predatory” “alien” “terroristic” and “inhumane” from my perspective.
As an English teacher, I know the importance of stories and histories, for socially-constructed narratives, characterizations, and labels help us all organize our worlds, describe our worlds, understand our worlds, and situate ourselves in the world. I am here to tell you that we tell ourselves whatever in order to maintain a good self-image; yes, historically, I have been raised in and praised for homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and anti-blackness, for I am a product of Texas-brand American exceptionalism, exclusionary hubris, and predatory profiling (and I ain’t just talking about payday loans).
“Proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…” As a kid growing up in the 90s, I remember that song; in fact, I remember singing that damn song for school assemblies in elementary school. I also remember the time I realized that I was not "free" in this country. It was the first time that I was punished for deviating from the (white) norm; my little frail pre-school body stood helplessly and hopelessly in that corner of my classroom, excluded and excommunicated from the classroom community, not to mention, publicly humiliated; sure, my teacher called it humbling, a way of keeping me in line but out of the community, isolated…the opposite of school, a place allegedly for socialization, community, and communication…I wasn’t free, if white gatekeepers and systems could give me liberty, they could take it away; oh, and they could give me (spiritual) death, like it was a nice gift, wrapped in white with a noose for a bow. “Give me liberty, or give me death” said some guy named Patrick Henry or Henry Patrick; whatever! ; sorry, not sorry, I don't want to remember your name when you name me 3/5 of a human and then change my name just to make me a number. Another statistic. Another arrest. Another dead no-body, laying in the streets, lifeless, waiting for my loved ones to identify me.
Continuing, I know two wrongs don’t make a right. The anti-blackness in non-black communities and the anti-Asian sentiments and hate crimes committed by non-Asian communities sadden me. Leaving Texas for California in 2007 when I thought everyone in Texas was Black, white, and Mexican, I am glad that I left to live among, learn from, and love other groups of people. Only since leaving have I realized that Texas has way more than just three racial groups. Back then, I, an ignorant Southern boy, probably still am, did not know any other Asians other than Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Sandra Oh; and Daddy Yankee was one of the few Latinx people I knew besides Selena (the original Selena), Shakira, and J-Lo who was just "Jennifer Lopez” from In Living Color. And I will never forget these women because I was taught to admire the beauty of the female body, unfortunately, with my tongue out, salivating and my hands out ready to palm… The -isms and -phobias are intersectional like all of our identities. And yes, there is a point when appreciation becomes objectification. For years, that inflection point was the foundation of my training as a man. I mean white America loves our bodies enough to commodify, trade, and use as billboards for marketing. What a fuckin' smear campaign!
In my classes, I try to keep it real with my students, not in that Michelle-Pfeiffer -Dangerous Minds- type of way but really in a way that is invitational, honest, sometimes uncomfortable but necessary. My black students walk through the hallways uneasy because they know the game or learn the game—that is navigating predominantly white spaces. We black folks, both adults and students, have our little spaces in the dark or off to the side to be ourselves, fleeing moments of smiling, laughing, crying, and recharging. Some of my Asian students share close proximity with whiteness as long as they do not bring up race, reveal their homemade lunches or languages, or kick it with the black kids. My Latinx, Filipino, and Pacific Islander students move in small enclaves but they are treated as if they are out of place, out of line, out of order.
In light of these racial social dynamics, my school allows ethnic affinity groups but up to a point, especially when acts and displays of racism come up; then, the affinity groups push and poke the white structures that aim to keep us contained, under tight watch with a short leash. White supremacy wants us as its pets for sport and blind, unconditional loyalty; training us to fight one another; sometimes, allowing us to fight in our kennels while allowing the model minorities to walk proudly and publicly around the structures, but still on a leash, of course. I know, because when I was in prep school, I kept my grades high in my classes and my head low in the hallways, making sure that I made it out of there. I was top 10 percent of my class and only less than 8% of the ethnic diversity. The worst is when the physical and psychological hits are coming from your own people; I was called “preppy” “white boy” “white girl lover” and that was just from within my own household. Back then, do you know how satisfying and awfully sad it was for me to crave the moment when I could throw the same anti-black epithets at another nerdy black kid?
Hurt people hurt people. Also, ignorance breeds violence. Misinformation sparks witch hunts. Systems and silence suppress like a gun. My Asian, Indigenous, and Latinx brothers, sisters, and gender non-binary folx are fighting for their lives as well. White supremacy wins when we fight, hurt, and kill one another. The wear and tear, the war, the need for coalition is intersectional. You can’t talk about race without talking about class; you can’t talk about class without talking about gender. And so, the venn diagram is just that much more complex …
I remember hearing the phrase “ the war on drugs,” as my biological father got high on his own supply. Now, as I have become a bit more aware and more well-read, I want to wage war on white supremacy, capitalism, and (white) patriarchy and (white) feminism— a war that must be fought on so many fronts and with so many allies. I would rather stand with with you and partner with you than stand in front of you and fight you. We can’t let the mechanisms of these systems turn us into hate machines let alone war machines. And I know what I just said seems hypocritical, but I am down to fight with my words, my money, my community, and maybe my hands and my feet if need be. I don’t have to ball up my fists; I can open my hands and point advocates and allies in a new direction. I don’t have to kick anyone while they’re down; I can vote with my feet and take my black excellence elsewhere.
And lastly, I want to give thanks to Fred Hampton; one of our greatest weapons in this war is our solidarity.
So, to all the people I hurt:
Recognize the fatigue. The friction. The fights. The fatalities. Reframe. The faith. The follow-through. The fulfillment. The fellowship.