Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free

With the disappointingly predictable grand jury decisions concerning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, these past two weeks have been trying, to say the least - there have been a lot of tears and a lot of outrage, but mostly, a lot of questions. It is undeniably maddening to live in a country - hell, a world - where not only your life but the lives of your mother, your father, your brothers, your sisters, and anyone who shares your skin color or looks like they are related to someone who does have so little value. How best to carry on? If I have children, they will be black. How can I bring them into a world that people and the institutions they serve are determined to remove them from? I’m ever grateful to my parents for teaching me how to dodge the figurative bullets of a white supremacist society - the inferiority complex that arises when constantly treated as though you are inherently less than, being bullied into silence or complacency, and buying into the belief that “white is right,” to name a few - but how to teach a child how to dodge literal bullets? As Ijeoma Oluo outlined in a devastating string of tweets, it seems as though there’s not much one can do as a black person to avoid it. What can we do? I haven’t figured this out quite yet. With the recent news of yet another unarmed black man killed by a police officer, we need to work on solutions to this problem urgently. This section from James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son,” which I posted on Facebook last week following the Ferguson grand jury decision, bears reposting because it’s a good place for us to start:
"It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength."

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Maira Gall