07/08/2016 by syrbal-labrys
I sometimes wonder, as I apparently transform into a soft-brained old woman, how people go to work and school. I’ve been struggling since the Orlando massacre. Each day’s routine is a wee bit harder to face. And I know why some folks avoid the news — so they can go about their daily life without feeling broken, shattered, helpless, guilty, hopeless, frantic, infuriated, murderous….and a whole gamut of less describable emotions on the side.
White men with guns are frequently arrested, even after killing people. Black men, or other men of color — even women of color — end up battered at best, and dead at worst whether or not they are actually holding a weapon in their hands.
What I don’t fully understand, since I am one of those super-focused type of individuals; is the reaction like Dallas saw — twelve cops shot. It wasn’t a Dallas cop who killed the man on the ground in front of his car, or the man in the car with his mate and child, was it? Why do frantic furious people kill just anyone available? That makes no sense to me: kill the guilty, sure — but I know I would not be satisfied to just kill any old blue uniform if a cop killed my son, my brother, my husband. It is like rioters burning and destroying neighborhoods they live in – hell, trekking “uptown” and burn down the banks would make more sense, wouldn’t it?
I’m white. I don’t think my son is at risk, do I? Or do I? My tall muscled Nordic looking son with tattoos might look pretty fucking scary to a cop; he could be mistaken (oh-so-very wrongly) for one of those white separatist assholes and shot? With such thoughts, I wake most mornings and follow a routine that makes it harder and harder to want to wake up.
I have coffee in bed with my asthma meds. While that works on my morning cough, I briefly scan the news. My son, on his way to work chats at the bedroom door – sometimes telling me the latest new revolving hell before my phone takes me there. I’ve wept, quietly, almost every morning for the past two weeks. I wept this morning, for cops in Dallas and their families.
But, yes – there is always a but – while those cops were innocent of the latest bevy of uncountable black deaths at blue gun-holding hands? Others are not. And yet, most are found “justified” and are unpunished. Unpunished for being afraid and killing someone out of FEAR. Because let’s be clear here, that IS what they say: “I was in fear for my life.” And that is good enough if one is in a blue uniform.
Mind you, it was not good enough when a black woman shot into the AIR because she feared her restraining order ignoring abusive husband — she went to jail even though she didn’t kill the bastard, or even wound him. Being afraid for HER life was not justification enough for scaring a man using a gun. So why is it good enough reason for a cop to kill a man?
If a soldier – a troop at WAR, mind you – shoots someone while in fear for his/her life, and it turns out that person was not actually the enemy? Do I really need to tell you what hell rains into his/her life? When the media and population at large was outraged by stressed, too-often-shot-at-troops pissing on an already dead body? Imagine if soldiers were so “unprofessional” (as killers, yet) as to shoot someone while in fear for their lives? Yet, for a cop, shooting anyone not white as the driven snow? It is a sufficiently good reason.
So, I finish my coffee and stumble out of bed, wiping tears from my eyes. If I were black? I have to tell you, I don’t believe I could function at all — knowing my son was on the road patrolled by cops, on his innocent way to work to pay his bills. I change into my work out wear and go to do yoga in my living room. My cuckoo-clock’s pendulum/tick marks my labored breathing as I do my Vinyasa work out, straining as more tears squeeze out my eyes. I try to anchor into my movements and away from the screaming in my mind. I work harder, feeling the pain ripping along thighs and back, ribs and belly. My routine, my ritual of pain amidst the ruins of race relations in my nation.
The pain clears my head as the coffee cleared my bronchial chambers. My memory makes laser lines in my brain. My heart beat, steadied and calmed by yoga picks up again.
I quit school once, in the 4th grade. The military had moved us to Louisiana. My first day in school, in January 1964, the teacher led the salute to the flag. Then she said, in her strong Georgia accent, “All you children who hate niggers raise your hands!” I was so shocked I literally remember thinking I might pee my pants. I was frozen. I not only wouldn’t raise my hand — I’m not sure I could have done so. So it continued until March, every day. I never raised my hand. Nobody played with me at recess while I stood in rain beneath trees. Nobody sat beside me on the crowded bus, while black children rode to their allegedly “separate but equal” school in their separate and clearly unequal “bus” — an open pick up truck bed. My grades fell from straight A’s to F’s. I begged my mother to let me skip school and she agreed. I restarted school in the 5th grade in Tacoma, Washington the next fall.
I thought that was behind me, behind us. It is a bitterness and a grief as old age comes upon me with the news that it is getting worse day by day. How can we let fear rule our lives and END the lives of so many young black men and women? How can WE terrorize our own citizens of color, and those of the Muslim religion based on our fears? When the hell did Americans become such fucking fearful spineless cowards that even those in blue uniforms have to shoot anything that frightens them?
You might say it is easy to ask that since I’ve never been on the receiving end of a gun? Well, there you are wrong. My father, a frightened white man with a lot of guns, routinely threatened to kill my mother AND the rest of us “when and if I get tired of this shit”. For decades of my adult life, I shuddered when the doorbell rang and I didn’t know who was on the other side of that door. So yes, I fucking know what it is to fear a bullet will end my life and my children’s lives. But I never changed my views, I argued with my father – even when he was drunk and dangerous. I banked on his fragile affection, didn’t I? But I also was clear that I would die rather than submit to fear and turn against what I believed was right. And frankly, I believe that is why he did NOT shoot me: precisely because I did not back down. I did NOT “negotiate” with HIS terrorism. So why, oh why, does America “negotiate” with fear and terror FROM Americans with guns? In OR out of uniform?
This IS what an American looks like. Why the hell do I feel so lonely saying so?