When I think of home, I think of a place where there's love overflowing. I wish I was home... -- "Home"
A week ago I was on Vandeventer at a bar. I tossed back whiskey and soda and felt my belly burn. The burn made me smile. My friends made me laugh, and we danced to a club mix of a song, the same mix we had heard the week before. A week ago I didn't know his name. Mike Brown. But now I do. He has crawled into my mind and made a home. He looms large, representing nearly all that it means to be young and black and live in America. To be black in America, to be a black man in America, to be a black woman in America, to be a black queer person in America means that there is no such thing as "twice as hard to get half as far." To be any of these things in America is to be forced into satisfying a demand for perfection. Anything less and the ticket may be payed with blood and tissue and bone.
Tonight I went into my father's study and while he sat at his desk, the news flashing blue and red police lights on the screen, and I said: "There is nothing we can do. There is no clothing we can wear, no amount of eduction, no place where we can live that can save us from the fact that when some see us, all they see is 'some thing' and not 'someone.' Nothing to protect us from the possibility, very real, that he could easily be any one of us. We are not safe. This is our country, our home but, we are not safe." My father, his shoulders a little slumped, took in some breath, sighed, and curled his finger over his top lip in that way he does when he has no answer, no salve to make it better.
Mike Brown loomed large in my mind tonight.
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck/for rain to gather, for the wind to suck/For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop/Here is a strange and bitter crop. -- "Strange Fruit"
He was shot six times. The shots came from a distance. He was shot six times. All the bullets were frontal. He was shot six times. Four shots were to his right arm. He was shot six times. Two shots were to his head. He was shot six times. One of the head shots was to the top of his head; Mike Brown was 6' 4."
He was killed with six bullets.
To get lost in your thoughts/Is a very very complex thought/And the things that you find are surprising -- "Sally Ride"
I cannot sleep. My room feels too warm. I'd open my window but it is sticky in Illinois tonight. Too many thoughts are competing in my mind. This week I will attend a meeting and be surrounded by folks who I can loosely call my colleagues, and while we will be acting as if everything is normal, in the back of my mind will be the thought that despite receiving the same education as them, despite being the same when we sit inside a classroom or a meeting, when we leave I face a reality that I could possibly not return the next day simply for existing while being black. This is a reality the vast majority of them do not face, cannot conceive. And while this was true before this past week, somehow it has become a harsher, firmer fact. A rock that I cannot seem to move. And, I am not sure the rock of knowledge should be moved.
Innocence and naiveté are very overrated qualities in some, but for the black child they are dangerous.
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people
~Langston Hughes, "My People"
People were out today showing support for Darren Wilson. The shooter. They were not called protestors, simply supporters. They were downtown. There were no militarized cars, guns aimed at them, barely any police presence. I wonder, "Were they downtown while we were in Ferguson?" And then, suddenly my mind races back to the rally.
Sitting in front of me were children, little children. And they behaved as children do, as I did when I was young and in church, half-paying attention, playing around with each other, applauding when the congregation did, standing when we did, and smiling. Big, toothy, gap-filled smiles spread across their faces. And I noticed their style. Their hair lovingly cared for, one's kinky with big twist-outs running down the middle of his head like a mohawk, and I remembered how I had tried to do the same with my hair to little success -- I didn't have the patience. I saw these children and wondered if they yet knew what the world, what America thinks of them? I wondered if it mattered.
It shouldn't but it is no exaggeration to say that our children's lives may depend on them knowing what America thinks of them.
Mike Brown's face appears in my mind and it is changing, constantly shifting, reflecting the smile of every black child I see. Shivers run up and down my spine.
I am America.
I am America seeking the stars.
~Langston Hughes, "America"