“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
by Maya Angelou
I’ve been wanting to write this particular blog post for a while now, but I’ve always failed to put it into words.
I am convinced that the reason I’m hesitant to write is because I’m trying to vocalize something that is not my story to tell, or probably because I believe that I’m not in possession of accurate knowledge or similar experience to share my thoughts or beliefs. I’m also in desperate need of being educated continuously. Still, the words of others need to be heard.
With Covid-19 in the air, the world is in a complete state of disorder and confusion. If you aren’t personally affected by the disease, you know someone who might be. It is similar to Racism. If you are not affected by it, you’re probably the one enabling it, or patiently waiting for it to make its way out of the headlines. Well, it’s not going anywhere. It never has, it never will. It exists, and it will keep thriving, until we, you, and me, put a stop to it. As insisted on by Rosa Parks: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”
As a white, cisgender, queer woman, I cannot even try to comprehend the struggles that those affected by Apartheid, race separation, police brutality, slavery, and racism have endured. I don't even actually know the whole truth. “Truth is on the side of the oppressed:” Malcolm X. I’ve been fortunate enough to be excluded from the violence, and abuse, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, born in a skin-tone that didn’t automatically indicate prejudice or bias. That doesn’t mean I should allow myself to sit back quietly. I’m ashamed to have been silent for as long as I have. This has been an unjust battle. It’s time to take the fight to those who’ve been affluent, and excluded from racism. Not just economical racism and social racism but every kind of racism that can be identified. It’s time to be allies, protectors, voices. It’s time to be completely, utterly, without exemptions: equal. As vocalized by spokesperson and leader of the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, Sir Martin Luther King: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
So I’m sure by now most of the readers will utter: “but, ALL LIVES MATTER!” It’s true, all lives do matter, but it’s also true that all lives won’t matter until black lives matter, all lives won’t matter until trans lives matter! All lives won’t matter, until they do, and currently there are too many lives stripped from significance. As for Police Brutality, that is a separate blog post, and I’m already working on it.
Like I previously stated; I am not at all educated enough to speak on behalf of those that need a voice the most, so instead, I’ll use this blog to emphasize words that have already been uttered-some even before I was born-all in the hope that now, you, the reader, would actually pay attention.
As quoted by the wise, outspoken, Maya Angelou: “Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It's very clear."
Maya Angelou, acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and poet. Maya refused to talk for years as a result of being molested as a child. It’s clear that she found her voice though, and its definitely worth paying attention to. “I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.”
She has written a couple of autobiographies which I would advocate for. Another important quote from Maya: "It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
Pat Parker’s poetry speaks about her tough childhood growing up in poverty, dealing with sexual assault and the murder of her sister. One of my favourite poems written by Pat:
the Black teacher
in the Black school
in the Black part
of the very white town
who stopped us
when we attacked
the puppet principal
the white Board
illustrated with cartoons
& words of wisdom
written by white
children in the
other part of town
of hanging niggers —
the bill of rights
was written to
Or “I want to resign; I want out.
I want to march to the nearest place
Give my letter to a smiling face.
I want to resign; I want out.”
Another voice that I find inspiring and truthful is that of Audre Lorde. She states in her novel that Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to humanity. She also states that there are certainly very real differences between race, age, and sex, but that it is not those differences that separates us. She argues that it is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which results from misnaming, human behaviour and expectation.
Octavia Butler, suffering from dyslexia and quickly frustrated by the lack of people she could identify with, chose to expressed herself in evocative novels featuring race, sex, power and humanity. One of my favourite lines that she wrote is: “People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn’t bother me. It’s other people doing the calling that bothers me.” I think this is what Toni Morrison meant when she said: “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” These lines are specifically powerful in today’s circumstances when a woman, who was born a man, is refused healthcare, in a time of Covid-19, in a time of dire need, just because they’ve decided to define or call themselves whatever they want to. I’m not questioning anyone’s morals here, you have a right to your own opinion, but when it comes to another, don’t you believe they have a right to their own choices, or beliefs too? Why are some people applauded for their beliefs while others are exiled and frowned upon?
Alice Walker’s words: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” Aren't black people forced into silence? Aren't trans men and women being denied the right to grow? And how do you feel about this? Because I feel angry. And I’m sure those being silenced, those being suppressed or denied, and those being treated without human decency or respect are even angrier. Honestly, I can’t blame them. They should be angry, and If you are not angry with us, you are the ones that we are angry with.
We should allow everyone an equal chance in this lifetime, and if we’re not in possession of the power to allow that chance, we should rise and demand it. The first step would be to give a voice to those who actually know what they are fighting for. Free speech should be encouraged and we should listen. Not listen to react, but listen to respond. I’ve recently spoken to a close friend, and we’ve discussed the human being’s tendencies to react, without responding. We might act this way because we were taught to, or our circumstances led us to be defensive. Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her alias, Bell Hooks, stated that the core of any movement for freedom in society has to be grounded in protecting free speech, and I myself has been witness to free speech being taken away from someone, someone who might’ve actually had something meaningful to say. Gloria also added that it is in the act of having to do things that you don’t want to do that you learn something about moving past the self, past the ego. It is time for us to learn, to move past our egos and past the knowledge we as white people have been taught. If the aliens from movies are real, then isn’t it more believable that the stories from these people begging for equality are also real? As quoted by Roxane Gay: “Books are often far more than just books.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer, said that the only reason people say that race isn’t a problem is because they wish it was not. Social media has made it incredibly easy to prove that racism is real. To prove that some people are racist, horrible and uncaring towards others. We’ve seen it with our own eyes over and over again, still there is denial towards this enormous issue. I’ve heard so many people say something in the lines of “I’m not a racist, my best friend is black,” or “My mother is from Taiwan, I can’t possibly be racist,” or “I am not racist, these other people are.” Chimamanda says, and I agree: “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.” We can’t fight to stop to racism because we might gain something from it. We must fight to end racism because so many has lost because of it. “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed:” Sir Martin Luther King.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” Angela Davis said: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” I believe it is important for all of us to evoke change. Racism has took too much, from too many. It is time to listen, it is time to act. It is time to change. “I think that change happens, typically not because somebody on high decides that it’s going to happen, but rather because at a grassroots level enough people come together that they force the system to change:” Barack Obama.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was absolutely righteous when saying “It is only when all black groups join hands and speak with one voice that we shall be a bargaining force which will decide its own destiny.” I believe it is up to you and me to accompany her and join hands with the black community, and those who have previously, and are currently still oppressed.
There is so much more to be said. I’ve attached numerous sources such as articles and books which can be beneficial if you are willing to educate yourself. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world:” Nelson Mandela. Most of these works have been in existence from even before I was born. This is enough proof that some people decide to turn a blind eye, or just refuse to believe or even listen to stories that they haven’t been raised on. Information has existed all along. It is us who haven’t opened ourselves up to it. In the famous words of Sir Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I stand with people of all race and all sexual orientations. I will fight for you. I will fight with you. I will scream for you. Here’s my voice!
Here is the list. In no particular order:
Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases by Ida B. Wells
This Will be my Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States by Ida B. Wells
The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
We were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The First White President by Ta-Nesi Coates
The Idea of America by Nicole Hannah-Jones
1619 Project by New York Times
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Many Thousands Gone by James Baldwin
A Report from Occupied Territory by James Baldwin
Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action by Audre Lorde
Just Walk on By by Brent Staples
I was Pregnant and in Crisis. All the Doctors and Nurses Saw was an Incompetent Black Woman by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Thick: And other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
I’m From Philly. 30 Years Later, I’m Still trying to Make Sense of the MOVE Bombing by Gene Demby
The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl Popper
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Wills
The Language of Genes by Steve Jones
The Ordeal of Integration by Orlando Patterson
The Ethics of Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khali Gibran Muhammad
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
When they call you a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
Don’t Call us Dead by Danez Smith
Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker by Sinister Wisdom
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison
Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in San Francisco by Savannah Shange
Strangers in their own Land by Arlie Hochschild
New People by Danzy Senna
Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles by Kelly Lythe Hernandez
Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction and Beyond in Clack America by Manning Marable
Racism: A Short History by George Fredrickson
There are a lot more, but I’m sure these will keep you busy for now. If you are feeling in an educational mood, and still want to learn, here are some sources that I have been looking at for my next blog on Police Brutality.
When Police Kill by Franklin E. Zimming
Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution and Imprisonment
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
Police Brutality by Gregory Ashe
Things you won’t say: A Novel by Sarah Pekkanen
Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler