Part 2: Dear white people, we need to talk about Charlottesville

Content note: white supremacy, violence, police violence.
Note 1: This is PART TWO of a two-part post.  I had a lot to say and it got long.  Sorrynotsorry.  You can read PART ONE here.
Note 2: This post has kind of a playlist associated with it. I sing to calm myself sometimes, and music is powerful and healing. The songs here (with YouTube links) were ones going through my head, or that I heard/sang with others yesterday.

*****

I am standing outside in the parking lot, bearing witness and ready to assist if needed.  People are coming in to the medic tent injured.  They are covered in pepper spray and tear gas.  Their eyes are closed and they’re being led by their friends, gently, tenderly.  We’re going to go to the left, I hear.  About five steps and then there’s a curb.  Step up.  You got this.  We’re almost there.   The medic’s hose is ready, still running from the last person they hosed down. 

The white supremacists, the Nazis, the alt-right, the fascists walk by in a large group.  They’re wearing helmets and vests and carrying weapons: bats, rifles, guns.  They’re carrying flags: swastikas, Confederate flags, Trump.  They’re young white men.  My age.  You can feel the hate rolling off of them in waves.

There is a noise in the left corner of the parking lot.  Something gets thrown.  There is a flurry of activity: yelling, more throwing, bodies moving quickly.  And then, above it all, a gun is raised above the crowd: GET BACK.

LOCKDOWN LOCKDOWN LOCKDOWN people start yelling.  Into the church quickly, move quickly, we’re on lockdown.  I’m behind a woman with mobility concerns and she’s moving slowly.  There’s a bottleneck at the door, and I’m looking behind me to see if my friends are there.  We get in the church quickly, the doors are closed and locked, I sit in a pew and breathe, listening for gunshots. 

 There are none.

 I open my palms and breathe and pray.  And pray.  And pray.

 Prepare me to be a sanctuary
pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
sanctuary for you.
 (“Sanctuary” performed by Jessy Dixon)

*****

Walking this path is messy.
By that I mean, I mess it up.
By that I mean, I don’t know how to do this work.
I listen, or I try to, to people of color.
I listen, or I try to, when I am messing something up.

Lauren Zuniga, a spoken word poet, wrote these words in her poem, “Confessions of an Uneducated Queer,” which I have quoted before:

“We do not all have access to the most helpful words.  I was afraid to write this because I didn’t want to fuck it up.  Writing poems about things you don’t really know a lot about can be very problematic.  But not writing poems about things you’re afraid to fuck up can also be very problematic.  The world is problematic – please, fuck it up.

…this is for all of you creating a safe space for me to fuck it up…Thank you.”

(But, let’s fuck it up on white people’s time, using white people’s energy and not the energy of people of color, ok?  We need to learn to call each other out and in and up).

The only thing that matters is that we’re walking.  Consistently.  Without ceasing.

Come on and raise your voice above the raging seas
we can’t hold our breath forever when our brothers cannot breathe.
Come on and raise your voice above the raging seas
we can’t hold our breath forever when our sisters cannot breathe.

 …All good people won’t you come around?
Won’t you come around?  Won’t you come around and
hold up each other?
(Delta Rae, “All Good People”)

*****

We’re on lockdown in the church.  The minister of First United Methodist comes in at 2:45.

 Just so you’re aware, the next thing on their agenda….its…they said that at 3:00 they are planning to “torch the Jews.”  The synagogue is about a block away.

 My eyes instantly fill with tears.  I’ve held it together thus far, but this.  Fear fills me, along with images of my father, my grandmother, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins.  I imagine my great-grandmother coming to the US by herself and starting a life here alone, not even knowing the language.  I imagine they will somehow know I have Jewish heritage.  I don’t know how: I just imagine them knowing, like they can smell it, like a bloodhound.  Fear that is not from my lived experience floods my body.

I am a gay, half-Jewish woman and I calm myself with the knowledge that I “look” straight and not obviously Jewish.  The privilege of passing slaps me in the face and I feel guilty and relieved and angry and confused. 

I wonder what my grandmother would say if she knew I was sitting in a church with Nazis outside with a plan to torch the Jews.  I wonder what my great-grandmother would have said. 

When Trump was elected, I had a conversation with a Jewish friend in which she expressed frustration about her boyfriend’s lack of outrage.  I think there’s something that gets in your body, something that’s passed down.  There’s something in me that just responds differently.  Like I know what could happen, what might happen, what will happen, even though I’ve never lived it. 

I sing the song my great-uncle taught me.  Quietly, under my breath.

L’dor vador, l’dor vador, l’dor vador nagid gadlecha…
(From generation to generation, we will tell of your greatness)

 I don’t know what all the words mean.
It calms me anyway.

 (Listen to this beautiful version by Josh Nelson, which is quite different from the version I learned, obviously, but brings me to tears anyway)

*****

Have you read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle?

The three magical characters take the protagonists to another planet, in search of their father.  Along the way, they stop on a planet with a Medium and ask her to show them Earth.  The Medium says:

“Oh, why must you make me look at unpleasant things when there are so many delightful ones to see?”  Again Mrs. Which’s voice reverberated through the cave.  “Therre will nno llonggerr bee sso many pplleasanntt thinggss too llookk at iff rressponssible people ddo nnott ddoo ssomethingg abboutt thee unnppleassanntt oness.”

Upon looking at Earth, the protagonists see a Dark Thing shrouding the planet and become frightened.

“But what is it?” Calvin demanded.  We know that it’s evil, but what is it?”  “Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt!” Mrs. Which’s voice rang out.  “Itt iss Eevill.  Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!”  “But what’s going to happen?” Meg’s voice trembled.  “Oh, please, Mrs. Which, tell us what’s going to happen!”  “Wee wwill cconnttinnue tto ffightt!”

White people: a Dark Thing called white supremacy is shrouding our country.  It is evil, and when we see it removed from ourselves in its purest form, it is frightening.

Please, do not continue to ask what will happen, what we should do.  Please do not sink into inertia and despair.

We will continue to fight.

many cranes.jpg

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