Ready To Die

It was all good just a week ago. Seven days ago my social media feeds looked quite different. People in my circle were discussing the Kylie Jenner challenge and whether or not $50 was too much for a man to spend on a woman’s meal. Among the Black women in my circle, there was frustration that only 100 people showed up to march for Rekia Boyd in New York City. Then the mainstream media picked up on the situation in Baltimore, began their sensationalist coverage and all hell broke loose. And as usual, Americans have hopped on their preferred bandwagon.

I cannot pretend to be surprised by any of this. Back in November, I said to myself that it would only be a matter of time before we arrived at this junction again. Another incident of police brutality would end up in the spotlight. The right-wing echo chamber would prattle on about thugs. My people would rush to the defense of their prizethe heterosexual, cis-gendered African-American male. I should be used to this Pavlovian conditioning but it is still fascinating to observe. I can’t think of any other issue which provokes this level of wrath from my people.

It’s a different day in America but we are dealing with the same issues. There are younger players on the stage but we are following the same script. Twenty-three years after the riots in Los Angeles another American city is burning, and I’m bewildered by those who seem to think this is a novel occurrence.

No this is not a scene from Baltimore this week; it is Los Angeles in 1992/
No this is not a scene from Baltimore this week; it is Los Angeles in 1992.

If you let some folks on social media tell it this is the beginning of the end! The fall of the American republic is imminent! The revolution is on! I don’t see how a revolution is afoot when the economy, military, and political structure of the United States all remain firmly in the hands of the ruling class. As such it is hard to take those making such pronouncements seriously.

The level of delusion pushed by these armchair activists wouldn’t be as disturbing if children were not involved.  Yes, I said children because that’s who I see in the images coming out of Baltimore.

Baltimore

I will not heap judgment on them, for I honestly don’t feel I have the right to. I cannot tell them that their anger, frustration, and hopelessness is unjustified. I can’t even tell them that I truly understand what they go through. I’ve lived the majority of my life in Seattle, and we simply don’t have the entrenched inequality and racism here that is seen in other regions of the nation. My peeps who visit from cities like NYC and Chicago have expressed utter shock at how ‘nice’ our housing projects are and how safe our ‘hood’ is compared to their hometown. So I won’t even pretend to know the lives of these youth intimately.

But I most certainly will come for the heads of the adults outside of the region cheering these children on as they face a heavily militarized police force, armed with nothing but rocks and adrenaline. I loathe in growing inequality in my country, but the mother in me bristles at those who expect kids to be cannon fodder in that fight.

The position is very inconsistent. On one hand, these types are livid(rightfully so in my opinion)when African-American minor children are treated like adults by law enforcement and school officials. Yet they applaud children taking on an adult role in protests and uprising. It is illogical to demand that others treat your young gently while simultaneously exalting them as ready for war.

I cannot esteem those in my community who would beam with pride as African-American children face tear gas and assault at the hand of a police force and National Guard that they are not trained to deal with. I cannot follow and respect those who demand the women of our community consciously place themselves in danger. We are all supposed to unflinchingly be ready to die for a vague notion of liberation, to spill our blood at the drop of a dime in service to a movement with no leader, discipline or organization.

But the truth is that I’m not about that life.  I’m not going to spill my blood recklessly, to pour out the only life I have and leave my child motherless.  I don’t believe in this cause and have little patience for the false bravado being currently exhibited in conversation. Encourage our youth to engage in suicidal actions? Coax the women of our community, those who will bear and raise the next generation, into the line of fire? Demand that one be ready to die for the sake of the ‘revolution’? I will have no part in that. I’m not ready to die. I choose to live, and in doing so not foolishly squander what I have, this gift made possible by the endurance of my ancestors, this freedom that they couldn’t see.

Posted by

A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

7 thoughts on “Ready To Die

  1. I feel like their is a lot of bitterness in this post, and not exactly constructive bitterness, or at least impassioned hope. First, people are judged for having superficial discussions as if anyone should or even healthily can only discuss one topic, or serious topics at all times.
    Then, when it comes to the public’s reaction for Black men vs Black women, rather than tackle that as a system of a bigger problem (patriarchal elevation of cisheteronormative manhood), you’d rather just toss your hands in the air and say “Women are still not getting attention, so I wash my hands of the fight in its entirety.” This isn’t a solution, it’s a white flag. The only way to change this is to make the plight of our sisters more visible, and do our part to strengthen our communities.
    One point that people always miss, too, is that when Black males are killed, the very combination of their race and gender is used to dehumanize both them and the Black community by association. This isn’t just a struggle for our civil rights, it’s a fight to reclaim our humanity and dignity. This burnout, disillusionment, what have you, and denouncing a cause rather than work to change the problems therein is the real reason why we are still fighting the same fights decades after the first protestors, rioters, and freedom fighters put on their marching shoes, because so many of us turn on backs on anything that can’t give us what we want, when and how we want it, and we lose interest in working at fixing what’s broken within those systems.

    Everyone is exhausted. Everyone. And no sane person would tell anyone to put themselves or their children on the line, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for my sisters and brothers who ARE risking it to be heard, as well as those who are participating in long-term, carefully planned boycott of corporations who don’t care about us. I’m not advocating “ride or die”, but I do know that when slaves were emancipated, everyone got out of chains, not just Black men. So if it takes a dead Black man to incite our communities to rally, so be it. Because if we get what we are asking for, ALL Black people will win.

  2. Then, when it comes to the public’s reaction for Black men vs Black women, rather than tackle that as a system of a bigger problem (patriarchal elevation of cisheteronormative manhood), you’d rather just toss your hands in the air and say “Women are still not getting attention, so I wash my hands of the fight in its entirety.” This isn’t a solution, it’s a white flag. The only way to change this is to make the plight of our sisters more visible, and do our part to strengthen our communities.”

    If my words come across as a white flag so be it. So much of what Black women have been asking for within our own community is not new. We are having the same discussions that free Black women were having in the North in the 1850s. I would rather focus on the micro level; at least there I am more likely to see improvement.

  3. So if it takes a dead Black man to incite our communities to rally, so be it. Because if we get what we are asking for, ALL Black people will win.”

    No that is actually the problem! We get incited and rally-impressively I might add-in the immediate wake of incidents of police brutality, but we don’t sustain the energy needed to move ourselves forward. Each time it just ends up being an opportunity to release steam and that is it. If we can’t bring that same level of zeal and fire to building our community all the time then we are condemned to relive this cycle over and over. We have rallied over dead Black men so many times and then we just go back to the status quo. I’ve been watching this since 1991.

    1. Also: I absolutely do not agree that all Black people win if we get what we were asking for. If we woke up tomorrow and all race-based inequality in the United States was gone I would STILL have to live with the deeply entrenched patriarchy in our community that threatens Black women’s physical and mental health.

Leave a Reply