A lot of thought (and pain) went into writing this one. As we’re focused on learning, in an attempt to make sure that I don’t skip anything, I’m going to basically go line by line… Well… Stanza by stanza*.
I told my oldest friend “there is not an emotion that comes to mind that I do not currently feel.”
I told one of my newest friends “I need time to gather my thoughts and maybe a little space to heal.”
So, I planned on writing something, but I was trying to wait until I was a little more emotionally stable. The death of Ahmaud hit me pretty hard. Then that Cooper video. And then the death of George Floyd. It just seemed like I couldn’t get over one thing before I was faced with another. Two of my friends reached out to me on the same day, a couple days after I watched the video… It made me realize that I wasn’t just writing this for myself, so I started writing.
No fault of their own, yet both offered an apology.
I wish there was more empathy, like this, in our society.
I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence, this is pretty self explanatory.
I can’t stand being defined as a color that doesn’t actually match my skin.
But when faced with the two, I understand preferring to be called “Black” over “African American”.
I’ve always had an issue with the race labels that we have. None of them feel right. Actually, I’d go a step further and say that all of them feel wrong.
Now my family is multiracial, so my version of “Us” is different from what you may think.
Still, with that said, some will dismiss it and give it less thought than it takes to blink.
I’ll probably write about this later, but it has always irked me when I’m talking to someone and they say “us” in reference to being Black. My son is mixed, but I grew up in a predominantly white area and had this viewpoint even before he was born. The “us” in this poem is those who stand against systemic, systematic, overt, and/or subtle racism.
Us. The one’s that you’d rather tweet at than be near.
You are not listening to Us. Or maybe you just don’t hear.
I feel like there have been a lot of internet warriors coming out of the woodwork lately. Especially the ones who like to tweet #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter. At this point, I’m not going to explain it, if you’re doing this you’re either ignorant or purposely inflammatory, either way I don’t have the time or patience for it.
Each time and each way we voiced our opinion you said was too loud.
So we lay, in silence. Under you. In front of a crowd.
Literally, every time someone has come out and asked for someone to address the racist issues we live with I have heard someone (or a group of someones) say that the way that they were doing it was wrong, and aggressive. Even the quiet sit-ins were too offensive. I likened it to George Floyd begging for help while three police officers pinned him to the ground and kept him there until he died. I wanted to further emphasize this with a pause before “and you take our breath”.
And you take our breath!
As this is one of the most recent public displays of police brutality, and it really hit me hard, I REALLY wanted the reader to pause and think the way that George Floyd was basically choked to death. Then I moved to the protests and how (for nuanced reasons) some protesters destroyed property and people spoke out against these rioters telling them to honor George’s death. I even heard a good bit of “think of MLK”, which is extremely ironic seeing as how he was assassinated.
We cry out for the system to stop devaluing lives and it responds by imploring Us to honor death.
Colin Kaepernick tries to bring attention to police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem and was called a SOB. There are 3 different occasions that immediately come to mind where police officers killed a Black man by pinning him to the ground, telling him to stop resisting, while he was telling them that he couldn’t breathe and begging for his life. All three were first reported as “resisting arrest”.
I am a “son of a bitch” on my knee, “resisting” on my stomach, and a “thug” on my feet.
I hear “we” on the air, but only see Us in the street.
This dying animal line just sort of came to me, and I’m really glad that it did. Some people start conversations with me about what’s going on simply so that they can segue into complaining about the looters. Maybe if we took the time to understand why they were looting we would be able to help them find another way. The focus should be on this reoccurring catalyst.
I understand but don’t condone the destruction. In fact, it makes most of Us sick.
But ignoring the cause is like being angry with a dying animal for its kick.
If riots and looting is good for one thing, that one thing is ‘conversation’. Good, bad, or indifferent, it demands both an audience and a discussion.
It’s wrong. Your life and livelihood should never be in danger as a result of an act that you didn’t commit.
But, before the fires that burned Us also touched you, how willing were you to talk and hear about it?
This next part is another self explanatory one.
I see guns pointed at the heads of people kneeling, as an “attempt to de-escalate”?
You arrive at peaceful protests in riot gear and are surprised when things escalate?
I tried to do the whole ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’ thing… I think it worked. Maybe? Part of the outrage was that once again police officers killed someone but weren’t brought in on criminal charges, which was/is shocking.
If dealing with a pandemic was hard, the system is a rock.
Those of Us in between beg for charges. Instead, we’re fed shock.
I didn’t understand electoral votes and gerrymandering until recently. I’m not going to go too deep into it here, but basically location plays a HUGE part in elections, to the point where they devalue the individual votes. In my revisions I’m going to try to work in “packing and cracking”, look it up.
We’re told that every vote counts, but you’re counting more on the ‘where’ than the ‘who’.
So the campaigns become more strategic than genuine, and more “I’m here” than “I’m here for you.”
I got a little bit more specific and at the time a little bit more abstract here. These are references to Amy Cooper calling the cops on the bird watcher for basically being black and “threatening” after he asked her to leash her dog in the ‘leashed dog only’ area of the park, and to Ahmaud Arbery going for a jog and being wrongfully executed by vigilantes who initially got away with the murder because of their law enforcement ties, and the NYPD cruisers running into protestors and claiming that they were surrounded and somehow couldn’t back up even though there’s video evidence to the contrary.
When we pointed out rules that you were breaking you reported Us to the law.
By you, we’re gunned down when we run. By them, we’re run over when we stand tall.
Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police while lying in bed as they bust into her house one night executing a no knock warrant in hopes of apprehending someone who lived at a different address and was already in police custody. MLK was assassinated a couple years after his “I have a dream” speech, but there’s a common misconception that the two happened at the same time, I kind of leaned into it here. Still, it can be argued that he was killed for his ‘dream’.
A wrong address, and you shoot Us in our bed.
A wrong dream, and you shoot Us in the head.
Hammers here is kind of a play on words, it also means guns. So we use guns to solve differences in lower class neighborhoods because (in part) of a lack of education. The neighborhoods are in need but not properly funded, for example getting a hammer to built/fix up a house but no nails or material to do it with.
They’re “our buildings” when they are destroyed, but don’t belong to Us when they’re intact.
That is, aside from those of Us in the ghettos, given hammers but no nails. Expectations, but no education, expected to be perfect when we act.
I like that we’re all in search of more information now. We just have to remember to share what we learn.
So for those of Us whom this reaches. For those questioning “what can I do?”
Either with my words or your own, you can start by finding someone who will listen to you.
In a way I kinda hope that as you read this you assumed that I was simply talking about the way Black people are treated. I used them as specific examples, for emphasis, but my message was still mainly about anti-racists versus racists and racist systems. I wanted you to forget that point while reading this to sort of drive home how easy it is for us to loose sight of what is really going on. And to kind of remind (and throw in our face a little) us of just how ignorant (and accepting of that ignorance) we as a whole have become.
Let me end this by reminding you that my “Us” is not solely Black.
Hopefully now you understand just how wrong it is that I needed to point out that fact.
Like everything else I put on my blog, this is just a first draft. I’ve already added stanzas where I talk about Juneteenth, indentured servants, lynchings, Black Wall Street, and taking land from Native Americans. I’m not sure where my stopping point will be. As I continue to learn about my history I’ll continue to add. And hopefully as I continue to revise this I can come up with more ways to expand on how others have been systematically mistreated. I want the “Us” to be direct and vague at the same time. Wish me luck with walking this tightrope.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.