"I'm glad I had lunch with you guys today," I said. "I'm having trouble with my anxiety because of what's happening in Ferguson."
That we were well into our lunch was not lost on me. It's all I can think of when I see other people: that I want to talk about it, that it's like the sixties out there, that it's still happening and so many white people still think the protests are unfounded at worst or an overreaction at best. But I didn't immediately launch into it because of my white privilege. I wanted to talk about it but I waited for my window, even knowing these friends felt the same way that I did about it all. Because I wasn't positive they'd want to talk about it.
She asked me why I didn't write about the anxiety. I thought to myself because Stacy Morrison already did it so well, and also because I don't want to co-opt the pain for myself when it is not my pain. My pain is watching their pain, and it seems selfish to claim my pain. I didn't say that part, though. I don't know why.
I feel like I felt after Hurricane Katrina when I saw all those black people standing on bridges, shielding their babies from the hot sun, squished into that dome, stuck.
And then white people focused on any little bad thing those black people did while they were stuck instead of pulling them out faster.
She called me this morning to say she'd been thinking of our conversation. We'd talked about how there is racial tension and even genocide going on all over the world. We'd talked about the Holy Land and Ukraine. We talked about this again, and I wanted to cry and I said, "But this is happening HERE. This is my country and we are supposed to be better than this. We get up on our high horse and police the world but look at this."
She said yes. And the Declaration of Independence was written by a slave owner.
And we sat with that, we white ladies.
She told me this ability to feel is a gift. And it is, it's what helps me to write this post and the novel about the girl with anorexia and a lot of other things that were so raw and hard to write about. I know that it is a gift. That I can't look away sometimes becomes a problem when I let it paralyze me from taking useful action. Someone very smart who works with a population who have had it very rough told me you have to let it flow through you. You can't let it stop with you. You just have to open yourself up and feel it and show it to others.
Here. Here is the pain.
It's about Mike Brown, but it's also about all of it, everything. Being followed, being pulled over, being misrepresented on the 6 o'clock news, being told what you can and can't wear, being told to hunch so you don't look threatening, having to produce ID when the white woman in front of you didn't have to, having your receipt checked with a side-eye. I don't have all the links and if I go looking for them I might not have the energy to push publish, so please believe me that those posts are real and those things really happened to people who are not white.
I say a lot that I took the red pill six years ago when Kelly Wickham asked me why there were no black people in SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK. The whole event knocked me so hard on my ass I could barely get back up. It was like seeing scaffolding where before I saw buildings. I saw what is underneath, what is not part of my daily experience, both the overt and the covert.
Sometimes I try to talk about race with white people in my daily life, and I see their mouths tighten and their eyes glaze over and I know that they will turn away because they can, because the ability to not talk about it is white privilege. It's not getting into the best school or getting the best job, it's getting to ignore things that happen to people who aren't white. It's not having to care.
People say to me all the time it'll change with this new generation, that they aren't like us. I don't know, though. Don't you suppose people in the sixties said that about their kids?
How many times does a little white girl have to watch the news or read the paper before she's scared of black men?
After 9/11 I developed a racist fear of brown men. At the time, I worked with dozens of brown men from India. Every time I got on a plane and saw brown men, I had to tell myself, just like Rajeev. Just like Rajeev. Just like Rajeev. I had to root my thoughts in a brown man I knew and liked and trusted, one of many, but the one I chose.
What if you don't know a black man?
These are my thoughts as I sit down I-70 a few hundred miles from the protests that continue in Ferguson. Once you take the red pill, you don't get to go back to absently pinning bento boxes and pretending a black body didn't lie on the pavement for four hours less than two weeks ago.
Once you take the red pill, you have to let the pain flow through you.
HERE IS MY PAIN.