31. Fuck Your Statues

Like you didn’t think Jefferson Davis was an 80s rock band

Like they stand for anything

Like they don’t mean something

Like there’s no difference between saying “My life matters, you’re treating me like it doesn’t” and saying “My race is superior to yours and all other races”

Like some of them were good people

Like we’ve ever been in the business of honoring our vanquished foes

Like there’s glory in that flag

Like there’s glory in that south

Like they’re beautiful

Like Black isn’t beautiful

Like I’m not writing with this with my teeth gritted & Nina Simone playing at top volume

Like we need them to remember

Like being worried you might forget about slavery isn’t its own privilege

Like Black people might accidently forget that slavery happened or

how you really feel

Like racism is a character flaw we should overlook

Like the Civil War was a minor disagreement

Like the outcome was ambiguous

Like you don’t want a nigger

Like Beyoncé isn’t real

Like there aren’t history books

Like those men are heroes

Like you aren’t the replacements

Like maybe you have a point

Like white supremacy is a possibility

any open-minded, thinking person ought consider

Like there are pros and cons to be weighed

Like race isn’t a con

Like white isn’t simply the absence of color

Like white is a solution

Like Black men aren’t out here getting shot or incarcerated

Like Black blood didn’t water your poplar trees

Like tiki torches are threatening

Like you aren’t crying white tears on Youtube

Like Carolyn Bryant wasn’t lying

Like Black girls aren’t magic

Like you ain’t scared

Like Curry ain’t shit

Like you ain’t still mad about Obama

Like Black Twitter isn’t just Twitter

Like there’s a white Whitney Houston

Like you invented jazz

Like hip-hop didn’t happen

Like you know how to rap

Like you don’t love Denzel Washington

Like your wives are satisfied

Like your husbands are

Like you don’t watch Scandal

Like we aren’t post-Michael Jackson

Like we aren’t out here reclaiming our time

Like you aren’t out here looking stupid

Like we haven’t already had this conversation

 

 

 

 

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30. Current Events

If this isn’t the country you know, what country did you know? What did it look like to you last week, last month, last year, your whole life?

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I grew up in Northern Indiana in a town of something like 50,000 people. Perhaps five miles south of the house I grew up in was an even tinier community called Osceola. I have no memory of a time before I associated the name of that community with outright racism, and the Ku Klux Klan in particular. There, as late as 2001, when I was still in high school, a local Grand Dragon was making headlines and neighbors uneasy for hosting nightly symposiums where he and “sympathizers” would gather to “shoot guns, play games, and burn crosses.” We’ve always said that Indiana is the south of the north, and it’s true: less than 100 miles east of Chicago, the third largest city in the nation, the KKK flourishes. This is a knowledge I grew up with, one that prevented me from ever separating the images of white men assembling in sheets and hoods I saw in history books or the sound of Billie Holiday’s voice as she sang Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze from my present existence. The knowledge kept me, as a child, from an ability to watch Mississippi Burning or American History X without suffering night terrors and fueled a scholarly interest that bordered on obsession in slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights Movement. How does anyone interpret American history as anything other than an indictment, for the record, against whiteness? It is a fact that as a child I had frequent, Roots-based nightmares about slavery. That I hung a poster of Martin Luther King, Jr., over my bed, a totem to ward off white devils.

In junior high a boy in my class told me he would never have sex with a black girl or even want to see one naked. This was the same year that Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King kidnapped James Byrd, Jr., and beat him before chaining him to the back of their pick-up truck and dragging him for two miles to his death.

The notion that there could ever be “two sides” to a story involving white supremacist IS a racist notion. The President has basically said, “Whoa, let’s slow down, maybe they have a point.”

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Yet David Benioff and D.B. Weiss still want to make a prestige drama about the drama unfolding in our streets. I’m sorry, I mean they want to make a prestige drama that speculates, What if the slavery were still a thing?

At work not long ago I said that black men were out here getting shot simply for driving cars and a white girl who was mad about her diet said, “Oh, only for driving cars?” In a similar vein, a few days later, a different white girl put her forearm against mine and declared herself darker than me. Virtually every day someone accuses me of being sassy.

Over the weekend, a group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Confederate traitors to the Union — not all of them bad people, according to the President — gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest, apparently, that Jews and black people and people of color exist. One of them ran down a crowd of counter-protesters with his car, killing Heather Heyer. This week on Facebook there are actual people defending all this as a matter of free speech.

Sometimes I think there is no such thing as history, only current events.