Sunday, August 13, 2017

About Charlottesville

This is (late) Essay #32 of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new (unpolished, totally messy!) essay each week during 2017.

What the fuck year are we living in? Is it 2017? Is it?? White supremacists marching with torches on Friday night – seriously? WTF? (Though, the humor is that they used tiki torches and well, the internets were having a field day with memes. Silver lining in everything, right?) A white man attending the white supremacist rally mows down people demonstrating against racism & fighting for social justice. Three people die; thrity-four (at last count) are injured. What. The. Fuck. Can we no longer gather to demonstrate and fight for what is right without risking our personal safety? Maybe we never had that safety. After all, like Roxane Gay has said: safety is an illusion we create for ourselves.

When I marched in January at the Women’s March, I was legitimately nervous for my safety. Heck, I’ve been wary of my personal safety since November 9th. But, I wanted and needed to be an example for my daughters. Here’s a question: why must I make that kind of decision? To stay home & feel safe or to go out & fight? No white woman had to make that decision. White women brought their kids to the march.

Now this. Charlottesville.

People of color were hurt, no doubt. A 32-year-old woman was killed. At the hands of a white man. Where is the denunciation of such acts of violence from Cheetoh?

 Where are our elected officials decrying this? Why is no one screaming “terrorists”?! I hear nothing from Capitol Hill. Crickets. (And if you are moved to correct me on technicality, resist the urge to do so. The response, on the whole, has been soft, at best.)

There’s a lot of rhetoric. There are a lot of things to be said. People are saying them. People are talking. But I don’t know how much listening is happening. I also don’t know how much talking is talking to ourselves. Further deepening the divide. 

(In my head, I’m asking: where the fuck are you, Obama? Fucking say something! You know people will listen. People will ignite with hope.)

I’m –I can’t even find the words— Heartbroken? Angry? Grief-stricken? Unmoored? Or simply broken?

What’s it going to take for real action to happen? Or is this country just going to explode? Taking the rest of the world with it?

What do I tell my kids? I don’t shield them from this shit, but I also talk to them in age appropriate ways. I have to be mindful of what I say and how I say it. How do I do that with this?


When will white people wake the fuck up? When will they stop making excuses? When will they step up and DO SOMETHING? (And I’m talking about the white folks who actually acknowledge there’s something wrong going on in this country. Not those white people who try to split hairs about what history is and what we need to preserve—like that Lee monument—not those white people who are telling people like me to relax. Those people can fuck off.)

I am beside myself.

I am not surprised by the events in Charlottesville yesterday. Given the escalating racial tensions since November 9th, all of the hate crimes that exploded in the days immediately after, and the violence in the months that have followed, no one should be surprised. But I am horrified and heartbroken, angry and outraged.

We are not seen as human beings. Not by these white supremacists. We are only objects to be run over by cars because we are in the way.

We cannot let this stop us from continuing to fight for justice. We cannot let fear silence us. We need to lift each other up and find our light.


Where do I begin?

This is to say: where do I begin to really incite change? Rallies and protests and demonstrations are all good ways to get physical, to put your body out there, to be seen and to demand to be seen. Petitions are good to get your name out in front of the people who make decisions. Writing essays like these are good, too. But what about in our daily lives? How do we, how do I spark change? In ways that are not only effective but also protect, to some extent, my own safety?

Scenario #1:

My parents and brother voted for Cheetoh. I have not had a sit-down with them to find out why. It puzzles me, but to be honest, I don’t want to know. The why doesn’t matter now. What I do want to know is how they feel. Right now. In this moment. Do they feel the same way? Do they still support Cheetoh? Do they even care that white supremacists are gathering in large numbers threatening their very existence? Do they even care that people fighting for justice were killed and injured yesterday? Or is it too far removed from their daily lives for them to even care? When will they start to care? When the Neo-Nazis are knocking down their door to take them away because they’re brown? At that point, though, is it too late?

How do I have this difficult conversation with them when listening has never been taught? Silence has always been our family modus operandi. How do I change that? How do I listen. And how do I do it with love and compassion?

What are the consequences of having these difficult conversations with my parents and brother? Am I willing to break the “peace” – whatever this “peace” is? What are the consequences of silence?

Should I just be focusing my attention on other more “political action” type items?

Scenario #2:

There are white women in my life who believe they are allies. Sure, they mean well, but do they understand what privilege they carry? Do they understand that while they can “take a break” from taking political action, marginalized people cannot? For most of them, the answer is no. Their political actions have to be more than what’s convenient for them, what’s comfortable for them. Are they willing to put their bodies in harm’s way in order to fight white supremacy? Heather Heyer did. She died in Charlottesville trying to fight racism. How far are these white women willing to go?

There is more to say on this, but I am tired. Exhusted.


I don’t know how to end this essay. I am sleep deprived. My brain isn’t very clear. I know that I have to make some breakfast. I know that yoga might help. I know that it is supposed to be a sunny day today. Maybe I can just take today to practice self-care, to mourn, to laugh, to nap, to nap. And tomorrow, tomorrow I will continue to fight in big ways and small. With plenty of love and compassion and hope. Always love. Always compassion. Always hope.

1 comment:

  1. I have no words...just an angry yell and a desire to purge myself of any compassion I might have felt for any so called human being that cannot, would not, stand up against the hatred we saw in abundant evidence yesterday.