My inbox and Twitter feed are awash in “love trumps hate” memes and videos gushing that there’s only one race — the human race. My white friends, especially, are sending me stylized Michelle Obama quotes and John Lennon songs and cute puppies playing in the sun. Red, yellow, black and white … we’re all so precious in God’s sight.
I’m astonished by the sheer banality of it all. Do you really believe singing This Land is Your Land — with Nazis — will save DACA? End police killings of black men? Stop the assaults on synagogues and mosques? Apparently, we should put our collective fingers in our ears and sing La-La-La at the top of our lungs, in hopes it will drown out the gruesome sounds of the tidal wave bearing down on us.
I know — wallowing in anxiety isn’t helpful. A positive outlook is necessary in challenging times. And ordinarily, I’m hopelessly optimistic. Ordinarily, I’m a glass half-full kinda girl. Ordinarily, I’m the black woman who carefully taught her kids to love Thomas Jefferson’s words and still hate his life. To live with their guard up, but still believe in the promise of America. To brush off a million microaggressions and still be able to say, unequivocally, I Am Not Your Negro.
Ordinarily, I’m one to put my faith in the Constitution. Even though it never meant to include me.
I’m guessing it’s easier to namaste if nobody’s deporting your children or burning crosses on your lawn. It’s easier to detach when the president of the United States panders to racists on national television, because he’s not talking about you, my dear white friends. He’s talking to you. Slyly reminding you of your tribal obligations.
He props up the structure that sells you the false equivalency. The myth of “both sides” diffuses blame, so that everyone is wrong, and no one’s accountable. And that “both sides” thing — it appeals to the liberal, fair-minded, kind-hearted American in you.
Cue Martin Luther King: Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
Let’s ignore for the moment that King was shot down like a dog. Let’s put aside that when Hate controls the White House, you won’t be able to Love your way out of the camps.
If both sides bear responsibility to achieve unity, that puts those advocating for equality as the opposite — the other side — of those seeking white supremacy.
You see the problem? Equality is not the opposite of white supremacy. Equality is middle ground. Equality is consensus and justice.
When one side is Nazis, there’s no path to unity. How do I, a black woman, find common ground with those who reject my very humanity?
Of course, I know you don’t agree with the wave of bigotry sweeping over our country. You find it shocking; you are sickened and disgusted. Some of you are calling your senators, donating to ACLU and marching in the street.
Here’s what you don’t have to do:
You don’t have to pace the floor while your 18-year-old black son is out driving at night.
You don’t have to wake up at 2am, in a panic — was that a tree branch, or ICE at the door, come to take your mother?
You don’t have to be careful about speaking your native Arabic or Farsi or Swahili out in public.
You don’t have to risk anything unless you choose to.
So while I understand the desire to go high when they go low, to do so ignores the very real dangers encircling me. Encircling us. Encircling people who aren’t white and straight and Christian.
If I may misquote Admiral James T. Kirk for a second: I don’t want my rage taken away. I need my rage.
Not only that. YOU need my rage.
You, my white friends, don’t have the stomach for what’s coming next. Your anger with Trump and his foot soldiers is righteous and justified and fair.
Mine is visceral. Mine is blood and bone.
You’ve never had to endure the injustices and humiliations I’ve had to eat for breakfast. And that’s why you’re anxious. You can see the bad moon rising. You can feel death and destruction in the air, but you can’t admit it, not even to yourself. So you’re singing Kumbaya, and sending me butterfly poems and drinking too much vodka. Can’t we all just get along? you keep asking.
But I’ve been training for this since childhood. I’ve been taught my whole life to watch for this, to be ready for this, to recognize it when I see it. To know what “both sides” and “unity” really mean: that my black, brown, female, gay or non-Christian life has far less value than yours. As ever.
And more — that I should understand, listen to and forgive those who want me deported or dead. That it is my responsibility to build a bridge to them, to heal their pain, to acknowledge their suffering, to keep the peace, to quiet down, to not provoke them into lynching me.
To trust Love to drive out all that Hate.
You know what I trust? My rage. My fury. My complete lack of empathy for who’s on the “other side” of that bridge.
I can’t depend on your honor or your morality. Or the congress. Or the church or the media or the UN. I see on daily basis how quickly these entities will succumb to the wave of authoritarianism sweeping the land.
I’m keeping my rage. It’s the only thing I can depend on to keep me alive.