May 29, 2020
The last months and days, like so many months and days, we have seen the horrific murders of Black people — Tony McDade, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery — by police and white vigilantes across our country. McDade, a Black transgender man, was killed by police in Tallahassee on Wednesday.
My heart hurts. And I know I am safe in this sadness; my whiteness permits grieving without a fear of racialized violence against me. I also know that though the particular histories and traumas are different in ways we must not ignore, brutality to exert corporeal control and emotional terror over Black people, people of color more broadly, and queer people, are interconnected. The impacts can be particularly brutal for queer and trans people of color. Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, herself a Black trans woman, said yesterday: “We feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks.”
This week, I have been returning again and again to Danez Smith’s poem “every day is a funeral & a miracle.” In this poem, Smith writes poignantly about anti-Black violence and pandemic. Towards the middle of the poem, they write:
today, Tamir Rice
tomorrow, my liver
today, Rekia Boyd
tomorrow, the kidneys
today, John Crawford
tomorrow, my lungs
some of us are killed
in pieces, some of us all at once
do i think someone created AIDS?
maybe. i don’t doubt that
anything is possible in a place
where you can burn a body
with less outrage than a flag
Black people and people in communities of color, I exist in solidarity with you. I know it is an imperfect solidarity, and I commit to continually working to make it better. I am here for you.
To my fellow white people, we need to step up and take action. Let each of us ask ourselves, repeatedly, “how do I wield my whiteness to my advantage and to the harm of people of color, including unintentionally?” This reflection, and changes in action that should come from it, can be difficult; internalized white dominance is often tacitly nurtured in us and hard to name. I have much to learn, and I am here for you as you do your own learning. This article is one of numerous good resources to feed your thinking.
On the eve of Pride month, let us all remember that June was not always a party. Contemporary Pride celebrations have their roots in uprisings by queer people, many of them people of color, against police violence. This June, let us all dig in – each in our own ways – to centering the work of racial justice in our lives and our communities.