This is going to be shorter and less well put than I want it to be. But I have something I need to say.
One of my (personal) resolutions for the New Year is to try to be a better ally, and I’ve realized there are certain issues I shy away from talking about. I think sometimes there are legitimate reasons (I don’t tend to post with the news cycle, or maybe I sometimes feel that some subjects are outside of my area of expertise, or the scope of the blog) but the regularity of my silence sometimes concerns me. There’s no way to avoid it, I just don’t talk about race.
I’m a thirty year old white radical. That’s not all that I am, but it is part of who I am. White privilege allows me to move through the world with a certain amount of ease and safety that non-white* people simply do not have access to, even as other facts of my identity (orientation, family status, social class, gender) limit my privileges and mobility. My family can be denied housing because my wife and I are both female. But also, we have a secret laundry room key because we have a baby and the landlord understands that having to find the building manager to get laundry done with an infant is a huge fucking problem. We are not the only family with a baby in our building.
What we are, though, is the only family with a white baby.
Yesterday, two pieces of news dominated my social media feed.
- No one will be indicted in the murder of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old black child.
- Lemmy Kilmister, from Motorhead, died suddenly but peacefully at home.
One of these pieces of news had acquaintances gathering together to drink, mourn, and celebrate the life of the deceased. The other one was about a child who died too soon to ever put out an album.
I’m not saying the people who gathered together to celebrate and mourn Lemmy were wrong. I’m not saying these two deaths need to be dealt with in exactly the same way. First of all, Tamir Rice did not die yesterday, and so the immediate mourning period, for many people, had probably passed. Secondly, we necessarily have a different emotional relationship with the loss of those who create art that we love, and the loss of strangers through murder and injustice. Lemmy’s death inspires mourning, but also celebration and remembrance. But Tamir Rice’s passing inspires rage and despair. Many of us only learned of his existence because he was gunned down by the police. What could we say to eulogize him?
I’m not personally a Motorhead fan (sorry!) but if my Facebook feed is any indication, it seems people have a lot of nice things to say to eulogize Lemmy. It’s not wrong to go to the bar with friends after a hero dies. If anyone had wanted to go to the bar with me when Helen Frankenthaler passed away a few years back, that would have been oh-so-lovely.
I’m not saying any of that is wrong.
But it does make me sad. It makes me sad in a way that is hard to define. It makes all my limbs feel heavy. It makes me feel tired. It makes me feel angry at all the white people I know who aren’t actively fighting against racism. And then it makes me angry with myself. Because really, what am I doing?
I don’t have any answer. I just have grief. I just have mourning. I get in an argument with strangers on Facebook about why criticizing Black Lives Matters protestors for not being ENOUGH like Martin Luther King Jr. is TOTAL BULLSHIT. I know the argument is, and will continue to be, fruitless, but I get into it anyways. I take care of my kid. I nurse this nasty cold I picked up on the solstice.
I am a mother. I am a mother of a male child. Sometimes I call him my son. He is crying for me right now. He wants to nurse again. He ALWAYS wants to nurse again. I would do almost anything for him. I would do almost anything to protect him. Sometimes I feel like I can protect him. Sometimes I actually can protect him.
Tamir Rice’s mother though, she could not protect him. And the machine won’t even attempt to hold anyone accountable for his death. And I cannot imagine the pain. I will never, ever, be able to imagine the pain.
Today. Today I am mourning.