Where Do We Go from Here? A Love Letter to My People

Brooke Obie and John Lewis--Book of Addis

Brooke Obie and Rep. John Lewis–Book of Addis

It was all good just a week ago.

On November 4, I returned to my alma mater, Mercer University School of Law for the Black Law Students Association Alumni weekend where I read from my debut novel and love letter to Black people Book of Addis: Cradled EmbersCivil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis was there. I got to give him a copy of my novel and thank him for the still-visible scars he bears for trying to make the world safer for Black people. I shared with the BLSA students in attendance my vision in the Book of Addis series for a safe place for all Black people, and that this series takes a serious look at American history and reimagines events in a way that honors our ancestors’ struggle while changing everything about the foundation of this nation so that the 2016 in the Book of Addis world wouldn’t look like our world looks. People left hopeful and encouraged. It was wonderful. It was all good.

Except it wasn’t.

I left on November 5 to take a road trip to Alabama just because I’d never been to the state. Google Maps set me up to return back to Georgia through 1.5 hours of unlit back roads. I had Solange’s A Seat at the Table on heavy rotation, but couldn’t relax and enjoy the trip. I was terrified of breaking down, terrified of being stopped by the police for any or no reason. My hands cramped up from gripping the wheel so tightly. My shoulders still have knots in them a week later. The threat of death, whether in Alabama or Georgia was real.

When I returned to New York around midnight November 6, my body tensed up on cue at the sight of two NYPD officers on the corner near my apartment. A woman and man–gender doesn’t matter. People of color officers–race doesn’t matter. Not when the light off of a badge catches my eye. Don’t make eye contact. Keep walking. Not too fast. Not too slow. Just keep walking.

I exhaled only when I got home and locked the door behind me.

And then last Tuesday happened.

I know America is racist and it’s always been racist. Racism is explicitly laid out in our founding documents. There is no America without the racist enslavement and genocide of the First Peoples and the theft and enslavement of African people. I know this. Been known this.

But I still believed White people would elect the war-hawk with the quieter racism and pat themselves on the back for ending sexism like they did racism when they elected President Obama. Y’all got me.

White supremacy was always going to rule this land–the race or gender of the figurehead notwithstanding; it was the need to hide under a sheet that changed.

Now, a segment of the country that has been gaslighting Black people about racism for centuries is waking up. We’ve been the canaries in the coal mine for so long, but now the racism of Trump and his advisers and his supporters is undeniable–unless you work in mainstream media, in which case you’ll continue referring to Trump’s supporters hate crimes and his hiring of an actual Nazi as chief strategist as the rise of the “populist right.” The people who told us Black Lives Matter protesters “there must be a better way!!” for the past 4 years are now taking to the streets to protest Trump and asking us all to join in.

And it hurts. It hurts to be consistently reminded of the many and intersectional ways our country hates us. It hurts to know that so much destruction could be avoided if people in power would simply listen to Black people–specifically Black women–when we cry out about the oppression we face.

As “allies” argue more for their right to wear safety pins on their clothes to show they’re on our side as opposed to actually coming to our aid when we ask for it, when we need it, our mission remains the same. It’s the same today as it was last week, as it was since we were dragged onto the shores of Indigenous people’s country: get free.

To get free we have to fully divest from white supremacist-capitalist-cisheterosexual patriarchy as a system, a way of life and a mf crew.

That’s going to hurt for some of us because it means those of us with proximity to whiteness will have to give up the privilege that comes with that. It’s going to hurt for some because that means there are no sacred cows. Thanksgiving might be real unpleasant, and if your discomfort is all that’s at risk for you, that’s a privilege. Because people are dying–from police brutality, from domestic violence, from poisoned water and racist/queerphobic hate. And none of us can get free while that’s happening.

That means we must stand with the Indigenous people at Standing Rock in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens their sacred lands and water supply (find a protest to join in your area TODAY) and giving President Obama hell for approving the pipeline and dismissing the concerns of the Indigenous people until he changes his mind and shuts production down (NO SACRED COWS: if we fear fascism, we must act against it no matter if the person in charge is someone we like!);

That means we must fight for the people of Flint who STILL do not have clean water! that means educating yourself and others on systemic and individual acts of anti-Blackness (the specific denigration of Black people and culture/being Black–please note, people of color can all be anti-Black!) and actively fighting against it in yourself and others;

That means educating yourself on misogyny and misogynoir (the specific denigration of Black women) and actively fighting against it in yourself and others;

That means educating yourself on queerphobia (denigration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people) and actively fighting against it in yourself and others); educating yourself on rape culture to understand how society further punishes victims of rape while rapists go free, stop participating in it and call out others when you see their participation (start with the fact that 13 women accused Donald Trump of rape or sexual assault and the country dismissed them, so they woke up Wednesday morning to their rapist as president-elect. One woman who alleges she was 13 years old when Trump raped her and was set to go to trial in December has now dropped her case out of fear of what he and his supporters will do to her. That’s rape culture! We must believe survivors of assault);

That means educating yourself on ableism and the ways you participate in the discrimination, denigration and erasure of people with disabilities and mental illnesses and stop doing it!

The road to freedom is long and challenging and uncomfortable and isolating–and our responsibility as human beings on this earth. We cannot be free while oppression exists; there is no liberation for any of us without the direct liberation of ALL marginalized people. Complacency, ignorance and erasure are our enemies and we cannot let them rule in our government, our communities or in ourselves.

So rest awhile. Grieve this hurt. Process it with a mental health professional if you are able. And then let’s get to work.




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