To the white woman who crossed the street to avoid me today:
I saw you coming, masked and middle aged
Down the street of my church
Toward me, a minister of faith
As I waited to meet a different white woman
Who I had not seen before in person.
Unfamiliar, I searched your face from a distance
And surmised it was not you I was meant to meet.
But you fully introduced yourself to me
Without a word or a gesture
When you visibly stiffened
And “New England avoided” my gaze
While I stood there
As you deliberately and most intentionally
Crossed the street
To avoid any proximity to me
Like I would do you harm.
There I stood
On the other side of your whiteness
Looking more youthful than my 56 years
And also masked
The only darkness in the bright afternoon of your sunny spring day.
There I stood
A threat to you
And I watched as you force stared steely eyed
Into a distance beyond me
Where you would be safely
Away from me
And this “confrontation”
Between your peaceful white walk
And my dangerous black gaze
(On my street.)
And I thought to myself
“I’m standing beside my church…
The one I lead
As minister/ CEO
The one with my name outside
The one I work to keep safe
The one for which I memorialize the dead
And name the newly born For fuck’s sake, even at my church, I’m not safe
From goddamned white fear.”
On the anniversary
Of the murder of George Floyd
That whiteness is a weapon
Wielded suddenly, irrationally
And whiteness doesn’t need a knee for nine minutes
Or a tazer or a gun to murder
In a thousand different toxic ways
The face of racism is unassuming. It is not an angry cropped hair white 20-something holding a torch screaming “you will not replace us!” It is not a barrel-chested gun toting self-styled militia guy wearing a Confederate flag. It is not the “Becky” or “Karen” calling the cops. The face of racism is any white person in a position of power and influence who prioritizes their need to parse their interpretation of words over the lives of black people and other non-whites.
The Senate of the United States has been closer this year than ever to finally making lynching a federal crime [S. 488 – Information about the bill and its companion H.R. 35 – Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act]. It has already been passed by both houses. This would create a law that makes lynching, of any kind, a federal crime. This would be justice for every black person, every white person, every Latin-x person every, Native, Chinese, Japanese and Jewish person and every LGBTQ person who was ever lynched. This would mean that when a gang of people hunt down and kill another transwoman of color, there would be some kind of federal recourse for their crimes that needs to be considered. It would mean that that the gang rape, torture and murder of a woman who is trafficked would have larger consequences. It would mean that a group of men, regardless of their professional position as police, when they detain and forcibly pin down an unarmed and compliant man and do not listen to his cries for air and he dies, would have a federal violation to answer for. It would be justice for George Floyd.
But the Rand Pauls of the world are like too many white people that I’ve experienced when the conversation turns to codifying the definition of racism and creating substantive policy to prevent it. They get uncomfortable. They turn to wordsmithing in order to avoid “unintended consequences” and they reason for “common sense”. Meanwhile, black people and those who do not benefit from whiteness, but who are always at its mercy, are forced to attend another senseless funeral, another tear streaked vigil, another protest, another march. How dare anyone call for a “common sense” response to rampant, historical, lethal racism wielded as a bludgeon against innocent people?
I echo Senator Cory Booker’s statement in the clip below that there is nothing any white person can tell black people about lynching. Senator Rand Paul is trying to “amend” this bill so that it is more “specific” and that someone can’t be accused of “lynching” by giving someone a ‘bruise’. As Senator Kamala Harris says, this is offensive. But what Paul is doing is actually straight out of the playbook of the Southern Democrats who blocked similar legislation from 1918 – 1922 (Dyer Anti Lynching Bill). Too often when policies are crafted to deal with racism, white fragility rears its head and asks that these corrective measures “don’t go too far” and that they “show restraint” and that they don’t create a punishment worse than the crime.
There is no crime worse than racism that kills. Racism is born of pure hatred and holds no redeeming or justifiable purpose. Racism deserves no defense or assumption of innocence. End racism. Racism doesn’t see itself and it doesn’t hear itself. Racism is a white ophthalmologist who stares blankly in the faces of two black attorneys and tells them about writing law. Racism is a white man arguing publicly about race with three black people and defending what he knows about lynching. Racism is a white guy talking about a bruise in a conversation that begins with the many ways black people have been hung, burned, disemboweled and castrated. Given every opportunity in the world for redemption, apparently racism is also still the United States.
And sadly this seems to be Senator Rand Paul. But he works for us. Please let him know what you think.
I am urging all of my colleagues and friends in Kentucky to please call Senator Rand Paul’s Local and DC office to get him to withdraw his proposed amendment immediately and clear the way for this historic legislation. The time is now. End racism. Senator Paul is literally holding the lynch pin that could put at least one piece of the racism of the United States in its long awaited grave.