At the edge of the ocean, something inside me broke.
“WHAT THE FUCK!??” I screamed into the waves. The words stopped but the screaming kept on until my throat felt raw and I was gasping for air.
I sat down at the edge of a rock jutting over the water and glared into the night sky. A shooting star passed slowly through space.
The words sorta just spit out of my mouth, as I told the ocean how angry I was, how much it hurt that people are being murdered every day, that cops are getting away with murder every day. I told the waves how scared I was to move forward, worried I might hurt someone, worried I might hurt myself, with carelessness or with good intentions. I told the reflection of the stars how I’ve been feeling the weight of history, the shame at what white people like me have done and continue to do all over the world.
How do we witness so much injustice and just hold it in?
Behind me I could hear Sweetheart crying. We wept together and held each other in the darkness, listening to the waves. I comforted myself thinking how if the humans who are fighting against all the injustice fail to make things better, the ocean will come up and help us. How is that comforting?
Can you imagine what it would be like to have your child shot by the police, police who over and over repeat that they are here to protect and serve you? Can you imagine your stolen child lying in the street for four hours without getting any medical attention? Imagine that your child’s dead body lay in the street for FOUR HOURS. WITHOUT. HELP. Can you then imagine that with the eyes of a grieving nation turned to a criminal justice system that over and over repeats that it is by the people and for the people, the murderer who stole your child and left his/her/their body in the street is free to go, with no charges, no consequences. Can you imagine?
I can’t either. But trying makes my stomach turn, my heart ache, and my fists clench.
What can anyone possibly do to show us how sick that is? We can shut down freeways and BART stations, break windows, sing songs of mourning, lock ourselves to the police station doors. But how do we communicate the deep, hollow pain of injustice happening to black people on the streets every day in this country? It will never feel like enough until this whole damn system is taken apart and replaced by something better, something safe, something fair.
I know that I am scared right now. I wonder if you are too? When it was first announced that Darren Wilson, the cop who murdered Michael Brown, would not be charged, I was in the streets of St. Louis chanting “hands up, don’t shoot”. I pretty quickly realized that doing this was claiming an experience I didn’t have. I don’t actually have to worry very much about being murdered by police, because I am white. And cops don’t often murder white people. They murder black people every damn day.
I don’t say that anymore. And I don’t say “I can’t breathe” (because I can, in fact, breathe, that’s the point). It can be really hard to get feedback, to hear that you’re doing something that is racist, and I’m scared to do anything because I don’t want to fuck up. By walking into the fear, continuing to take action, I’ve learned some uncomfortable, but extremely important lessons about myself. If you are white, remember that just because you never get called out for being racist does not mean you are not racist.
All white people are racist. We’ve been taught to be racist since our first day on this planet. It isn’t okay, but we are not alone. And the only way to start confronting and dismantling the white supremacy we were raised with is to start speaking out, and to hear the call-outs when we mess up as opportunities to grow. It is hard as hell. It hurts. But it is (as far as I know) the only way to move forward and keep fighting. And being silent right now is giving your approval to the racist system that says cops can murder black bodies and leave them in the street and get away with it.
Someone recently told me that your feelings are like a garden hose – you can kink the hose and keep the grief and heartache and anger from coming out, but you will also keep down all those lovely feelings of joy and love and togetherness. Leaving the beach, my heart slowed down, my hands unclenched and folded into Sweetheart’s. I had given up my anger and mourning to the ocean and as I held Sweetheart’s hand tightly, I felt so much in love and so ready to keep struggling together to find our way to the world we hope to live in one day.
As we drove off, back toward the city, a Coyote wandered into the road in front of us. She looked into my eyes and let me know that things are going to be okay. Right now, things are not okay. But they will be. Someday. Please.