From 4/28/2015: prove me wrong! Aka a letter regarding a white critique

I have problems with the idea that Black folks “own” the neighborhoods in which they were ghettoized. There’s an a priori/middle class idea that presumes that people feel a sense of ownership in the same way that those who choose and buy into their neighborhoods do. Years ago I was struck by the consistency with which the children from “those” neighborhoods talked about “staying” rather than “living” in a place. There was not the sense of solidity or security that we expect to hear. When offered a chance to purchase houses/apartments in a similar, Harlem neighborhood some years back, my social worker daughter in law was surprised at how often the response was that the residents didn’t wish to invest in “their”neighborhoods even though they had no real chances of leaving or being able to afford to purchase housing without those subsidies.
So while we might think that’s a foolish & shortsighted response, take a minute to reflect on what it’s saying about generations of disenfranchisement & alienation, of not being able to feel ownership and pride of place.
“They” didn’t create this system and have no “real”stake in it, so why would you expect “them” to value what you value? How long would you be patient if your children were murdered on a regular basis, underscoring your lack of value in even “your own” neighborhoods? Aspects of the Civil Rights Movement (fire hoses, dogs, dead little girls at Church) and Kent State woke white folks up for a hot minute, but those were seen as exceptions, so back to sleep in the illusion of safety you went for decades.
I AM sorry for the small local business owners who have to watch the police stand by as their buildings burn, but I’m angry at the police who would run to protect wealthy neighborhoods. I’m angry with the reality that if this fight was taken to the neighborhoods of the real owners, there would be a thousand deaths at the hands of the police. I’m angry that in my entire lifetime, and the lifetimes of every ancestor since 1492, there has never been peace or a time or place of safety and security for us. I’m angry that despite providing him with the education and basic trappings of middle-classness, I am still afraid for the life of my son, each and every day & that I’ve grown old listening to the same bullshyte from people who in no way really see me or my kin as free and equal human beings, as deserving of ALL of life’s opportunities as they expect for themselves and their loved ones.
Treat us with dignity and respect and give us ALL of the opportunities for a few hundred years, and then we can talk. Until then, get over yourselves and LISTEN to what you’re being told. Accept it as truth because 500 years of the story you tell yourselves is destroying us all.
And in case anyone isn’t getting this, I’m not saying that ghettoized people can’t or don’t share some of your values. My comments address YOUR expectations, lack of inquiry, or empathy.

One Week To The Day: Life After Raymond

This morning as I started taking my shower, I reached for the washcloth and realized it wasn’t anywhere in the tub. I was completely confused until I realized that that was the cloth I had used to clean Raymi’s blood-brown stained face, one week ago today. That it had been a week since I’d fully bathed. That a day or two ago I’d washed my hair in the kitchen sink because he’d come to me two days after his death, and after a long night of memories and healing and love, he’d told me to wash my hair, and I did, but downstairs, in fear of being unable to stand in the tub long enough to wash my substantial mop of locs without the chronic pain I’ve been in since falling from a ladder.

That one week ago at this time of day, things were normal and I hadn’t yet awakened to find that we had not both overslept, but instead I’d find a cold, dead husband.

It will get better. That’s what they tell me and that’s what I know after nearly seven decades of cycles, phases, and changes. Ebbs and flows, round and round. Earlier this morning I laughed at something funny a friend had posted. It came naturally, but felt and sounded odd. Why do I even question the need for joy and guiltily shy away from a thing he loved to hear me do? I hate this culture that denies everything real, but pain will not be denied. Physical or mental, pain is non-negotiable.

It’s spring and everything except my Rayo-Mateo is springing into life (is that why it’s called spring? Never got that till now, or if I did, it was forgotten in the vast array of trivia and minutiae that make up a life. Surely Miss Mason would have taught her first grade pupils such things, way back in the days of a fairly classical education in public schools.) You can see that I drift a lot now. I also sit on the side of the bed we shared, trying to focus on things that needed doing but I don’t care about now. That includes the subtle errors in grammar my Sarah Lawrence trained ears note as I write this.

It is spring and the blue jay is calling, robins are chirping, and the bird that sounds like a whippoorwill but probably isn’t is sounding its sad song. It’s not the mourning dove- I hear her too, but later, when the others are more quiet. There’s a bird whose chirp sounds taunting, but it’s not a mockingbird. I don’t know what orioles sound like but I’ve seen them in the trees at times.

The hens need tending, I’ve meds to take, and sun’s up now, waiting for me to get dressed. Innocent Black people are still being murdered as regular American life just goes right on.

It all goes on. I’m not sure how or even why, but it does go on.