Audre Lorde wasn’t chosen as this week’s literary witch because of the mystical power of the universe. I chose her and pulled her out of the deck on purpose. I’ve been trying to write this blog post for days and who else could I have this week, a week of protests and demonstrations and anger and sadness because another black man has been killed needlessly by the police. George Floyd. Death by asphyxiation because the officer wouldn’t take his knee off of his throat.
When I was in my early 20s my brother-in-law offered to drive my parent’s car across the country to their cottage. I don’t remember the specifics but for some reason the car was owned by me (I bought the car from my dad for a dollar but I don’t remember why he wanted me to do this). Anyway, as my brother-in-law was driving across Saskatchewan he was pulled over by the RCMP for the crime of “driving while coloured”. He wasn’t speeding but he was a dark man driving a nice car (a 10-year old Nissan Maxima is the “nice” car in this case) and if it wasn’t for the letter I had written saying that I had given my brother-in-law the permission to drive my car across the country we don’t know what would have happened to him. Somehow I knew to worry about him enough to write that letter. Canada is not immune to racism, it’s just that ours is usually quieter. We are politely racist. All of us. Having relatives of colour does not give me a pass from this – but it has certainly made me keep my eyes open. Open to witness strangers touching my nephew’s soft afro when he was a toddler (without asking). Open to one of my nephews being accused of being a terrorist as he walks down the street.
I haven’t been posting anything on social media about the deaths or the protests because I don’t want to contribute to what I call all the “white noise” that is going on at the moment. This blog, this little spot on the internet that few people read, this is where I can post. But right now I don’t need to be another voice shouting “Look at me! I’m one of the good ones!” Am I? Probably not. I want to help but other than educating myself and my children about white privilege and white supremacy I don’t really know how. I need to come to terms with my own biases and not pass them along to my children. I think what white people need to realize is that the term white privilege isn’t a derogatory term or an insult and to not immediately get offended. It’s just a fact. My job right now, in addition to teaching my children, is to make sure they don’t immediately go to the “I hate all white people.” Or, “I hate being white!” statements (because this is what I am getting.) That doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t move us forward. It’s okay to be happy with the skin you are in, it is okay to be white but the issue is that it should also be okay to be black. But it is being proven again and again that being black in North America is not okay. It is not equal. While I am teaching my children about equality black mothers and fathers are teaching their children how to deal with the police and try and not get shot. How is that equal?
A good quote I found on explaining to the “All Lives Matter” people why Black Lives Matter: “If you were at an event supporting people with Breast Cancer no one would run in and scream ALL CANCER MATTERS. That’s a given, it’s obvious. No one is saying it doesn’t.” (Quoted from Blessthemessy on Instagram.)
Today there was a protest in Calgary. I did not attend. I feel guilty that I did not attend but that is just not the kind of support I can give right now. My family is giving up a lot to keep me safe from Covid-19 and exposing myself (even with a mask) would have been a disservice to them. I would have had to have someone push me around in my wheelchair and I just can’t get that close to anyone right now. (Also I spent most of the day at the hospital.) It isn’t the same as the protests and riots going on in the U.S. People seem shocked by the violence but when your voice has been silenced and ignored for so long how else can you get attention? I’ve got no answers and my white tears don’t help anyone. All this talking seems like a lot of white noise.
Here is a poem by Audre Lorde published in 1978.
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.
I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.
Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
I have not been able to touch the destruction
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”