I grieve as Baltimore grieves and rages over the insistent maltreatment of poor, black and brown bodies as illustrated by the recent murder of Freddie Gray for running from a cop. I seethe as Rekia Boyd’s memory is disgraced by a non-guilty verdict by a reckless cop who shot an innocent woman. I ache at the loss of almost 5000 people as a result of an earthquake in Nepal. I press fingers to temples at the possibility of the Supreme Court stepping backwards today and the sad fact that same-sex couples have to justify their love to any damn body. I stress about the refugees and civil unrest in Syria. I fume about the recent NYT article that 1.5 million black men are missing as a result of incarceration or early death. And I am even more upset about the fact that many don’t even know that 64,000 black women have gone missing. Just gone. Vanished. Like my naiveté about how this country works. It makes me scream at times. In a 1962 interview for the Black World/Negro Digest, James Baldwin said, “…To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I swear this is true for many of us who wear the mask and present so well to the world, and at the same time, are so Fannie Lou Hamer. It’s exhausting carrying the weight, carrying the weight of the anger. So what do we do about it?
Well, it depends, but I believe in protest. Active, relentless, quiet and large-scale protest. I am not into regulating how people should respond, activate their civil rights and/or fight for basic dignity and human rights. I personally think it takes a bit of all of it, at different times, to make it congeal, to make it better for the masses. I’m what you’d call a Tupac because “I’m not a killa, but don’t push me.” I’m a bit of a Mother Teresa because I also believe “We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.” I’m definitely what you’d call an Assata Shakur because my heart says that “we need a r/evolution of the mind. we need a r/evolution of the heart. we need a r/evolution of the spirit. the power of the people is stronger than any weapon. a people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. we need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user friendly. user friendly…. r/evolution is love.”
So, I try to break up the anger that boils and coils inside by smiling and laughing and talking to strangers so that they won’t be and hugging and writing and walking by the lake and supporting those who need it and praying. I look at hummingbird and cat videos on YouTube or try to find the good news on CNN, like the swearing in of Soror Loretta Lynch or like the President speaking up about Freddie Gray and political mobilization and saying this is important or news that Nigerian troops have rescued 200 women and 93 girls from Boko Haram camps. But it’s still hard. It’s hard for a few reasons.
The first is that I often feel helpless to change many of the horrific things going on in the world, so I try to focus on changing myself, my attitude and my priorities, instead. The second is that there’s too much horror to focus in on. Every day, it’s a another tragedy tearing at my soul – whether it’s the murder of a trans woman or a natural disaster or some friend on Facebook who can’t understand the intersectionality of it all and wonders why I care about one instead of the other – in that particular moment or why I don’t like the vitriol or heartless baggage they are spewing towards a certain group. I don’t have time to play oppression Olympics or who’s most wrong or evil today or who doesn’t deserve my love or sympathy. All of this shit is hard and all of it is painful – for someone. All of it impacts us all, whether we believe it or not. This shit is interconnected and universal. We are reflections of each other. Just look closer. A friend posted a quote which read, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Just look closer. Peer in to see how it all relates at some point. It is deeply personal. So I’ll keep protesting, raging and creating awareness about various issues that come across my path.
I protest the nonsense and tragedy of this world by caring about it all, but not carrying it so much that it breaks my spirit. There’s too much work to be done – too many hugs to give, too many broken pieces to pick up, too many important decisions to be made, too much love to give – for me to stop now. I love the fake and the real ones. I love the hopeful and the apathists. I love the fucking furious and those at peace. I love the brilliant and the idiots alike. I’m an equal opportunist, raging lover of humans because we all fall on both ends of the spectrum at some point in our lives. Let’s ease up on and peer into each other.
I’ll end with another portion of Baldwin’s interview. “…the first problem is how to control that rage so it won’t destroy you…. You have to decide that you can’t spend the rest of your life cursing out everyone who gets in your way…. It also demands a great deal of stepping outside a social situation in order to deal with it. And all the time you’re out of it you can’t help feeling a little guilty that you are not, as it were, on the firing line, tearing down the slums and doing all of these obviously needed things, which in fact, other people can do better than you because it is terribly true that a writer is extremely rare.” So, like Brother Baldwin, I’ll rage, but I’ll rage in love and light. I’ll rage and today, my choice of protest will be to write.