White, Black and Blue: Social Warfare On Two Fronts

“It’s not about Eric…it’s about all of us.”
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Sarah, my vicarious cast mate, solemnly stated. Her  usually cheery voice icily hollow; her eyes wild with white hot rage, gut wrenching sadness… and silent resolution. She sat on the floor, furiously tugging on her jeans over her leggings, layering herself in the battlements of warmth,  preparing to march in the cold Seattle night.

I stiffly adjusted her haphazardly slung scarf, securing it snugly so she wouldn’t catch cold. With a delicate, trembling finger, I moved the wild hair from her pupils and, with stoic approval, kissed her forehead. We stared at each other for what seemed to be eternity. Pain. Apologies. Betrayal. Empathy. Gratitude. Resolve.

The last wisp of her back vanished out the door of the dingy rehearsal space at the Armoury. I stood there, feeling as a mother watching her child go out to war, praying she would return unscathed in body and complete in mind.

White Sarah went out into the snowy Seattle night to protest the murder of Eric Garner. Black Me stayed rehearsing Hamlet. While the chants and footfalls echoed downtown, I played Gertrude;  every last part of my soul sharpened to the point where I felt the vomit of my own grief creep up my throat. The cast and crew in the room stood in solemnly as I silently wept.

“What kind of country do we live in that you pay your taxes but can still be murdered for looking different?”

“An emotionally bankrupt one.” someone replied. As I write this, I don’t know if that statement rattled from my own thoughts or not; its voice wasn’t mine.

***

In the past two weeks, two police officers, who happen to be white, murdered two men and received the nod to go free…and possibly murder again. Before there is rebuttal, I know that both victims in question did questionable things. I am not ignoring that it takes two to create drama. Yet, in the world we live in, if your skin is a hue of supple pink, be in the West, you can gun down 12 movie goers, eat 16 people, rape and torture more than 30 women, shoot a congressional official and even bomb a marathon yet STILL GET A FAIR TRAIL.

Before I lament, I’d like to have a discussion that starts off with a simple question: Do you know what it feels like to never be free?
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Let’s address the elephant in the room; I am a black woman. I am 20% European. I am 1% Asian. I am 1% First Nation. I am 78% West African. While you see an attractive brown female with long ropes of dark hair, glasses and a come hither smile, your subconscious will  simultaneously register I am descendent of chattel slavery, forced coupling, rape, torture, marginalization and stereotypes based on fear, ignorance and external insecurity that I can do nothing about.
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You’d probably assume I came from the ghetto; and you’d be right.
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You’d probably assume I have multiple children; you’d be wrong on that one. I actually have none.
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You’d probably assume I’m fiscally irresponsible and a parasitic leech on society (welfare, unemployment, etc.). Actually I own two businesses that I paid for in cash without the help of business loans or assistance.
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Despite my rags to nicer rags story, my drive to change my surroundings, my American ingenuity and work ethic, I, and others like myself, will never be left alone. People who look like me will never spend a day where someone doesn’t afflict some type of warfare on the physical or the psyche. If one fights for independence and equality as America’s forefathers have, one gets shot. If one does not, they are trampled and passed over. This is OUR FREEDOM. In America’s older general populous opinion, I am a a tool that can’t be tossed out of the pages of history, an ugly reminder of the past, an nebulous orphan with no roots, no history, no surname except that of my White former owners. I am the living embodiment of what this country did wrong to get its wealth and even now it will still find any reason to purge itself of it.
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Despite the general ‘fucked up-ness’ of the turn of events, those who march, no matter what their shade, know this is something bigger than what the media is painting, or trying to hide. This is what MLK was speaking about before he was blown away. This is about freedom in America, but it doesn’t start with the black or the brown. This is more than the thin veneer of racism and police brutality. This is the breaking of the poor, the have-nots, the forgotten, the untouchables, the dwindling middle class. The rest of US.

***
Lois Lowry said the artist is the one who will change the minds and hearts of the world. Toni Morrison states that freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another. When Sarah said: “It’s not about Eric…it’s about all of us.”, she was right. She marched, showing people who look like her that things must change, even if you’re higher on the social food chain, because nothing lasts forever. Egypt fell. Rome fell. England fell. ‘Affluent privilege’ is not immune to history nor time. I stayed in the rehearsal room, choosing a different tactic. I worked Shakespeare with my cast mates to the point of exhaustion to show that, yes, things must change and the beautiful brown woman with the long dark hair, glasses and the come hither smile will speak to the world with her soul; not her skin.
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