White People Riot. Black People Die.
To be White with an illegitimate grievance is to be untouchable. But to be Black, living under conditions of legitimate grievance, is to be under threat of death.
On January 6, I watched, on national TV, White Nationalist Terrorists walk and run and push their way into the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Egged on by their Grand Wizard, they engaged in “trial by combat”, violent insurrection, exactly as the GW’s should-be-disbarred lawyer instructed them to do. They scaled walls (not always successfully), broke windows, crushed a woman to death, beat a Black woman bystander, and killed a police officer.
I found the images jarring and terrifying. Not at the actions themselves, but the anger behind them. The disbelief that their side lost, disbelief fueled by lies and conspiracies, led them to call for the disenfranchisement of mostly Black people in urban metropolitans. Almost half the country — a staggering 74 million people — cheered them on in spirit even if unhappy with their action.
I need not rehearse the many voices, including the President-elect, who have made the comparison about what would have happened had the crowd been Black. Would the Capitol police have been better prepared? Would only one person be shot in the back by the police? Would the National Guard have been quicker to be deployed?
These questions left me anxious and afraid. The sadness I feel that had MY people, people with non-hateful reasons for grievance, people with the moral force of history behind them, people who are often pleading for full citizenship and what comes with that, would have been battered, beaten and met with police violence. Indeed, at many protests this summer, that is exactly what happened.
I think about this difference, this leniency, this ability to allow one to live, as I parent my Black children. I knew when I had children, Black children, that I was exposing them to this hostile world where White Lives Matter More. I knew this country would deny their humanity. That this country would rob them of opportunities. That this country would circumscribe their life chances and choices because of the pseudo-science of race — categorizing physical features, like shape of their nose, the size of their lips, the curl of their hair, the shade of their skin — and the brutality of racism. I knew this, and I proceeded anyway. I took responsibility for their bodies, for their well-being, for their hearts and their spirits.
I think about this responsibility and my oldest, Ahmir, who will be 15 years old in a few days. He’s thin, but tall, already taller than me and I’m not a short woman. He is a quiet child who bothers no one, who might not even be noticed in a crowd. He does well in school. His spirit is gentle, he has a way with babies, and our dog adores him. His sins are those of a typical teenager: yelling at his brother, eating all the food in the house, and hating to do chores.
I think about how one of his chores is to walk the dog after her dinner, just around the block so she can do her business. After the riots, I have been thinking as to whether this second chore should be his, this five minute walk around the block. How will others perceive him? Who is going to think my gentle, quiet child is a threat, especially as he’s walking our little dog?
But while White Nationalists stormed the government and lived:
And my Ahmir has a dog. Obviously there doesn’t need to be any more.
Black people can be doing nothing other than living our lives to see our lives stamped out. White people can storm the Capitol, kill a police officer, and walk back to the hotel afterwards and enjoy a nice meal or maybe drinks in the lobby, along with their co-conspirators, and live to tell the tale, ready to do more damage.
But I’m sitting here, worried about sending my Black boy with his dog around the block.
I hate it here.