Do not pursue what is illusory--property and position; all is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life--don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
The "lock" page and photo gallery has photos of my recently deceased cat and the cat still with me. My screen saver, however, has three other photos. One is a photo of the lunar module with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard as their craft approaches the moon. Far off in the distance, above the moon and the lunar module, is Earth, surrounded in blackness. The photographer is astronaut Michael Collins, of Apollo 11 fame, the only living being to have ever lived--not in the photo.
I reminded the young man sitting beside me of this--dare I say in this moment of fake reality-- fact .
The second image is that of Saturn taken by Cassini showing, off in the distance, again, that pale blue dot, called Earth. I was not facing the computer tech. I could only imagine what he was thinking, having worked on my computer and now subject to viewing this mini-slide show of space-related images. Sitting next to an older Black woman, at a public library, in a small town in Wisconsin. Then Malcolm appears. Bold as day. Defiant Malcolm. Starring straight ahead. Eyes locked on you. Unapologetic.
I am too old to embrace this young man's inheritance of innocence!
Not long ago, in the days when neoliberalism ruled and capitulation was honored, I could be asked to read a novel written by a white author, usually a female author, a favorite of the one doing the asking. Usually, too, the characters in the novel are all white. Very white. In small rural towns where All-American whiteness resides. These novels are often the best of American contemporary literature or "bestsellers." Race is not an issue here. I am an "educated" reader. An escapee, in other words, from some "urban" where people are not so privileged to read, imagining (as if an honor) the familiar landscape of white protagonists. I would naturally gravitate to these books as they represent the universal, the norm, the natural way of being in the world because it is common knowledge that only certain lives mattered. No could call it out without being accused of being-- racist! Black, powerless, yet, racist! Imagine that! Then came Black Lives Matter. Angry white s gave voice to their plight: L iberal institutions did not do enough; liberal policies were too soft; liberals did not do their best at gatekeeping. Now a new generation of Blacks are protesting!
Now do they want to see us gone from the face of the Earth?
I am reminded of what t he poet Lucille Clifton once wrote: "...Everyday/something has tried to kill me/and has failed." Do I dare suggest the reading of Ta-Nehsi Coats' Between the World and Me? I already know what will happen as it has happened many times before. Should I type in my email that I am reading the book, Hidden Figures? That I am studying--fascism? I'll receive...nothing. No responding email. No acknowledgment on the other end of the receive. Just silence. Or I watch as that other sits up straight and sits back as if I had said something...offensive.
Plenty of people, other than Black people must have been reading these books! More than Black people must have paid to sit in a theater to see Hidden Figures.
What was I asked to identify with and why? Who or what would benefit from my identification with "whiteness"? What is it that is being marginalized and requiring, above all, my assistance in that particular practice of violence?
For a while now, things have not been so subtle at all. And now, we have Donald Trump.
I watched the women's march January 21, 2017. Throughout the day, I felt proud and vindicated. It has been decades of teaching and writing, and watching the faces of white women friends, looking on as if, wise beyond their years, they now had to pat the head of a little child who still believes in the monster. Who has yet to let go, as they did, successfully, of the past. Watching the march, I was just about to believe that since the election of Trump I would not be asked to identify strictly with "women"--that is-- white women, at the expense of children of color and all the generations of them to come. Then I received photos. I received a photo from an Ethiopian friend in Canada. It was a photo of her very young daughter. A little one! I was near tears! Finally! There it is! All the many locations! All the many races! All sexual orientations! All over the world! There we are! All of us. On the same page...and then, there was another batch of photos. These of predominantly white protesters. And there was a small little girl too. A granddaughter! When I emailed back to say how nice. How proud you must be to have this moment. Grandmother and granddaughter. Yes, for her! Not for mine! Not truth and justice for all of our children! For her!
Repetition. One step forward. Two steps back.
Less than a year earlier, I remember receiving a warning from this friend. Watch not to fall on your sword. Be careful not to hoist your own petard. But where was she when I had to raise my metaphorical sword or become a victim to the practice of oppression in this country? Where was she when our young were falling and still fall to the institutionalization of hating and abusing Black children? Don't fall on your sword! As if the Struggle and my life in it were all about "getting" even with someone or some group.