Wednesday, May 13, 2020

America is exhausting

I did nothing in quarantine last week but binge watch The Last Kingdom in between re-reading James's McBride's The Color of Water, doing a jigsaw puzzle, and spending time with my daughter on Mother's Day. We all continue to be healthy. I also caught up on a lot of magazine articles, including one by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic titled "America's Racial Contract Is Showing," It's a devastating exploration of America's often unacknowledged dual consciousness about race.

"One must assume that the two armed white men had a right to self-defense, and that the black man suddenly confronted by armed strangers did not," Serwer writes of a young black man's instinct to defend himself when chased by white men in a pick-up, their rifles pointed at him. All Ahmaud Arbery was doing was going for a jog, exercising while black in the wrong neighborhood in Georgia. This happened back in February. Not until the world saw Ahmaud being executed on video—a video the man who leaked it thought would exonerate the killers—did calls for the arrest of the shooters become too loud and too political to ignore. For going on three months, Ahmaud's murderers walked free. And let's face it, when the trial happens, a jury of their peers may yet find them justified in killing a young black man who dared to resist the efforts of two strangers to murder him.

My heart is shredded by the killing of Ahmaud Artbery, and also of Breonna Taylor, and all the others whose names we don't know. Who is Breonna Taylor? you ask. She was an EMT in Kentucky asleep in her bed when cops broke down her door looking for a suspect who it turns out was already in custody. Not only did they have the wrong house, they also pumped eight bullets into this young black women on the frontlines of the covid-19 epidemic as she slept.

I'm gutted by the continued brutalization and destruction of black bodies for no reason other than their blackness. I'm filled with out-of-proportion rage, which feels like bone-deep sorrow, at cops who arrest black people for not social distancing in parks in poor communities, but hand out masks to white people picnicking in parks in more privileged communities.

I hate that once Donald Trump and his henchmen realized that two thirds of those dying from covid were black or brown or immigrant or poor—because they are over represented among the essential workers who are out there every day, knitting this country together, and they are the ones with the worst health care, and so many other reasons—he ceased to care about the disease's deadly march. And now the sickness is in the White House, one more sickness to join all the others in that house.

"The underlying assumptions of white innocence and black guilt are all part of what the philosopher Charles Mills calls the racial contract,” Adam Serwer writes. "If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules—for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by nonviolent means—then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; the racial contract limits this to white men with property. The law says murder is illegal; the racial contract says it’s fine for white people to chase and murder black people if they have decided that those black people scare them. 'The terms of the Racial Contract,' Mills wrote, 'mean that nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood.'”

When I sat down to write here this morning, this isn't what I thought would find its way out. I realize now that I've been feeling numb all week, a defense against the other feelings simmering underneath. America is emotionally exhausting. 

I got out the house for a walk yesterday. I stood under blue sky. Meanwhile in Dallas, my niece, who is a dentist, went back to work. She posted that picture of herself in full protective regalia. May we all be safe, from covid, from hate, from ignorance, from inept, narcissistic, mean government. On a more escapist note: The Last Kingdom on Netflix is very, very good.


  1. You are right, America is Exhausting, Deadly, Stupid and Nightmarish for those of us falling into any form of minority status. It always has been but this crisis is making everything worse. I live in an open state so must shelter and mask among idiots, even as death rates here climb. I think about this every second of my waking life and it is triggering PTSD.

  2. A friend of mine put the Adam Serwer article up on Facebook. Jim and I both read it, and it's just awful and demoralizing. As I was sitting here trying to think of something worthwhile to say about it, since you have said it all beautifully, I read your October 5, 2014 post about your daughter being catcalled, and the anger and fatigue and just being sick of it in the comments. I am sick of this culture that creates the idea that white men have any agency over the bodies of non-white men and all women. Honestly, I don't know how African Americans get through the day. The killing of Breonna Taylor while she was asleep is also gruesome. There are so many videos of cops deciding their lives were in danger while the person they're shooting is immobilized on the ground. What danger? Who trained these people? Who put them on the police force in the first place? Aaargh.

  3. My heart aches, too. I had not heard about Breonna and it is tragic in epic proportions. Living in America IS exhausting and the brutality against black and brown bodies goes on and on. I wonder when, if ever, white people who hate based on skin color, will ever evolve? It is a sorrowful state of affairs.

    I'm glad that you and yours are well, and I hope you niece stays well, too. I can't imagine doing a job that puts one in close contact with people, especially working in their mouths.

    I will check out The Last Kingdom, as I've run through just about everything on Netflix at this point.

    Love to you, and to all those you hold near and dear.

  4. I read about Breonna Taylor this morning. What the hell is wrong with America? When people can be gunned down in their own bed while sleeping. The fact that she was black should be a non issue, just like the fact that Ahmaud was black. It doesn't matter. Murder is murder whether carried out by the police or wannabe vigilantes. It's wrong and why doesn't the whole country just rise up and condemn it?

    I know what it's like to be judged less than because I am a woman but I can't imagine facing that everyday because of the color of my skin as well.

    I'm glad you're all safe. I'll take a look at that series. Thanks and sending hugs.

  5. America IS exhausting. I mean, I find it hard enough just to be a human but to be a person of color in America is far beyond anything that I can imagine. I'm humbled every day as my neighbors treat me with such kindness, such sweetness that I have done nothing to deserve. I have lived in several neighborhoods now in my life where white people were the minority and instead of being treated with suspicion or disdain, I have always been treated with the utmost acceptance. So much so that I can't even take it in sometimes. So why is the opposite so often true? I think about this a lot. Why are white people so very, very angry and afraid? Sometimes I think that it's because we know deep in our bones that the sin of slavery will never be washed clean from our hands and instead of trying to make reparations or admit that what was done to the people who were brought here by force and who absolutely built this country and fed it and nurtured it with their very own bones and blood is the most heinous crime humans can commit against each other, they prefer to continue some sort of evil rationalization that black humans are deserving of such evil.
    This is so much easier than begging forgiveness, for trying to figure out a path to healing.
    To health.
    I guess as you quoted above, "...nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood."
    Well, these are just thoughts I have. It would be easy for me to say that white people are just fucked up individuals and hardwired to think that we're the ordained masters of the universe. History would back me up on that, I think.
    Anyway, may your dentist niece be safe. May we all be safe. Even in our beds as we sleep, never thinking for one moment that police will break into our homes and kill us where we lay.

  6. America is indeed exhausting. The injustices are vile. The lack of acknowledgement by many that it even exists is all the more vile. I agree with Mary, I have always been treated with respect, kindness and dignity even when I was the Minority in any area I ever lived, so why the opposite can't be true among so many White people I simply cannot fathom, I'm just Thankful to not be among those who can Hate or revile another Human Being for such superficial reasons as Skin... or really, so many other reasons that inhumanity exists in anyone.

  7. For one of the most diverse countries in the world, hate rules, and the leaders of hate are the politicians..... it breaks my heart.

  8. It's exhausting to be black in this country. And so much more but I am too exhausted to write.

  9. This is a heartbreaking post on a tragic truth. All I can send you is my love. Some days the world is a very bleak place.

  10. Hi, I am sorry to have been away so long. I dropped my glasses and then stepped on them so I am a bit blind... I will catch up with you super soon... I ordered myself a new laptop and it arrived to day... (Smile)and now I am past exhausted. I am down to the fumes... ha...Have a very awesome day my friend... Hugs...

  11. I live in despair about what we have become, that endless spiraling down of what I always thought (dreamed) it meant to be human. We are not what I thought we were or could be. We are not even heading in that direction. It breaks my heart everyday, every headline, every death. I once dreamed, I really did.

  12. I am so saddened by the hate that exists in this country. I do not want to give up on kindness. I was taught from a young age that we must treat all people fairly and with respect and I have passed this belief on to my children. I feel that the younger generation will correct the mistakes of the past and work for a more diverse, accepting world. This president has spread the hatred and I hope we can be rid of him soon. Let's not give up on the dream. Peace!

  13. Oh I read that article online and it really got to me. My daughter Karyn and I talked about Aubrey and how sad that America still hasn't evolved to seeing that all men and women regardless of skin color still bleed RED and the unfairness of these senseless murders. "Mom what is your opinion/" she asked. My opinion is this... When our leader, such as he is speaks horrible racist things then his followers will go to extremes living the America that he has invoked.
    Bryonna Taylor was doing nothing... What will become of that case? All senseless deaths and it HURTS deep deep down and it is most definitely a sickness that has to be stopped.
    I too have seemed to despaired of the world in which I thought that we would be a good and vital country with goals and prosperity and happiness and dreams coming true but that is now the America that I know.
    I remember when I was in 3rd grade and my brother was in Vietnam and I remember we got a young girl in our class. I don't remember her name but she was a Vietnam refugee and I was so excited because she got to sit next to me.
    My mother was very upset and demanded that I be moved away from "That Girl" and I was forbidden to talk to her or show any kindness. I really believe that was the first time I willfully disobeyed my mother. She would ask every day and I remembered lying. I said she wasn't in my class anymore so the lectures would stop.
    Today I feel that I was experiencing racism in my family that I didn't even know what it meant.
    Later in my mother's life she apologized for not understanding that little girl was not the enemy she perceived. My brother had a hand in explaining the situations and the hardships that the Vietnamese people endured.
    Still I am grateful because it taught me compassion and love. I dream of those things and more and I also dream of empathy. If people can just FEEL and rise above the need to harm I do believe we can be the country that was once dreamed about... Hugs my dear! xx

  14. I don't know "The Last Kingdom" but I'll check it out. When I first read the stories about Ahmaud Arbery, we were watching "Seven Seconds" on Netflix and I was stunned by the similarity of the cases -- not only the blameless black victim but also the white assailants who were apparently protected by local law enforcement. Such a shocking story, and I hadn't even heard about Breonna Taylor. Jesus! What IS it about America?!

    You're right about Trump -- he doesn't see black constituents as people he needs to answer to, and thus is unconcerned about the unequal ravages of the coronavirus. He's only concerned about angry white guys, who still have an outsized influence in American (and global) politics. Especially Republican politics. (Apparently I AM an angry white guy, but fortunately I'm on the other side, LOL!)