God is God and I am not
Reading a lot of things lately that ultimately culminate in white and even some non-Black POC expecting Black people and movements to be superhumanly good, righteous, holy, healed in the face of centuries of unspeakable violence. To respond to every single injustice and aggression with Christian God-like grace. To be the better person while the rest of humanity acts like monsters. To be the mules and burden the future world on our backs. And it reminds me of my past in some pretty horrific ways.
I grew up in a patriarchal and zealously religious household being conditioned to be a fence for the men and white people of my life, to corral, hold and temper them while I stayed strong, stagnant, unflinching, quiet, keeping them at bay while stomaching their hits and not reacting back. And I always thought “Well, that’s not fair! Why don’t they behave better? Why do I have to be the example, the calm one, better person!” And I would be told “Silly girl, life isn’t fair. An eye for an eye is wrong! This is just how men are. This is just how white people are. You can’t expect them to change. Don’t stoop to their level! Love your enemies! Be better than them, be like Jesus, be an example to them. They will have to be accountable to God. He will serve justice”.
These responses were never enough for me, were always a blatant cop-out, always frustrated and angered me deeply, and later I came to understand how sexist, racist and deeply spiritually violent it all was, and the parallels there was to what Black people (especially women and lgbtq folks) historically and now are told about how to remain composed in the face of the behaviors of others.
You see, you can simultaneously quell and squash Black rage and movement while forcing assimilation into the oppressors’ religion if you tell them their rage is flawed, human and therefore sinful and to instead mirror your skewed understanding of the temperament of the viciously martyred son of God (who benevolently said “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do” to his murderers while on the cross) and wait until after death for His retribution and justice because well, it is childishly idealistic to expect it now on earth. It is unreal and impossible to demand white humility and humanity & reparations in your lifetime. To expect the men to act right. To be acknowledged and seen for your suffering and told “you have reason to be upset & behave this way” with no following “but-”, no caveat or fine print.
But the fact is I’m no white saint and I’m no white Jesus. And I hate what I see, what we go through, how I am hurt. And I do demand justice now. And I’m going to react loudly and wildly and yes, imperfectly if I cannot get it.
Yes, the goal is to be better humans, but that means ALL of us, not some. We should not be expected to carry the moral burdens of the entire world. And it should be understood that the demand to tolerate our conditions is a death knell. Because the moment we stop naming our situation is fucked and reacting and instead start justifying the violence of others (“they just don’t know better”) or start “keeping faith” that the problem will magically be solved in some mythical afterlife is the moment we lose and internalize all the violence. Yes, the goal is to be healed humans, but we aren’t living in a healed world, so yeah, we going to be bitter, petty, cynical, isolate ourselves, hate our oppressors, even sometimes hate our friends or ourselves. Imperfect, hurt, even fucked up shit is gonna happen and be expressed.
What we need is patience and healing from toxic behavior, not condescending directives damning us for engaging in it while ignoring our environments, conditions and histories that beget such results. We are hurt people and our behaviors and relationships and movements will be imperfect and reflect this hurt. We hurt others, we hurt ourselves because we are dying out here. Sometimes we are the ugliest reflection of what has happened to us and our current and past world. And no one thinks about how painful it is to be that. If this hurts you, think how much this hurts me. I carry so much unspeakable hurt, suffering, frustration about the conditions and experiences of my life and yet every day I’m expected to rise above it all and I’m scorned and discarded when I just can’t, when I’m still hurt, when I still want an apology, accountability, justice. And no one ever asks what they can do to help alleviate this pain or to grant me peace.
I’m not saying we cannot be held accountable, or held to a standard. I’m not saying all our behavior, because it is understandable, is this acceptable or automatically justified. But I refuse to be singled out and expected to be the better person while the bulls of men and white people rage in their pens. I want to see more space for our hurt, our reactions, our imperfection. Because only when it is acknowledged and seen and identified, and the conditions that force them illuminated, exposed and addressed, can we ever heal from them. Otherwise, we’re just being asked to be the better people for everyone else while our trauma is neglected & ignored and we are being judged & damned for reactions.
I demand more space to grow from survival behavior but that also means the right to live in a world free of oppression and our oppressors that doesn’t force us into survival mode. Until then, it is violent to expect us to yet be vessels for others and not our own humans, to “rise above” and extend “love” (to mammy, to mule for) to those who never extend so much as a finger to us and surround ourselves with those who expect superhuman grace from us. That is a form of self-hate. A type of self-death. And I refuse to commit it.