Is your love strong enough?
Last night, the city of Grand Rapids protested in the streets and embodied the real peace, unity and love many do not see or understand.
“Justice is what love looks like in public”-Dr. Cornel West
“Love implies anger; a man who is angered by nothing, loves nothing.” -Anonymous.
Originally published on The Rapidian
On Tuesday night, White supremacy reared its ugly face but powerful hand and elected Donald Trump as our president for the next term.
As to be expected, it has been a rough few days for many in this country. We not only deal with the fear of the inevitably institutional and systemic backlash and attack against the rights and livelihood of marginalized people and what that will do to our communities and families, but we deal with the already hundreds of incidences of intimidation, violence, abuse, assault, property damage and bigotry across the nation. We haven’t even had a chance to process that we will likely have our rights violated and already cars and churches are burning, swastikas are being etched and spray-painted on buildings and in bathroom stalls.
Many of us have rightfully struggled in the midst of this, cried and felt terrified and hurt and afraid, contemplated suicide, fell into depression hidden from the world. But we also refused to accept this lying down. We mobilized to challenge the results and the rising tide of this new face of emboldened bigotry that has existed in one form or another in this country since its tragic inception and cry out, letting people know how we really felt. And yet, marginalized people resisting face tone-policing by those who claim to ally themselves in the struggle and it’s demanded they hold hands with people who voted for a thoroughly documented bully, abuser, supremacist, xenophobe and woman-hater into office.
And to those doing this who claim to stand with people of color and other marginalized groups in this fight, I ask, “What is your obsession with ‘peace’ and ‘unity’?” What is your preoccupation with having us love our oppressors?
I challenge you who have been throwing that language around like a weapon to interrogate your usage of those words. Because by “peace and unity” it is clear you actually mean ease, little effort, silence and complacency. But real peace can only come after acknowledgement of abuse, chaos, destruction, upheaval and harm. Real unity can only come after healing.
Think of it like this: on the micro-level, when someone abuses you, you leave the situation, not stay and join hands. When someone intimidates or threatens or mistreats you, you call them out and demand justice, support and recourse and get distance, often permanently. There is nothing wrong with that. This is the understanding under which I operate; my priority is the emancipation and healing and support of oppressed peoples, not the forgiving of or allowing proximity to their abusers.
This is why I have been so deeply bothered by people’s “unity, peace, come together” language, especially as the majority of it has come from white people. I am united with oppressed peoples, NOT my oppressors. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and everything wrong with demanding acceptance and hand-holding with fascism, supremacy and bigotry. I am appalled at the idea of inviting possible trauma, intimidation and harm because of someone’s deeply flawed and misguided ideas about “unity.” Stop telling us to “compliantly” resist violence and hurt. That never worked and it never will.
Right now is the time we show what we will not tolerate, who and what we stand against, what we do not accept and what violence and bigotry we shall not allow. It is not the time to demand people love and have patience towards those with a boot on their face or a gun to their head. Right now, there should be division, between people who are against bigotry and those who wish to enable, allow and embody it. Yesterday, I stood with my people who understand this deeply in their hearts. We will fight, we will argue even with each other, but they’re still my people. They are who I unite with, not those who hate me. Instead of demanding we tolerate our abusers, admit instead your patience or empathy for it comes from proximity to them, to Trump, to those values, to that base, and interrogate white supremacy and how you internalize and wield it yet.
Of course, we are not neatly allocated in these boxes. We all internalize and practice bigoted behavior. We all live in a culture that indoctrinates us on the same nonsense, and privileges certain people over others, no matter how “woke” we may be. What’s more, educating, building relationships with, and rehabilitating bigots and abusers is a necessary and worthwhile (albeit complicated, hard and misunderstood) practice, but so is disarming, intimidating, resisting, calling out and rejecting them. What’s more, that “Building bridges to try and create understanding” work does not need to be practiced by all peoples in all spaces, certainly not in spaces meant to be for marginalized people to speak out and unite with one another, and absolutely not paternalistically demanded by white people.
Ultimately, real peace and unity can only come when we elevate those resisting and most marginalized and intentionally challenge and disrupt what is causing discord, be it anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, colonialism, homophobia and transphobia, misogyny, land theft and destruction, class oppression or ableism, etc. Because real peace is only achieved through justice. If you do not want the realness and messiness that preludes peace, you will have no peace, least of all from me. Until the day I die, I promise you that.
And then we come to love. That also has been a theme for those protesting and resisting since Trump came onto the field as contender. Last night, so many white people were chanting “Love Trumps Hate” and in the same breath saying “Hate will not challenge hate,” not understanding how those messages defy each other. Calling out bigotry is not “hate.” My challenging my oppressors and systems of oppression and hating how they hurt me is not the same as my oppressors thinking me inferior to them and thus subjugating, violating and oppressing me. How I resist is not comparable to how they hurt.
I do not resist because I hate, I resist specifically because I love, and just like real peace, real love takes guts.
That is because if love is to trump hate, is that has to be an intentional love. An intentional love challenges hate. A real love that has spine, is aggressive and sure and loyal and unrelenting and confrontational and protective.
Trump’s message and those of all bigots is violent, and pandering, apologizing for, acceptance for and complacency to that message is not open-minded, diplomatic or adult. It’s enabling. White people preaching this are dangerous. If you really have love in your heart, you cannot tolerate or allow bigotry. Your love has to be a weathered one that can stand up to bigotry and overcome it, one that challenges power, that fights supremacy and violence. Your love has to be a love that is unapologetic and forceful and sure.
Our love needs to be aggressive. If your love does not do these things, it is not true love. If love is to trump hate, we have to be real about the people we stand with and ready to fight. The time for passivity and complacency is long over.
Because of my interpretation of love, what I saw in action last night at the protest march I helped lead and co-organize, on the streets, at the hands of my city, by all definitions thoroughly, truly, deeply embodied REAL peace, love and unity. Because it had guts. It showed solidarity, power, heart, defiance and dedication. I am proud of what we accomplished and proved yesterday and I am hopeful for the the future of resistance and love in practice in Grand Rapids.
How I resist is how I show my love. It is not easy, but it is strong enough to withstand what may come. Is yours?
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