In many friend groups, politics is an off limit topic of conversation. In many cases, the same is true for me. My closest friends have a myriad of different leanings and viewpoints, all influenced by our life experiences. Political beliefs have never prevented us from being friends, but occasionally a viewpoint with pretty glaring racial bias has caused a fight or two.
Since then, a referendum was instituted that would prevent such fights from happening again. That seemed to be all well and good – especially since we’re in complete agreement on the Cheeto in Charge.
But I’ve come to realize that the silence was becoming deafening. That hard discussions needed to be had. My sense of safety in so many ways fluctuates by whether or not the non-poc people I’m with understands the threat to my existence as a black woman in a country who sees my personhood as less than.
According to the unspoken bylaws of The Group ™️, I haven’t been “been allowed” to ask whether or not viewpoints have changed with time and life experience. In ways I can’t quite accurately explain, those unknowns hang in the air like a balloon that’s about to burst. I feel it in every news story, every hashtag, every press conference, and every eventual decision not to indict.
In a terrifying effort to confront this head on, I wrote a letter. It’s simultaneously very specific and incredibly general. I know I’m not the only person attempting to work up the nerve to talk to friends who are family, so I decided to share my thoughts. Below the letter is a list of articles containing stories of police involved action and people calling law enforcement on people of color for having the audacity to exist in their space.
The list is extensive and was pretty difficult to compile. My friend tends to either work through or ignore the news entirely, so I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know about most of the cases. Feel free to send it to the people in your life who might need to understand you better. You’re also welcome to open a discussion about your experiences.
Remember always that your life matters. Be well.
I’ve been trying to find the words to go with this but I don’t think there are any. There’s only the exhaustion that comes with knowing that my very personhood is worth less than those whose race has long been considered the default.
There is the fear of what will happen to me and my family if someone decides we looked too threatening. There’s the anger at knowing that 7 times out of 10, that person will walk even if they were wrong.
There’s the never ending anxiety that I won’t be able to protect [my autistic 16 year old son] from people who think his appearance and neurology make him a threat to their safety. This despite the fact that he’s likely only dancing to his favorite Wiggles song.
And, there’s the heartbreak that even those who love me can’t or won’t understand that these injustices are real. That they are woven into the very fabric of this country. That at their foundation, the laws were never written to be fair and balanced for everyone.
There’s the devastation of knowing that the same people who I know love me would probably defend my murder if we weren’t friends. There’s the wonder if that means we’re really not.
More than anything, there’s the question. One that no one wants to answer. The question that sits in the silence of the words we can’t say and the conversations we don’t have.
When will my right to exist be more important than someone’s “right” to be afraid of me?