That Man

I can not protest anymore. There was a time when I could stand in front of my people and tell them we would overcome. Before That Man was in office, I could stand in a sea of organizers, of black and brown bodies, and feel our collective strength at my core. I could close my eyes and imagine the love and determination radiating off of those surrounding me, lifting me, keeping me whole. That time is a distant memory.

On the morning of November 9, 2016 I lay in bed and turned my cell phone off to avoid seeing posts and texts from my friends encouraging me to attend a rally on campus. Fits of rage and grief kept me in tears all morning as I tried to understand what was happening. When I finally left my apartment, I attended ten minutes of the rally, sobbing the entire while. Everything was depressing shades of gray that day, as even the Earth seemed to be in mourning. Things still look that way to me.

I have not been able to pick myself up by my bootstraps since That Man knocked me down. My steel spine has taken a leave of absence. I left my strength at a protest, I think. I like to imagine it lifting someone else up and filling up their empty spaces. I am not ready to march in solidarity with white women who have never uttered Sandra Bland’s name, who have never talked to the black women in their offices or classes, who have not raised their children to be radical rather than just nice. I am not ready to stand unafraid in international airports chanting and steel-spined.

I am afraid. I am ashamed. My entire life feels like an out of body experience. Everything, everything is shades of gray. How do you hold someone with no conscience accountable? How do you threaten the power of a politician who was elected as a lying, racist, rapist, con man? Who carries his skeletons on stage and tosses them at his supporters; vultures who pick at the carcasses of lives he has destroyed and grin with their bones in their teeth.

When they came for the Muslims, I wondered out loud how long it would be before we were registered. Before America made a disappearing act out of what’s left of my humanity. This is hell. This is the reckoning. This is every white man who has ever sneered at me in an elevator or conference room being given nuclear codes. This is my Black President’s legacy spat on in shades of red, white, blue, white, always white.

The first Muslims in this country worked on plantations as slaves in the land of the free. Centuries later, we are still welcome as prisoners but not as those who seek refuge. There are children drowning in a sea of America’s hate.It is an issue complex in its simplicity. The situation renders us helpless, and yet we must help ourselves. Those who house bodies more vulnerable than ever, must again sacrifice ourselves to show America how to be humane and decent. I fear that we have gone too far. I fear that we will never know decency again. There is no poetry in a country that refuses to learn its lesson. There is no justice in that.

They will try to find meanings in our deaths. We must remember this violence as senseless. We must remember it as violence, Whether with a stroke of a pen, a wall built brick by brick, or a missile launch they are killing us. Do not seek meaning in it. Seek justice. Do not watch children drowning and families ripped apart and feel as though your pink pussy hat and clever sign at the airport have absolved you. Be a body in every room the most vulnerable need you to be in. Be a body that asks others how it can be of use. Find your strength. Find mine, if you must. I left it at a protest, I think.

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