Thinking about being a Black woman in the South being murdered after being pulled over for a traffic violation. (If you think, something else happened, please don't frustrate you or me, just stop reading and keep it moving. In considering my own mortality, the last thing I have time to do is convince someone of the existence of racism).
It's very very frightening growing up in the South and here in NYC, I have never had a negative experience with the cops. I know in large part, that's because I have movement parents who drilled me on how to speak to those who have power over you and being an alpha female, learning how to bend in the short term to be able to breathe in the long term...I actually don't have to think abt it...its second nature...The normality of that in my life is what is frightening to me, sometimes.
As I look back on my life, I realize I have only chosen to be confrontational in situations where I have all the power. Even traveling in Europe, I was stopped constantly by cops who thought I was an African refugee turned prostitute. It was a feeling of being under siege and I realized it didn't bother me overmuch because I've lived under Martial law 3 times in my life (following race riots where cops were murdering black men and raping little black girls) and watching folk die in those situations has taught me to bend ...and bend hard with authority figures who have the jobs that they have because they feel enraged and powerless, so it takes nothing for that rage to turn itself on me.
I realize that I conduct my entire life as a person under siege: it's how I've survived. Now that all this stuff is happening, I'm in wonder at how up in arms and afraid everyone is...and I realize, I renamed a lifetime of fear, "survival" because I grew up in a place where black people I knew disappeared regularly and everyone carries a gun. I'm just realizing how desensitized I am to that survival mode because to me, it's not survival. It's being happy in spite of the world's evil. The counter balance is that I've worked hard to create a personal and professional life where I have all the power (and I exercise that power vigorously) and surround myself with people who affirm my worth, my value....it's the only way to keep ur heart and soul intact...Could I be richer or more powerful, probably, but then I'd have to regularly be in the company of people who need to demean me to feel powerful.
So is there a primordial hatred of black women & men everywhere? I don't feel that everywhere. It may well be what's happening at times, but I don't feel it as a constant. When I began therapy I did. I couldn't breathe because I believed the world hated me and that's why I couldn't breathe. Through a long, painful process, I learned that owning someone else's beliefs as my reality was killing me and making me miss the life I could have been having. Is the world evil, hostile, full of hatred of women, black women? Yes, is that happening every single moment of my waking life? No, and until I can pay attention to the places where I can breathe, I will never be able to solve the problems of the places where I can't. My life cannot be a series of moments where I'm waiting to be hated....it just can't. There have been too many moments for transformation and power placed in my path to tell me otherwise. Just like we get the parents we need and who need us, we are also born into the times that need us and what we have to offer.
So let's start thinking from the places where we can breathe...bend when it's necessary to stand to fight the larger wars and ignore the smaller ones because they do not define me....that's somebody else's shit...no matter how awful it is and I'm handing back to you, it's not mine to bear...I have options at my disposal that I can see, taste and feel...and I remind myself of them constantly...
The more I think of "yes," the more I see possibility...and ultimately change...
Good Bread Alley Playwright, April Yvette Thompson