Saturday, June 06, 2020


[Last night's Strawberry Moon.] I've been amazed by how well people are thinking, writing, organizing, and putting their bodies on the line while the world is on fire. I don't have that kind of fortitude. I've been walking and thinking.
Yesterday I needed to get away from the neighborhood and into the woods. The previous day I had listened three times to an important and excellent interview with Resmaa Menakem, a therapist who helps people grapple with the effects of racism in their very bodies, over generations, and in every body (white people forget how much they are harmed by oppressing others, and their own history of being subjugated in the "old world" that continues to this day). He is moving away from "people of color" as a term to "bodies of culture," to affirm that we are human beings. POC is a story for another day, a term that came up after the older ones I learned, still inadequate for these times. Many POC feel it means only black people, and there is still so much work to be done under that umbrella to recognize the ways we share experiences yet also have different ones that can make our lives easier or take our lives away. Menakem says also that we must start the healing while in our like groups, not glommed together in "diversity" training because throwing bodies in a room like that is dangerous.
While walking, I thought about how I rush here to feel held and protected, away from the world, but more melanated people cannot. I heard it years ago on Code Switch, about the dangers of being a black or brown body in nature, and people who are working to change that. Because of Chris Cooper's recent experience, I read about birding while black and highly recommend this article plus the video and links to J. Drew Lanham's initial essay about being a black birder. I rarely see black bodies in the woods; the last time I did, I heard the woman speaking passionately to the man about social justice. When I pass the many white bodies in the woods, they are on the phone, jogging, gossiping, with their dogs and children, able to do whatever they like.

Lanham's comment about black birds being his birds made me think about how I feel about the grackles all over my home. They have been nesting in an evergreen tree out front, right next to the rhododendron bush I've been drawing since March. Probably also in the maple on the side of my garage. I watch them terrorize squirrels and one grackle made a deer run faster than I've ever seen. I don't care for their squacks, but do I get as upset about the fighting pigeons and robins, the woodpecker that woke me up at 6am this morning as it drummed into my gutter? It's true that we don't feel kindly towards black birds (though I definitely get angrier at the woodpeckers when they wake me). The baby that died on my lawn was a grackle, and another one died on my friend's porch. We both hated to witness that part of nature but could not do anything.

However, we can do a lot when it comes to how we think about and treat black people. All the worry we have about a tiny black bird in danger of dying should pale in comparison to our feelings about black humans in the same danger—we shouldn't even have to make the comparison. It starts at home and continues every day to ripple out into the world. I won't live to see the day when black and brown bodies can feel safe in the world but that doesn't mean we can't work tirelessly towards it.

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